successful recipes

Christmas dinner was splendid. Since Thursday evening, the MSG and I have been cleaning, decorating, cooking and baking for Saturday. At the farmer’s market, we found a gorgeous holiday bough of pine, eucalyptus and mistletoe that I fastened to the central pole of the MSG’s spiral staircase so it would greet our guests with its fresh scent as soon as they entered. Also around the pole, I wove a few strands of tiny white icicle lights, which draped around the bough and lit up the foyer cheerily.

We made two batches of cornbread for the stuffing, which also contained andouille and chipotles. I baked my pumpkin cheesecake with maple-bourbon sauce, the one I’ve been tetchily describing for the past few weeks, and it turned out very well. (I’m listening to the MSG and his mom rave over it on the phone right now. Hee.)

The MSG cooked the twenty-pound turkey to perfection; its carcass is providing us with homemade soup as I write this, the pungent scent of bird and mirepoix wafting through the space. We also made smashed Papa Amarilla potatoes with toasted garlic. One of the MSG’s aunts made a sweet potato casserole, and his mom made a wonderful salad with frisee, endive, pomegranate seeds, slices of persimmon, walnut oil and sherry.

I was thrilled that my cheesecake was paired with an ‘88 Château le Barradis Monbazillac, which made the pumpkin stand out even more, and brightened the maple notes in the sauce. The MSG’s family sure knows (and loves) their wines. For that, and for much more, I adore them all, and had so much fun. Part of me is a bit surprised that we pulled it off, but mostly I’m just enjoying a quiet moment with a cup of Graffeo coffee before I start making my special fried-egg sandwiches for brunch. First, I promised you all a recipe, and so here it is. For the pumpkin puree, I highly recommend pre-ordering from Boulette’s Larder in the ferry building.

Pumpkin Cheesecake 1 ½ cup fine gingersnap crumbs (about ½ lb. gingersnaps) ¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted ½ lb cream cheese, at room temperature ½ cup sugar ½ cup lightly packed brown sugar 1 tsp cinnamon ¾ tsp ginger ½ tsp ground cloves ½ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree, fresh or canned (not pumpkin pie filling) 5 large eggs ½ cup heavy cream

Crust: Lightly butter a 10x2 inch round cake pan. Combine gingersnap crumbs, nut, and butter in a bowl, and mix well. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Filling: In a bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugars and spices, beat until light in texture, 3-4 min. Add pumpkin puree and mix until just blended. Stir in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Stir in cream.

Pour batter into crust, and put cake pan in a roasting pan. Add hot water to roasting pan halfway up sides of cake pan. Bake in center of oven until cheesecake is firm to touch and slightly puffed, about 65 minutes.

Let cheesecake cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When cheesecake is completely chilled, lower pan into a hot water bath for 2-3 min. to loosen the crust. Invert a large, flat plate on top of cheesecake; invert pan, and remove. Put a second plate on bottom of cheesecake, and turn it right side up. Cut with a hot knife, and serve with maple/bourbon sauce.

Cheesecake will keep for 4-5 days in refrigerator and 2 weeks in the freezer.

Maple-Bourbon Sauce

¼ cup maple syrup 3 Tbsp bourbon 1 cup light cream ¼ vanilla bean, split lengthwise 3 large egg yolks ¼ cup sugar ¾ tsp cornstarch 1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped

Combine maple syrup and bourbon in a saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by 1/3, about 10 minutes; set aside to cool.

Put light cream and vanilla bean in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil.

Immediately remove from heat, and let bean infuse cream for about 10 minutes. Remove bean, and scrape pulp into cream.

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Stir in ½ cup cream and return mixture to saucepan with rest of cream. Stirring continuously, cook over low heat until thickened enough to coat back of a wooden spoon, 5-8 minutes.

Add reduced maple syrup and bourbon, and strain through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice. Stir until completely chilled, then fold in whipped cream.

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