The Steps to a Successful Thanksgivikuh

My pants are tight. My cholesterol is elevated. My family is fighting.

Suffice to say, it was a successful Thanksgivikuh. Here are the steps that made it so.

IMG_0472 Brining the turkey

How have I never done this before?  This simple process of putting a salty liquid on the chicken was easy thanks to store-bought brine and 2 gallon zip top bags and made for, hands down, the juiciest turkey my family has ever eaten. Recipe coming up. Spoiler alert  - I sue turkey parts, not a whole bird. So sue me. IMG_0501 Homemade turkey broth for stuffing

Hold the line, this was ridiculous. I have always used canned chicken stock but WOW…boiling some turkey wings and necks in chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock reinforces the rich, turkey taste and gelatinous texture. It adds real body to the stuffing – it’s the difference between eating Wendy’s chili and eating a  bone in strip steak.

IMG_0509Joel Robuchon’s Mashed Potatoes.

I used about 4 sticks of butter for about 2.5 lbs. of potatoes. Recipe to follow. You’re welcome in advance.

Tomorrow – the easiest, best mashed potatoes on planet Earth.

Mother’s Day Dining

Mother’s Day is Sunday.

If you didn’t know that, get to the nearest Sephora and hook your mom/grandma/stepmom/mother figure/etc. up with some Sephora makeup STAT.

And while I hope you have your brunch reservations laid out, in case you don’t, here are some of my favorite options:

My fave city brunch:

Blue Water Grill

This place has wonderful food and great atmosphere. It’s a little pricey, but it’s Mother’s Day – everywhere is going to be a little pricey. The fish is impeccably fresh, the jazz music is lively, and the mimosas are heavy on the champagne. This is always my favorite brunch in NYC, and don’t forget the killer dessert here – all bananas and marshmallow, all the time.

You can still get reservations:

Landmarc

The Tribeca location still has some afternoon reservations  so you should get them now! The menu here is broad enough to please everyone in your party, the atmosphere is cheerful without being deafening, and the service is usually excellent. This is especially a great choice if you have kids – what kid doesn’t’ want some awesome spaghetti or the world’s most indulgent French toast?

Cheap and cheerful:

Cowgirl

Head here for an awesome Tex-Mex feast. Mugs of frosty margaritas, Frito bags split open and topped with spicy chili and cool sour cream, and a laid back atmosphere that is kitschy and cool. The service is wonderful - you won’t be rushed out, no mater how long you stay. Mother’s Day is bound to be relaxed here, which isn’t often the case. Plus, the prices are really inexpensive for the portion sizes and quality of the food.

No reservations necessary:

The Tavern at Gramercy Tavern

It’s more relaxed than the formal dining room, but also less expensive and only takes walk ins. The food is seasonably inspired and incredibly delicious - everything from sandwiches to soups to cocktails is incredibly fresh and tasty. The atmosphere is great for a group of no larger than 4 and the service is impeccable. Get here when the tavern room opens, at noon, so you are sure to get a seat.

This looks delish:

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R Lounge at 2 Times Square

Come here after the mother’s day festivities to relax. Chef Jose Garces designed this limited edition bloody Mary which is made with Prohibition Distillery Bootlegger vodka, spiced tomato water, celery bitters, and garnished with poppy and sesame seeds. It’s an everything bagel minus only the cream cheese! This is only available through Mother’s Day, so get it while you can.!

Lox, Eggs, and Onion Matzo Brei Bake

Passover has ended! Did you enjoy last night’s bread-stravaganza? I know I did!

However, I may have been a little harsh in one of the week’s earlier posts. I don’t always hate matzah. I enjoy it covered in chocolate. I like it in meatloaf. And I actually crave it, year round, in matzo brei.

This dish, made of soaked and rung-out matzah, is a perennial favorite. It combines eggs, matzo, and any number of add-ins. Some like it served sweet with jam. I prefer it on the savory side with sour cream.

