The World’s Best Cheesecake

*I had another post lined up for today when I discovered that this blog post was devoid of pictures. Somehow, in the great blog transfer, this post’s pictures disappeared into thin air! Plus there was a dead link right in the first sentence! Sacre bleu! So, this is reposted because it is one of my favorite recipes ever…thanks  to my sous chef mom, and thanks to my favorite food group DAIRY!*
 Remember the best cheesecake on earth? What a crock! This…THIS is actually the best cheesecake. I decreased the size of the cake, added a touch of sour cream to the batter, and put gingersnaps in the crust. Quite frankly, this is the best cheesecake on the face of the planet. It is rich, creamy, sweet, perfect fresh or frozen…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go through the recipe first, shall we? The World’s Best Cheesecake Ingredients: 4 packages cream cheese 1/2 cup sour cream 1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups total sugar
2 eggs Juice of 1 lemon 1 Tbsp. vanilla 12 gingersnaps or graham crackers, crushed into crumbs 6 cups of crushed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, or whatever you like) 1 stick butter, melted Special Equipment: Springform pan, lined with tinfoil.

 1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and combine 1 cup of sugar with the crushed nuts and cookies. Mix well.

2. Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and mix well until all the crumbs are moistened and become a thick sort of paste. You may not use all of the butter – you want it to be just a bit moist, not sopping wet.

 3. Pat the crumbs into an even layer in your tinfoiled springform pan. Set aside.

 4. In a large bowl, combine your cream cheese,

 sweetened condensed milk, 

 vanilla, lemon juice, 

the rest of the sugar, the eggs, and the sour cream.   images (1) 5. Mix with your hand mixer or stand mixer for at least 7 minutes or until the mixture has increased in volume by about 1/3 (yes, Christina Tosi, you have convinced me that a prolonged mixing time really makes an outstanding cake).

 6. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust. Take a quick lick of the spatula. You won’t get salmonella. Probably.

 7. Place the cake on a sheet pan with a lip and put it in the oven. Pour water into the sheet pan to create a water bath. Cook the cheesecake for about 45 minutes, or until the outside is firm but the center is still somewhat jiggly. If the cheesecake starts to become golden around the edges, take it out at once. When the cake is done, cool it for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

 10) Serve. You are going to love this cake – I bet my blog’s credibility on it. It isn’t one of those fluffy, sugary, preservative laden cakes. This is dense – like a glorious brick in your stomach. The first taste is of cream and pure, clean dairy. Then there is the sweet and gingery crunch of the crust – like a buttery, nutty graham cracker. Then there is the gentle tang of the lemon and sour cream, the aromatic, floral vanilla and the sweetness of the sugar. Pushing your knife through this is like running your fingers through wet sand. It is slow, it is sensual, it gives you some resistance. And it’s so damn satisfying.

Without a doubt, the best cheesecake ever.

Reuben Egg Rolls

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

At least, that’s how I hope the folks at Red Farm take it.

Though I haven’t yet eaten at the highly acclaimed Chinese restaurant, I have heard much about their acclaimed pastrami egg rolls. That’s right, egg rolls filled with luscious Katz’s pastrami, fresh vegetables, and sauerkraut.

This is the perfect Hanukkah food, right?  Fried AND pastrami!

Well, it is almost perfect. It needs some cheese and a little Russian dressing to really make it the ultimate Chewish Hanukkah food.  Be aware that this recipe take forever to make – it’s a lot of prepping, rolling, and frying. It takes a few hours from start to finish, but it isn’t complicated, just time-consuming. That’s why you see my sister’s fingers in all the pictures – this is a recipe that should really be made in tandem.

Reuben Egg Rolls (inspired by An Immovable Feast)

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. wiss cheese, shredded

1/2 lb. sauerkraut, squeezed in a towel to drain it of all moisture

1/2 lb. pastrami, thin cut and finely shredded

2 -3 cups oil in which to fry

bowl of water for sealing egg rolls.

Russian dressing to serve alongside

1. Make sure that when you are wrapping, you cover the wonton wrappers with a damp paper towel, or they will dry out and rip when you start to roll them. Trust me, this is an all important step.

2. Now, it’s time to roll. Take your time and while keeping the rolling tight, try not to make any tears or holes. If you do, it’s ok – just keep frying them. Put a teaspoon sized combo of meat, cheese, and kraut, in the corner of your wrapper facing you. Then…

start to roll, until you roll up to the next 2 corners.

Like this!

3. Then, squeeze your filling into the middle, and fold in each corner of the wrapper to make a little packet.

4. Now, continue to roll, until you almost reach the end of the wrapper, and then…

ta da! Simply moisten along the “envelope flap” with water until the edges are sealed and you are good to go! Now, this is gonna take you a good, long time. Just grab your child, your younger sister (some young person who can’t run away) to do these with you, then you can even store them overnight in plastic containers. That’s what we did, with wet paper towels in between each layer, and they turned out perfectly crisp.

