Friday, December 5, 2014

Tackling Thanksgiving

This year's Thanksgiving was extra special because whereas in 2013 we had chicken curry in lieu of turkey, this year I cooked my own 13 pounder. For 3 people...welcome to a Persian kitchen. I don't think I could make a small meal if my life depended on it! Luckily, the whole process was incredibly easy due to time management and the help of my dear friend, Silvija, who came down from DC so we could celebrate together. We were college roommates freshman year at Michigan so there was a lot of catching up to do.

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was such a production - mostly because we were scrambling to make everything the day-of. My mom would do all the grocery shopping the night before with the other 10 million people who'd been avoiding the task and we'd start at 7am and cook until 8pm. Good times, although we were so exhausted come dinner-time that neither she nor I wanted to even look at the food. This year I did things in my own color-coded, highly organized, 10-lists needed, OCD way. Two days before Thanksgiving I made my cranberry sauce, cheesecake, and mashed potatoes (Ree Drummond is a genius with mashed potatoes and I religiously follow her recipe). One day before I chopped all the veggies and fruits I knew I'd be using. The day-of was so stress free I had time to enjoy Silvija's company over a cup of coffee, go on a walk, and take a nap - all while our little turkey was cooking in the oven. While it rested (1 hour), we made a salad, corn pudding, and the stuffing. Easy peasy. I am so looking forward to the day I am a real person with a real house which I can decorate with cute pumpkins and fill with the energy of family and friends. But this year was pretty special and memorable and honestly, I was the happiest I've been in a very long time.

Two things always accompanied my family's Tgiving spread: pumpkin pie and Persian stuffing (so called because it's our take on the American version - rice based and full of dried fruits and turmeric). Here's a dirty little secret: I don't like pumpkin pie. Something about the texture and the fact that I don't feel comfortable shoving a bunch of sugar into perfectly good gourd (jury's still out on whether pumpkin is classified as a gourd). I'd rather just eat the pumpkin roasted as a savory something. But throwing it into a cheesecake... I am totally on board with that little plan. So I came up with this recipe. Cheesecakes = help with time management because you can make them 2 days before and they actually taste better!

Happy holidays, loves - enjoy the cheesecake.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Serves...a lot more than three people

For crust
1 ½ cup gingersnaps
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (put a little more after tasting)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (put a little more after tasting)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (put a little more after tasting)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

Topping:  1 cup sour cream + 2-3Tbs milk + 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar + 1/2 tsp almond extract

Make crust: Butter a cheesecake pan, mix the crumbs and butter then pack into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 min, until it is golden. Take out and allow to cool while you make the filling.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla in a bowl until combined.

Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, 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. The center of the cheesecake will jiggle but if the top is no longer shiny and there is springbuck to the touch, you are done. Turn the over off but leave the cheesecake in with the door closed while the oven cools down.  Then crack the oven door and let the cheesecake slowly cool off.

Once the cheesecake is cool, mix the topping ingredients adding more milk to thin it out if needed and more confectioner's sugar if it tastes too tart. Pour this over the cheesecake and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Wrap with plastic and chill overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Garnish with gingersnaps.

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