And I especially love it in this easy to make, old school deli style version:

Lox, Eggs, and Onions Matzo Brei Bake

Ingredients:

8 eggs

1 brick cream cheese

8 oz. smoked salmon or lox

2 tbsp. butter

1 onion, diced

1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh dill, cleaned and chopped

1 box matzoh (or a little less is okay, too)

pepper

 sour cream (to serve alongside)

1. Put the butter in a pan over medium heat and melt it. Add the onions and sautee for 20 minutes, or until they are golden and caramelized. In the meanwhile…

2. Break up the matzah into large pieces (like 3 pieces per cracker), and put them in a colander. Run cold water over the colander until the matzah is quite mushy.

3. After the matzah is all wet, turn off the water and wring out the matzah until it is quite dry. You will really break the matzoh up at this point, and though it will be soggy it should not be sopping wet.

4. Combine it with the eggs, lox, and onions. Whisk it and add pepper, if you like.

5. Add the cream cheese and dill, whisk again, and throw in a 325F oven for 30 minutes, or until the eggs are puffed around the edges and just set in the middle.

6. Top with scallions, and sour cream, and eat immediately or at room temperature.

This is the BEST brunch dish. It can be made a couple of hours ahead of time and it feds a whole mess of people. It is sophisticated tasting but – as you see – incredibly simple to make. The salmon firms up and is rich and pleasantly salty. The cream cheese is rich and the onions are sweet and savory. The matzo becomes crisp in some parts, soft in others. It is purely textural, and lets the classic flaors of the lox, eggs, and onions shine. Pairing this with some smooth sour cream is the ultimate way to cap off a truly delicious brunch.

Look at me…I jsut called matzah delicious.

 

Passover BBQ Chicken Meatloaf

The groundhog has shown his (lying!) face, the equinox has passed, and pastel colored candies are in the drugstores. That means one thing:

It’s Passover!

Though Passover dictates that Jews avoid chametz (any leavened product made from grains), and many Jews avoid kitniyot (legumes, corn, and rice), that doesn’t mean that we need subsist on matzah pizza and eggs all week.

Quite the opposite, really. It’s a chance to expand our minds and see the week of using matzah as an opportunity.

An opportunity to make matzah shine.

Passover BBQ Chicken Meatloaf

Ingredients:

1 – 1.25 lb. ground chicken

1/2 cup matzo meal

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1 cup mayonnaise

4 oz. grated or diced sharp cheddar cheese

2 tbsp. bbq or steak seasoning (including salt and pepper)

1/2 cup bbq sauce (or enough to cover meatlaof – check out this one for a kitniyot-free version)

1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the bbq sauce and onions in a large bowl and preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Line a baking pan with the diced onions.

3. Mix the ingredients in the bowl and…

4. Spread it into your baking dish.

She ain’t gonna win any beauty prizes, but we love her all the same. 

5. Cover with the bbq sauce and bake for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is totally cooked through and the edges of the loaf are slightly burnished.

6. Serve

This is everything I want in a meatloaf. The mayo keeps the loaf juicy and the matzah meal makes it incredibly soft. Bumping up the flavor with spicy jalapenos, tangy cheese, and smoky bbq seasoning really balances out the rather bland flavor of the matzah.
The topping gets thick and sticky in the middle and crunchy around the outside edges. The onions melt into the juicy meat and the whole taste is smoky, salty, and pleasantly tangy. This is so delicious that you will want to eat it year round, not just as Passover. It doesn’t taste like you are denying yourself anything – it will be welcome on any dinner table next to any side dish.

It makes matzah pretty badass.

Brisket and Tsimmis

As Anthony Bourdain said “Only Texans and Jews understand brisket.”

If you want something smoky and savory,head to Texas  Get a side of mac and cheese and really enjoy some down home BBQ. However, if you want something a little saucier, a little softer, and a little sweeter, look to your Jewish friends. Think fall-apart-in-your-mouth beef swimming in a sweet and savory sauce with tender root vegetables.  We don’t tamper with this recipe and we don’t ignore it.