5. Now, in a large and heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil to at least 350F (you know it is good to go when you drop a piece of bread in and it instantly fries). Then fry the egg rolls for about 5 minutes, until they are deeply golden brown on both sides.  Don’t put more than 5 egg rolls or so in the pot at a time, to ensure that they don’t lower the temperature of the oil.

Make sure that you keep the pile of egg rolls under a damp paper towel while you fry. If there are a few little tears that develop, don’t worry about it. Just keep frying and it will all work out.

Pastrami tends to soothe all wounds.

When you have a pile of gorgeous, crispy crunchy egg rolls, you are done!

6. Dip in russian dressing and serve.

THIS is how you make a pastrami egg roll. You fill it with fatty, peppery pastrami and load it with tangy sauerkraut. you throw in some tangy swiss cheese that melts and oozes with each bite through warm, crispy wrapper. You dip it in savory Russian dressing and you feel oddly that you are both at dim sum and the deli.

And you also kick the ass of everyone else’s same old, same old latkes and donuts Hanukkah party.

I might have started out imitating Red Farm, but the truth is…the chefs there might want to take a page from my book.

I won’t be mad. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Chopped Liver with Prunes and Marsala

Here’s the thing…I have posted a chopped liver recipe before, but back then, my blog was a little bland. A little unspecific. And, probably, extremely ill edited. So, I thought it warranted a repost. After all, this most perfect union of meat, fat, and onions can’t really be posted enough, can it?
Okay, you can stop staring me down. After this year, I won’t post it any more.
Chopped Liver

Ingredients:
2 lbs. chicken livers, rinsed in a colander until the water runs clear
4 onions, sliced
1/4 lb. chicken fat (Or 1/4 cup ready made schmaltz)
about 15 pitted prunes
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Put the chicken fat in a pan over medium low heat. You want the fat to melt very slowly, so it doesn’t burn. This is called rendering the fat and will result in crispy skin(gribenes), and liquid gold(schmaltz). If the liquid starts to turn golden brown or give off a strong aroma, turn down the heat immediately.

2) When the fat is melted (about 20 minutes), remove the gribenes and pour the onions into the pan.

 3) Turn the pan on medium high and really fry those onions. You don’t want a golden brown color, you really want a darkly caramelized and fried color. This will likely take at least 25 minutes.

Chicken skin sexy photo shot break…these would be great crumbled up over hot popcorn…okay, now back to the recipe!

When the onions look like above, take them out of the pan to drain on a paper towel, but leave the pan on the stove.

 4) Dump the chicken livers into the pan, and…

saute them until they look like this – a rather unappetizing grey. It will take around 15 minutes. You know you are done when you cut into the largest liver and the middle is just BARELY a pale pink. This isn’t the time for rosy red livers.

 5) Put the hot livers in your food processor.

 6) Add your prunes.

 7) As you start the processor, drizzle in your wine…

 and your cream.

 8) When the pate is smooth, put it in a large bowl. Add a hefty amount of salt and pepper (the liver REALLY needs a good amount of salt),

 and the onions.

 9) Now mix with a spoon and taste, taste, taste! Is it too bland? Add more salt. Too acidic? Puree up a few more prunes with some cream and add the puree to the dish. Too sweet? Time for some more Marsala. When the liver tastes good to you, wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. The flavors will really develop over this time.

 10) Serve. 
This is rich – like, Warren Buffet rich. Some people dig it on bagel chips, but I prefer mine with celery sticks and endive spears – some crisp, clean vegetable that really showcases the decadent nature of the meat. This is not overtly liver-y. It is really rather mild as far as pates go, thanks to the prunes and cream. The onions add a chewy, crunchy element and the Marsala adds a tang and depth that only alcohol can truly give(don’t worry, the heat of the liver cooks the alcohol in the processor). This is just so great. Anyone who has never had chopped liver will like this. Anyone who has ever had chopped liver will LOVE this.

And forget what I said above. I am totally going to post this recipe every year. It’s just that great.

Tuscan Hummus

Contrary to popular belief, the great equalizer isn’t education. It’s hummus. Have vegetarian friends? They can eat hummus. Same goes for people who can’t eat dairy, wheat, or nuts. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to make a huge amount. It also couldn’t be easier to make and it’s pretty damn delicious, to boot. That said…If I never see another pita chip again, it may be too soon. Sorry, but the thing about hummus is…since it is so great, everyone does it. It’s time to jazz up hummus, to give it new life and make it sexy and mysterious again. It’s time to take it to San Remo, drive it down the Italian Riviera, and bring it back in its new European outfit. It’s time for:
Tuscan Hummus

Ingredients:
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
3 Tbsp. jarred pesto (be sure to find one without nuts if you are serving those with allergies)
1 head roasted garlic
1/3-1/2 cup apple cider or tomato vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Special Equipment: Food Processor

 1) Dump the beans into the food processor.

