Saturday, August 24, 2013

Get Ready to Taste the Love! and savory cheesecake too...

About 5 years ago, one of my closest friends went through a tragic and traumatic divorce.  She is/was this incredibly strong, beautiful, smart, well-educated, and self-sufficient woman.  But this undid a lot she believed to be true about her life and really tore her up emotionally for awhile.  So I wanted to make her feel loved and special.

I did all the typical friend stuff (listen, commiserated, etc.), but I also fed her well (she exercises a LOT to deal with stress, so she can eat whatever she wants and not have to worry...  yeah, I hate her a little for that).  And at the same time she was suddenly finding herself single, I too was a bit alone (with my two young) children with my husband working overseas.  So we'd get together and make these extravagant dinners.  She loved my cooking and so I came to see cooking these wonderful meals for her as my way of saying, "sorry your ex was such a dick, but you're still special enough that people want to do wonderful things for you."

About a year after she was divorced, my husband and I ended up moving across country.  I've missed her terribly and was so excited when she decided she'd come down to visit.  And so my planning for what I was going to cook for her commenced!

I'll try to blog some of the other things I will make on Sunday for her going away Cajun brunch.  In the meantime, last night was her fancy dinner night.  The main course was a smoked, bacon-wrapped venison backstrap (tenderloin) with a 3-potato (purple, white & sweet) gratin and orange-star anise-ancho glazed baby carrots.  And it was all lovely and delicious, but not particularly new territory for me.

However, the salad/appetizer was my new adventure.  I made a nice caesar salad with a slice of savory cheesecake on the side.

What?  Savory cheesecake?  you might ask.

Yes, savory cheesecake.  I've wanted to make one for ages and finally had a log of goat cheese in my fridge that needed appropriation.  And it was FANTASTIC!

Keeping true to form, I've taken a picture and it isn't very good.

But trust me, if you think you might like savory cheesecake, you will!

Savory Cheesecake w/ Bacon, Sundried Tomatoes & Fresh Basil

1 1/2 cups crushed blue cheese crackers (or any cracker you have left over from a fancy dinner party)
1 egg white
6 Tbsp melted butter

16 oz goat cheese, softened*
8 oz cream cheese, softened*
4 oz ricotta cheese*
4 oz sour cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup cooked bacon, finely chopped
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
3 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix crust ingredients together and pour into a 10" springform pan.  Using your hand, press them down and just slightly up the sides, about 1/4".  Bake in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes.  Remove and set on a rack to cool.  (If it looks cracked on the bottom and doesn't totally cover the bottom of the pan, don't worry.  It will still work fine.)

Reduce oven to 250.

Thoroughly ombine cheeses and sour cream in your mixer using the paddle blade.  Then add cornstarch and salt and mix just until incorporated (do this carefully, lest you dust your kitchen in cornstarch).  Turn on the mixer and add the eggs, one at a time.  Continue until they are thoroughly incorporated, and then mix in the bacon, tomatoes, and basil.  Pour the batter over the cooled crust and spread out evenly.

Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off.  Leave cheesecake in the oven for one additional hour (don't open the oven) after you turn it off.

Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 3 hours.  Then use a sharp knife to run around the inside edge before popping the pan open.

I served the 3-hour cooling, but some people like to refrigerate for several hours first.  Serve at room temperature.

*You can play with this combination, especially if you're not fond of goat cheese.  This mix is just what I happened to have on hand.  Next time I might use mascarpone, blue cheese, gorgonzola, or feta.  Just aim for 24 to 28 oz of soft cheese.

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