We make it every Hanukkah and eat it with gusto.

My guess is, once you have this incredibly simple recipe, you will, too.

Brisket and Tsimmis

Ingredients:

7 lbs. brisket (with the point and fat cap)

6 onions, sliced into rings

1 lb. carrots, cleaned and sliced into large chunks

1 lb. parsnips, cleaned and sliced into large chunks

1 large can tomato sauce

1 can beer

2 cups prune juice

1 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Cut the beef into pieces, if necessary, then place it fat side down in a BURNING HOT stockpot. You will hear it sizzle and sear. Let it rest for about 2 minutes, or until it becomes easily unstuck…

then sear it on the other side. Repeat with other pieces.

The meat is seared to lock in the juices for the long braise ahead.

2. After you are done browning the meat, you turn the oven to 350F, and…

add the carrots, onions, and turnips to the pot.

3. Now, mix all of the other ingredients together in a bowl, and…

add the sauce to the pot. Give it a good stir to try to get the sauce down around that beef.

4. Turn off the stove and cover the pot with tinfoil, crimping down the edges tightly  You want absolutely no steam to escape here. The whole point is that this is covered for hours and hours, braising and breaking down fat and connective tissues until the beef is soft enough to cut with a spoon. You can always cover the pot with a lid after the foil, but don’t skip the foil.

5. Now, set it in the oven for a good 6 – 8 hours. It is done when the meat is truly, totally tender.

Try not to eat it straight out of the pot with a serving spoon. I, of course, fail at this every year. The carrots are tender, the prunes are fat and juicy…

and the beef is bovine perfection. Skim the fat off the top and serve it now, or…

6. Separate the beef from the sauce and refrigerate both over night. When it comes time to serve it, simply remove the fat off the top of the Tupperware.

It should have risen to the top in one orange clump, which you can simply pick off. So much easier than separating it while it is hot!

Now you are left with just the tsimis.

7. Now, slice the fat cap off the brisket and toss it,

slice the brisket, and put it in the tsimis. Reheat the whole thing on the stove, in the oven, or even in the microwave until it is hot, and…

8. Serve.

This is beef stew gone sweet. It is sweet potato pie gone savory. It is slightly malty form the beer and very earthy from the parsnips and sweet carrots. The onions simply swoon in submission to the tomatoey, beefy sauce, and the prunes pick up the irony, hearty taste of the beef. The beef itself is really soft and mild without being mushy or cottony – that’s what sealing that thick fat cap does. It protects the meat from losing flavor or texture. We eat this for breakfast lunch, and dinner the week after we make it – it actually gets better as it sits.

Not that something this delicious sits around for long.

Apricot Chicken with 10 Vegetable Stuffing – Kosher for Passover

The best Passover recipes are those where you can’t tell that they are kosher for Passover. The ones that are filling, interesting, and delicious enough to make year round, whether it is Passover or not. This recipe is one of those , and all that it needs is some vegetables, some matzo meal, chicken pieces, and a whole lot of apricot jam. It can be prepared ahead of time and is a major crowd pleaser. This is labor intensive, but it is the best chicken dish you will eat all year. Just be sure to use as wide a variety of root vegetables as you can for the stuffing – fennel, green onions, and even sweet potatoes are great additions.

Apricot Chicken with 10 Vegetable Stuffing

Ingredients:

2 lbs. chicken with skin, cut into pieces

2 lbs assorted root vegetables(onions, garlic, zucchini, turnip, rutabaga, leeks, celery root, carrots, and mushrooms – feel free to add and subtract as you see fit), shredded in a food processor or by hand

1/2 lb spinach

2 cups matzoh meal

1/2 cup olive oil

1 carton chicken stock

18 oz. apricot jam

1 handful of mixed sage, thyme, and rosemary, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the shredded veggies and the spinach.

