Monday, December 23, 2013

San Miguel is in the news again!

On page 30 in the December 27th issue of The Week, San Miguel de Allende was again revered as the best destination city to visit.  And I totally agree.  After a 40 some year romance of the town, I never can get enough of it.  Everything about the town is magical, especially over Christmas.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake - light and decadent at the same time

As promised, below is the recipe for the cheesecake that I had made for Thanksgiving dessert. It was a huge hit.  One friend after seeing this photo on my previous post called to ask me if there was any left in the refrigerator.  If so, she would be right over!

For the crust
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2  cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

For the filling
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
3  large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces 
1 /2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon

For the topping
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon

16 pecan halves for garnish

Crust:  In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients and then add the  butter.  Grease the sides and bottom of the spring form pan with butter.  Press the mixture into the bottom and half way up the sides of a 9" spring form pan.  Chill the crust for an hour.

Filling:  Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, spices, salt and brown sugar together in a large bowl.  In another large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and granulated sugar.  Beat in the cream, cornstarch, vanilla, bourbon, and pumpkin mixture.  Beat until smooth.
Pour into the crust and bake in a 350 oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set.  Cool the pan on a rack for about ten minutes.

Topping:  Whisk together the sour cream, sugar and bourbon.  Spread over the top of the cheesecake and back for 5 minutes.

Cooking Tips:   Let all the ingredients come to room temperature.  Do not over cook the cheesecake.  Fill a baking pan half way up with water.  Put this pan on the rack below rack where you will put the cheesecake.  Bake the cheesecake in the middle of the oven.  Cook it for exactly 50 minutes.  Turn off the oven, open the door and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Once out of the oven, run a knife around the sides to insure the sides do not stick to the sides.  

Let the cheesecake cool on a rack.  Garnish with the pecan halves.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serves 16.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Great feast on Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving was extra special this year, my parents are living in Denver now and they were part of the festivities.  I had fun setting the table and getting ready for the big day.
A few turkeys (and I am not talking about my guests) and chickens graced my table. I had either bought them in Oaxaca or San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. 
To make my life easier and get people out of the kitchen, I set up a bar in the dining room. The big black tray was made in my friend's (Guadalupe) taller in San Miguel.  It's the perfect piece for something like this. 
Earlier in the week (Monday) I bought a piece of fresh center-cut salmon.  I rubbed it with Maldon sea salt and brown sugar.   I ground up some juniper berries and fresh pepper using my marble mortar and pestle.  I drizzled the salmon with Aquavit (a favorite Scandinavian liquor).  Then rubbed in the ground juniper berries and pepper followed by freshly grated lime zest.  It was wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and weighted down with a heavy skillet in the refrigerator until I was ready to slice (almost parallel to the fish) the salmon and served it with creme fraiche, caper, minced red onion and toast points.
I selected hors d'oeuvres that were not too heavy but rather light.  The next one I served were crudites (sliced pieces of jicama, red and yellow pepper and carrot) standing up in small Mexican glasses with a roasted red pepper, roasted garlic and white bean dip.  Those glasses are used often for so many things in my kitchen.  I just love them.

The third appetizer was an endive leaf with Gorgonzola dolce topped with diced red beets, candied walnuts (with just a hint of cayenne) and chopped chives.  Really refreshing.
A butternut soup has always been on the menu at my friend's Kathy's house but I wanted to mix it up a little.  A few years ago, I spent the weekend making three different kinds of ravioli.  All recipes that I had created from scratch (the one above, "arugula, pine nut and goat cheese" and "duck confit ravioli with morels"). A  few weeks ago I roasted some butternut squash and garlic in preparation of making raviolis the next day.  I served one butternut squash ravioli with a brown butter sauce that had chopped pistachios, a crumbled amaretto cookie and chopped sage in my espresso cups along with some vintage spoons that were from my Dad's mother's collection.  How fun was that!
Again, the salad dressing was made in advance.  I had reduced some pomegranate and apple juice to a syrupy consistency.   Once cool, whisked in some chopped thyme, red wine vinegar, finely chopped shallots, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  The salad itself consisted of arugula, finely sliced fennel, blue cheese, pomegranite seeds and some of the candied walnuts that I had used on the endive appetizer.
We had all the fixings for a big Thanksgiving feast:  stuffing, cranberries that had some orange juice and zest in them along with a little brandy, turkey, sweet potatoes, gravy, brussel sprouts and some yukon gold potato nests that proved to be a big winner.
Sorry I did not get a close up photo of them (they are on the blue oval plate above the turkey).  I have had numerous requests for the recipe....  What a time saver this is and it can be prepped way in advance!

Yukon Gold Potato Nests  -  makes around 16 nests
3 lbs. Yukon Gold Potaotes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream
ground nutmeg

In a large pot, cover potatoes with 2" of water.  Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (about 15 minutes).  Drain in a colander.
Put the potatoes through a ricer.  

Add the butter, egg yolks, cream, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper that has been slightly buttered. 
Dollop 1/3" cup of the potato mixture onto the paper, about 2" apart.  Using a back of a spoon or your finger,  make a small well in the center of the potato dollop.
Freeze until firm.  Transfer to a zip-lock bag and keep in the freezer.
To serve:
If desired, brush "nests" with a mix of an egg yolk and a little cream.
Bake in a 400' oven for 20 - 25 minutes.  Serve with butter and/or gravy.
(this is a perfect potato recipe - when the prime rib or turkey is resting, the potato nest can be cooking.)

To end the meal, I had made a decadent, rich Pumpkin, Bourbon and Pecan Cheesecake.  Served that with some lovely Spanish Cava.  What a great meal.  
I will post the Cheesecake recipe in a few days, so stay tuned.  It's light and a little of it goes a long way. It would be great for a Christmas dinner dessert too.