bourbon pumpkin cheesecake

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I know what you’re thinking. A little late for the pumpkin desserts, right? And I absolutely agree with you. BUT, I have made this pumpkin cheesecake four times in the past three weeks – twice before Thanksgiving, and two more on Thanksgiving Day. The first cheesecake I made on Thanksgiving morning fell to its death in the oven as I was taking it out, so that’s why there were two. I experimented, I made adjustments. I burned my hand on the blistering hot rack of my oven. And I did way too much sampling. Therefore, I present to you… bourbon pumpkin cheesecake.

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I’ll be totally honest – I’ve never been much of a cheesecake fan. Only in the last five years have I come to appreciate cheesecake. But I never really go out of my way to eat it, and before three weeks ago, I had never made one. But since I’m convinced that pumpkin baked goods are almost always outstanding, and because I was bored with the idea of a traditional pumpkin pie, a pumpkin cheesecake sounded just delightful. And since I was racking my brain for desserts for this Thanksgiving, I set out for a recipe.

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This is a winner, dear friends. It’s pumpkin and spiced and rich in that cheesecake way, but not as heavy as traditional cheesecake. It has a nice, tangy sour cream top, also giving it a really stunning finish. The pecan-graham cracker crust is just off the hook good – it’s a little nutty but also slightly caramelized, two pluses in my book. And it’s spiked with bourbon, which is what drew me in initially. This beauty is definitely a contender for Christmas. I’m pretty sure you’ll thank me later.   

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bourbon pumpkin cheesecake 

adapted slightly from Gourmet

serves 12-14

for crust:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 6 or 7 graham crackers)

1/2 cup pecans (1-3/4 ounces), finely chopped

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 

Invert bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (to create flat bottom, which will make it easier to remove cake from pan), then lock on side and butter pan.

Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust, 1 hour.

for the filling:

1-1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin

3 large eggs

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2- 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and bourbon (if using) in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt in large bowl. Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

for the topping:

2 cups sour cream (20 ounces)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

pecan halves (for garnish)

Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and bourbon (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake. Place cheesecake back in the oven and bake 3 minutes.

Turn off the oven, leaving cheesecake inside to cool for at least two hours, up to three to cool completely. This prevents the top from cracking.

Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.

**Cooks’ Note: Baked cheesecake can be chilled, covered, up to 2 days.

 

fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dipping sauce

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I know it’s super-late in the game to talk about tomatoes. BUT, there were green tomatoes at the market last weekend, so I’m taking that as a sign. It was meant to be.

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All summer long, I was on the hunt for green tomatoes. No joke. I went to all the markets. I asked around. My dad happened to get his hands on some in July. But they were kind of small. I was not satisfied.

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Why the obsession? Well, I had the best fried green tomatoes EVER at my friend Lindsey’s 30th birthday soirée back in June. I made my maiden voyage to San Diego just for the occasion, and it was a blast. There were margaritas upon landing, and pool time, and carne asada fries. But seriously, those fried green tomatoes were so incredible that I have not stopped thinking about them. I now associate San Diego with fried green tomatoes. 

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Thank goodness someone finally decided to bring their late crop green tomatoes to the market. I could barely contain myself. I busted out the panko and my cast iron skillet and it was on. There is just something about deep fried goodness. It’s almost unfair. Does anyone remember when McDonald’s used to deep-fry their apple pies? That’s what I’m talking about. Anyway, the combination of crunchy panko exterior, and tender, juicy, slightly acidic tomato just gets me. And when you throw in some tangy, creamy buttermilk dipping sauce, it’s like all the bases are covered. It’s crazy deliciousness. I made them for Sunday dinner and Granny approved. And we’ve got a winner. 

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fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dipping sauce 

adapted just barely from Down Home With the Neely’s via foodnetwork.com

serves 4-6

for the tomatoes: 

vegetable oil (for frying) 

4 green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon garlic powder

4 eggs

1 -1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch paprika

In a deep-fryer or cast iron skillet, preheat oil to 350F.

Season tomatoes on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine flour and garlic powder in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs. In another dish, mix bread crumbs with cayenne and paprika. Dredge tomatoes through the flour, then the eggs, and then through the bread crumbs. Add only a few pieces to the fryer at a time, so they can cook evenly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with buttermilk sauce.

for the buttermilk dipping sauce: 

3/4 cup buttermilk 

1/2 cup mayonaise 

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped chives

hot sauce (like Crystal Hot Sauce of Tobasco)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and mayonaise. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped chives and stir to combine. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

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