2. Heat the oil over high heat in a large stockpan until the oil ripples.

3. Add the vegetables, and sautee for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are extremely wilted and start to turn golden.

Like this. There will be some caramelization at the bottom of the pan, just expect it.

4. Add the chicken stock a bit at a time, stirring after each addition. The vegetables will absorb the stock. It should take about 3o minutes before all the stock is added.

5. Add the herbs.

6. Add the matzoh meal and the seasonings.

7. Add 1/2 of the jam and incorporate it. At this point, taste the stuffing. It will develop flavors as it cools and cooks a second time, but this is where you should punch up the salt or add some more jam if you think you need it.

8. Take the jam off the stove and let it cool completely in the fridge. It can even be cooled overnight, though an hour or 2 should suffice.

9. Lay your chicken pieces on a tinfoiled baking sheet. They can be touching but not overlapping. Gentry separate the skin from the meat, leaving it attached at one side of the chicken. You may not be able to get a clean break from the skin and the meat, but that’s ok – you only need a little bit of room to do the stuffing. just try to keep the skin attached at one point.

Also preheat your oven to 350F

10. Smush that stuffing in there! Be sure to get it all over the chicken, from tip to tip – your fingers are going to get dirty. Deal with it – it’s so worth it. You really want stuffing in each and every bite.

Don’t be shy – the stuffing is the best part of this dish.

This is what they look like when they are done!

11. Layer the rest of the jam over the chicken. Be sure to distribute it evenly. Pop it in the oven for an hour, or until the thickest piece of the dark meat runs clear when poked with a knife. If the chicken starts to turn to dark on top, just cover it with foil until it finishes baking.

12. Serve.

This chicken is worth every second of the food processing, every turn of the spatula, every moment that you have to spend scraping stuffing out from underneath your fingernails. This is extraordinary. The stuffing gets crunchy at the edges and remains soft and pleasantly moist within. It is very rich from the chicken broth and savory from the root vegetables, with a touch of sweetness from the apricot jam. The chicken stays juicy beneath its stuffing sealer, and the skin is caramalized and crisp. This might not be traditional Passover food, but it beats the heck out of gefilte fish.

French Onion Soup Hamantaschen

Purim starts this Wednesday, and although it might look to goyim like a Jewish Halloween, it’s about more than dressing up like princesses and spinning noisemakers called groggers.

It’s also about stuffing our faces.

Hamantaschen are traditionally shortbread triangular cookies filled with jam or poppyseeds. I have had versions with peanut butter (good), Nutella (great), and scores of other sweets, but I haven’t ever had a savory one.

So I decided to make one.

These cookies are a little labor intensive, but festive and incredibly delicious. You ain’t never had a hamantaschen like this one.

French Onion Soup Hamantaschen

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 stick butter, cut into small cubes, plus 2 Tbs. for sauteeing

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking powder

1 Tbs. salt

1/2 Tbs. pepper

1 1/2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

1 onion, sliced thinly

1 tbs. herbs de Provence

1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

 1. Put the flour, cubed butter, vegetable oil, baking soda, eggs, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

2. Mix it with your hands until the dough is homogeneous…

and looks like that.

3. Put the dough in tinfoil or cling wrap, roll it up, and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

4. In the meantime, put the remaining butter and onions in a skillet over medium low heat, and start to caramelize them. This process should take 30 minutes.

5. After the dough has chilled, roll it or pat it out on a well floured surface.

6. Using a large-rimmed drinking glass or circular cookie cutter,

stamp out circles of the dough.

Ta-da!

7. Refrigerate the circles for 30 minutes. Also, preheat your oven to 350 F.

8. Add Worcestershire sauce and herbs to the onions. Taste, and add salt, pepper and/or sugar if necessary.

9. Remove the dough from the fridge, and add a sprinkle of cheese…

and a few onions to the middle of each circle. Don’t overfill, here - use less than you think you need to! You should have quite a bit of onions and cheese left over at this point.