 2) Toss in the pesto.

 3) And the garlic
You guys doing ok? I know, I’m really intimidating with all of the incredibly technical recipes I show you on the blog.

 4) Vinegar. Add it. Be aware, you may need up to 1/2 of a cup of vinegar by the time the hummus is to your liking. But start out with 1/3 of a cup. You can always add more later.

 5) Start the food processor, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You won’t need much because the pesto has oil in it.

Just drizzle a bit in until the hummus becomes a consistency you like – I prefer a consistency that is mostly smooth, but not too thin. Transfer to a container and refrigerate the hummus for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. Taste for seasonings before serving, and add more pesto, oil, or spices as you see fit.

 6) Serve.

This hummus is a showstopper. I served it with a drizzle of chile-infused olive oil on top, but it is delicious just on its own. The beans are creamy and mild, and the roasted garlic adds the deepest, sweetest flavor to the dip. The jarred pesto is – if I do say so myself – the genius of this recipe. Two little spoonfuls and you get the most incredible, unmistakably Italian flavor of sharp Parmesan cheese and earthy basil. The vinegar is the kicker here – its brightness and acidity adds another dimension to the hummus.
That’s what this recipe does all around – it adds another dimension to hummus. It is elegant, it is hearty, it is healthy, and it is really, really tasty with a breadstick or crudite.
And, let’s not forget…hummus is the great equalizer.
I know, I taught you that…you’re welcome.

Kimchi Latkes – Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah starts on Monday, and boy am I ready! I might be too old to get gifts anymore, and I know that the blue and silver tinsel around my house has nothing on a fully decked out Christmas tree, but latkes…yeah, I got latkes. Standard latkes, Moroccan Latkes, and…now…
Kimchi Latkes
(because, really, who doesn’t need more fermented cabbage in his or her life?)

Ingredients:
3 potatoes, grated
1 onion, grated
1/4 cup kimchi, chopped
1 – 1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup cilantro and 1 serrano chili, diced
sour cream
gochujang*
sesame oil or sesame chili oil
vegetable oil in which to fry
*gochujang is a Korean hot sauce that is made with chili, rice, and fermented soybeans. It is slightly spicy, but also nutty, earthy, and a little sweet. You could always use Sriracha or Sambal Olek in place of this, but you won’t get the same complexity or subtlety of flavor that you get with the gochujang. You can get it in upscale grocery stores or Asian grocery stores.

 1) Combine the potatoes, onions, cilantro, and serrano pepper in a bowl.

 2) Put the mixture into a paper towel, and squeeze the moisture. This is a VERY important step, or your pancakes will be mushy and not crisp properly.

 3) Take the kimchi (which I like to cut with kitchen shears)

 and blot it with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. It doesn’t have to be super dry here, just not sopping wet.
That’s what she said

 4) Add the kimchi, eggs, and 

 flour to the potato mixture. 

 5) Combine with a fork or your hands until a thick mortar is formed. 

 Add more flour if necessary. You need the flour to work with the eggs to bind the pancakes.

 6) Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat.

 7) Drop a small lump of latke mixture into the pan – it should sizzle when it hits the oil. Mash the latke down with a fork to make it thin, so it has enough time to cook on the inside. Thick latkes = raw potatoes.

 8) When the latke is golden brown on one side (about 2 minutes) flip it, and cook it until it is crispy on the other side. Then remove it from the pan, and place it on a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

 9) In the meanwhile, combine the sour cream, gochujang, and sesame oil. I like to use a 1.5:1 ratio of sour cream to gochujang with just a splash of sesame oil, but you do what tastes good to you.

 When it is all combined, the sauce should be a lovely orange-y color.

 10) Serve.

These are really pretty outstanding. Somewhere between a traditional Pajeon and a classic latke, these are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside – like the hash browns of your dreams. The kimchi becomes soft in texture and mild in taste when it is cooked, removing the overt fishiness kimchi can have, but leaving behind a pleasantly salty, tangy taste. The cilantro is herbal,and the diced serrano adds heat to the potatoes and sweet onions. These latkes are perfect on their own, but the dipping sauce really takes it over the top. The cool sour cream and nutty, deep sesame oil play well off each other. The gochujang adds heat and a bit of funky umami flavor. This would be delicious with sliced flank steak or maple salmon
Of course, it also goes great with that well known party game “Spin the Korean Dreidel.” Happy Hanukkah!