10. Now is the hard part - pinch these babies into triangles. Using some water may help seal the edges. Don’t be scared to really smush the edges together…you can’t beat up this dough too much. It will stay pretty tender.

11. Pop those little triangles in the oven.

12. In about 7 minutes, check your hamantaschen. At least a few of them should have splayed open in what is known in the culinary world as “hamentaschen blowout.” This happens to EVERY hamantaschen baker, and can only be avoided by going in the oven while the cookies are still baking and re-forming them. The possible oven burns are worth it. Go in there and press the triangles back together.

13. In 15 minutes form when the baking started, the cookies should be golden brown on the bottom and hard on the top. Now, add the remaining onions and a sprinkle of cheese to each cookie - this ensure that each bite of hamantaschen results in a moist, cheesy cookie.

14. When the dough sounds hollow when tapped, it is done. And it is awesome.

These hamantaschen kick serious tucchus. The pastry is like a biscuit – dense, buttery, and spiked with spicy black pepper. The filling is surprisingly deep, with notes of beef and those floral herbs among the sweet, soft onions. The Worcestershire sauce is the trick here - that imparts the slow cooked umami taste of beef stock that French onion soup classically carries. The Gruyere underneath is thick and melty, and the cheese on top is crunchy and nutty.

Now this is what I call Shtetl-Chic.

Habanero Gazpacho for Yom Kippur

Jews around the world will celebrate Yom Kippur this week, and as such, will be serving whitefish salad, cold cuts and premade casseroles galore. See, when you can’t eat or cook all day, you need something that can be made ahead of time, can be heated up quickly or eaten cold and can serve a large amount of people. Because when those people can eat…they will be need to eat IMMEDIATELY!
You need Gazpacho
This is adapted heavily from Serious Eats’ gazpacho recipe – I made a bigger batch, added some vegetables and altered the spice quotient to make it JUST this side of painful. The result is a cool, savory soup that is both beautiful and delicious. Thicker than some gazpachos, this is for those of you who would almost rather chew your soup than just be able to slurp it. Bonus – you can finally use u the last of the gorgeous Summer produce that you have in your fridge.  
INGREDIENTS:
3.5 Lbs or 6 Large, ripe tomatoes, peeled
1.5 Cups olive oil
1/2 Loaf country, Italian or French bread
2 Bell peppers, any color
4 Cucumbers
1 Habanero pepper
2 Sweet onions
2 tsp. Kosher Salt, plus more to taste
Pepper, to taste
3 Tbls. Sherry Vinegar
2 Cloves garlic
Handful of chopped parsley, to garnish

 1)Skin your cucumbers, taking care not to take your skin off with the cucumber peels.

 2)Cut the heads and ends off the cucumbers,

 and slice the cucumbers down the middle, lengthwise.

 3)Scoop out the seeds with a spoon (the seeds will just make your soup watery and diluted),

 and cut your cukes into half moons. Place them in a large bowl.

 4)Cut your onions into large pieces – maybe 1/8ths – and place them in the bowl

 5)Slice the stem ends off your peeled tomatoes,

 core them

 and cut them into quarters. Place them in the large bowl with the other veggies.

 6)Add the bell peppers

 and habaneros to the bowl. Slice the habaneros into quarters or sixths, making sure to include the seeds in the bowl if you want it hotter, and keeping the seeds out of the bowl if you don’t want it as spicy.
Wimp.

 7)Add the garlic cloves, roughly chopped.

 8)Sprinkle the 2 Tbls. salt over the vegetables…

 making sure to mix them into the veggies thoroughly. Let the bowl sit for 30 minutes. The point is to extract all the excess water from the veggies, making the vegetable’s flavor concentrate.

 9)After the veggies have rested, remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon (retaining the juice in the bowl),

 place them on a tinfoiled baking sheet in as much of a single layer as possible (some overlap is okay),

 and put the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes. The point here is to break down the vegetables’ cell structure by freezing them. You want the cell structure to break down so they release the flavor. One way to do this is by cooking vegetables, another…by freezing them. I had my doubts, but this step is absolutely vital. Don’t skip it. When they are done freezing, let them rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes, or until they no longer feel frozen stiff.

 10)While the veggies come to room temperature put the bread into the bowl with the vegetables’ run-off juice. In about 20 minutes…

 the bread will have absorbed all of the juice and flavor.

 11)fill your blender up about halfway with half and half vegetables and soaked bread (it took me 2 batches to use up all my ingredients).

 12)As you start to blend the soup, pour in the olive oil. You may need to jimmy the bottom of the blender at first to get the moisture down to the bottom. Don’t be shy with the olive oil – if you need more, you need more.

 You know you are on the right track when you start ot see the bottom of the soup liquefying.

 13)When the soup is mostly liquefied, but not all the way, add the sherry vinegar and blend until the mixture is uniformly smooth. There will still be texture to it, and that is what you want. You just don’t want huge pieces of unblended vegetables in there.

14)Let the soup rest for at least an hour, then taste for salt and pepper, garnish with parsley and serve.

This soup is so vibrant and robust that it practically smacks you in the face. Each vegetable’s flavor is pronounced and clear, yet none overshadows the other. The acidic tomatoes, mild cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, and pungent garlic and onions all melded together into an incredibly savory, earthy soup. The sherry vinegar adds tang and the olive oil gives a rich, but not heavy mouthfeel. The habanero adds quite a punch, but not so much that it is lip-burning hot..just enough so that you might want to add a cool dollop of sour cream to the bowl. The bread makes the soup thick and filling, and though it is vegetarian, it is shockingly satisfying and umami-filled.
Now the hardest thing will be waiting until sundown to eat it!

Matzah Candy

It has been kind of dessert heavy here at Fritos and Foie Gras, but that is mostly because on Passover, really all I crave are potatoes and sweets since I can’t have so many other things I love. And when I go without bread…you go without bread.
You know how we love to suffer.
If you can actually call the below recipe suffering:
Matzah Candy:
 First, line a cookie sheet (with a lip around the edge) with SEVERAL sheets of tinfoil. Don’t do just one. You will be sorry.
 Then, take your matzah. You could use cardboard (they taste the same), but what the heck? Keep it traditional and use the matzah! Oh, and if you use the salted kind, it is especially delicious.
Line the sheet with the matzahs. Break them up and fill in holes on the sheet as necessary, until the entire sheet is a matzah landscape.
Now you want to melt 4 sticks of butter (for 2 boxes of matzah)
And throw in 2 boxes of brown sugar(again, for 2 boxes. Adjust as necessary for more or less matzah)
It should look pretty good while the butter melts.
And it should look AMAZING when the mixture starts to boil and thicken. You want to keep boiling the caramel until it is quite thick and dark. Not burnt, but until the sugar absorbs all the fat from the butter and there is just the slightest scent of burnt sugar in the air. It should be pleasant, not at all off putting.
Now you just want to pour that caramel CAREFULLY all over the matzah. Note that I say carefully, because if the caramel touches you…you may just get a third degree burn.
But it is incredibly worth the risk. Because it’s just as delicious as it looks.
Then, you sprinkle the whole thing with sliced almonds (you can skip this if you are allergic or don’t like nuts) and place it in the oven at 450 F for about 3 minutes or…
until it looks like THIS. Bubbling and matte instead of shiny, with the smell of almonds intermingling with the bubbling aroma of brown sugar.
Now – while it is still BOILING hot-sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Use whatever kind you like -I think semi sweet or dark is best, because the next step is… 
Pouring white chocolate chips over the top.
Then you spread away, letting the heat melt the chips, let the whole thing cool, and then…EAT IT!
This is just so good. The incredibly bland matzah stays firm and crunchy beneath its crisp layer of sugary, crumbly caramel, fatty almonds, sweet white chocolate and deep, darker chocolate. It is INCREDIBLY sweet, but the salt in the matzah balances that, and so do the almonds. You can only have a couple of squares of this before it becomes overkill. Chances are you will eat too much the first time you make it. It’s worth the stomachache. Somewhere between a chocolate bar, vanilla fudge and pralines, it is just perfection. It can keep for weeks in the fridge in a Tupperware, but it won’t. You will eat it.
And don’t worry…tomorrow, I promise to give you a potato recipe.

The Best Cheesecake on Earth

Let’s just get one thing straight: I KNOW Cheesecake.
I have eaten Coeur de Creme in France, Ricotta Cheesecakes in Italy and Oreo Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. I have had frozen cheesecake bites, cheesecake lollipops and cheesecake-flavored cream cheese spread.
Let’s just say that I have eaten my fair share of cheesecake. Just ask my ever expanding hips for proof.
But never, EVER have I had a cheesecake as mouth-droppingly delicious as my Marmie’s cheesecake. 
It’s so good, it’s just…nuts!
No, really…the crust is just nuts. You take about a pound of nuts – I like a mixture of pecans, walnuts and almonds – and blitz them in the food processor until it is pebbly and ground but not super fine like pepper.
That’s about right. You still want some bigger chunks in there. Don’t worry if you overgrind it, it just will have a finer, more crumbly texture than a denser, cookie like texture.
Now preheat your oven to 325.
Now you are going to add some sugar. You want to add about a cup – these nuts better be QUITE sweet. 
Time to tinfoil your springform pan. Makes cleanup and removing the cheesecake SO easy, and also…ain’t no chance of drippage. That ALWAYS happens to me when I don’t use tinfoil…that’s just the kinda lucky gal I am.
And NOW is when you put the nut mixture into the pan and dribble about 4 tablespoons of melted butter into the pan. Mix the butter around to make the whole nut mixture moistened. You might need some more butter or some less, but you want the whole crust to be densely packed and moist.
Taste it, too, and make sure it is sweet.
Tasting the crust may be the best part of your day, thus far. 
Now it’s time for the CAKE part! Toss 4 blocks of SOFTENED cream cheese into your stand mixer (or bowl, so you can mix it with your handheld mixer.
Now start to whip the cheese, and as you do, pour in 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk.
Then lick the lids…trust me, you REALLY want to lick the lids.
Keep mixing, and toss in 6 eggs.
Now you want to squeeze the juice of one lemon in there, 
and throw in about 2 Tbls. of vanilla extract and 1/2 cup of sugar. Beat the mixture till the whole thing is liquidy and combined, and…if you are REALLY dangerous…taste it, and adjust seasonings as needed.
I am really adventurous.
If it is too tangy, add some more sugar. Too tart? Throw in a few spoonfuls of cream cheese. Too sweet? Some more sugar and vanilla. You will know what it needs.
But really…it won’t need anything. This is perfect as is. TRUST me.
Now pour it into the prepared pan, put it in a bain marie and let it cook for about 90 minutes, checking it every 10 minutes after the first 50 minutes. You can also just cook the cake plainly, without a water bath, but then you REALLY have to keep an eye on it. You want the cake to be firm but NOT stiff. It can still jiggle a little in the middle when you shake it – it should not be liquidy, just gelled. And don’t cook it so long it gets cracked – that means it’s overcooked. You want to AVOID crackage on the top.
Now is the hard part. You have to let it chill. For at least two hours. So freakin hard. But…
SO freakin worth it! This cheesecake is dense, creamy, vanilla-y joy. It isn’t sugary, tooth-achingly sweet, but tastes clean and gently sweet, like fresh cream. It is not airy or artificially sweet like lesser cheesecakes are. It is good with some raspberry jam spread on top, but even better on its own. On top of those buttery, rich nuts, the thick and rich cheesecake topping is simultaneously dessert and breakfast. I mean, that’s how I eat it. And that’s how you will too. I guarantee you that if you try this cheeescake, you will NEVER make it another way again. 
And, remember…I know my cheesecake.