Remember when my grill tried to kill me? Yeah. Me too. Which is why I totally went out and bought a new grill because oh yeah appliances that have it in for me kind of make me stabby. And because I don't do propane, I had Sumo and The Kaiser come over to help me assemble it and as a thank you I offered to cook them dinner. And since I was feeding 3 I figured I might as well be feeding 5 so I invited Lilsaej and Bobo to join as well. In my world, the more the merrier.
The theme of the evening was meat. Seriously - since I have been without a grill I have been without meat since I am not a big fan of sauteing my steak. Plus, I had some kick ass red wine I wanted to try including the 2006 Gun Bun Zin received as a gift courtesy of the awesometastic Wine Diva and my bottle of 2005 Childress Signature Series Meritage which I purchased when I went to visit the winery.
I wound up keeping the steaks simple. Although I considered following Dr. Diva's suggestion and doing them Tuscan style with a balsamic glaze, I decided I wanted more of an old school steak night and so I simply rubbed them with olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Sumo grilled them for about 3 - 4 minutes per side and they were deliciously medium rare. OMG I love red meat. File in Twitter under #imatotalcarnivore.
The sides were pretty easy too. I made my happy accident twice baked potatoes (although truthfully, I didn't trust myself and pulled them a little bit early and so the skins weren't quite as crispy as I would have liked) and my creamed spinach. Do you want to know the secret to great creamed spinach? An assload of melted butter. Seriously - I use very little cream and gobs of melted butter. It gives the spinach amazing mouth feel.
1 20 oz. bag frozen chopped spinach - thawed
1 stick salted butter
2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste
¼ cup heavy cream
Sauté the spinach in 1 –2 tablespoons of butter. Transfer to a food processor. Add 4 – 5 tablespoons of melted butter, the yogurt and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Puree. While the food processor is running, stream in a drizzle of heavy cream. Transfer to an oven-safe dish. Top with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan. Bake at 450º for 15 minutes. Finish off under the broiler for a crispy top.
The true piece de resistance however was my lemon cheesecake. Seriously y'all? I have never made cheesecake before. And seriously y'all? I might go into the cheesecake making business because holy hell I have a knack for that shit. OMG it was the best cheesecake ever.
The recipe was from Baking Illustrated: The Practical Kitchen Companion For the Home Baker by the Editors of Cooking Illustrated magazine and while not the easiest recipe, it's mostly just time consuming more than truly difficult.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Make the crust: In a food processor, process 5oz. Nabisco Barnum's Animal Crackers (or Social Tea Biscuits) to fine, even crumbs (about 30 seconds). You should have 1 cup. Add 3 Tbsp. of sugar and pulse 2 or 3 times to incorporate. Add 4 Tbsp. of melted, unsalted butter (still warm) in a slow steady stream while pulsing; pulse until the mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand, about 10 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly into the pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, about 15 - 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 30 minutes. When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with 2 18-inch square pieces of heavy duty foil and set the springform pan in a roasting pan.
Make the filling: While the crust is cooling, process 1/4 cup of sugar with 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest until the sugar is yellow and the zest is broken down, about 15 seconds. Transfer the lemon sugar to a bowl and stir in 1 cup of plain sugar.
In the bowl of a standing mixer set at low speed, beat 1-1/3 pounds of cream cheese (3 8-oz. packages cut into 1inch rough chunks) for ~ 5 seconds to break it up. With the machine running add the sugar mixture in a slow, steady stream; increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until the mixture is creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 4 large eggs 2 at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition - about 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice 9juice from 1 - 2 lemons), 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/4 tsp. salt and mix until just incorporated, about 5 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and mix until incorporated, about 5 seconds longer. Give the batter a final scrape, stir with a rubber spatula, and pour into the prepared springform pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 55 - 60 minutes. The center will jiggle slightly, the sides will start to puff, the surface will no longer be shiny and an insta-read thermometer inserted into the center of the cake should read 150 degrees. Turn off the oven. Prop the door open and let the cake cool in the water bath in the oven for 1 hour. Transfer the springform pan without the foil to a wire rack. Run a small paring knife around the inside edge to loosen the sides of the cake and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Make the lemon curd (while the cheesecake bakes or cools): In a medium nonreactive bowl whisk 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of sugar. Heat 1/3 cup lemon juice (from ~ 2 lemons) in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot lemon juice into the eggs/sugar, then return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly until the mixture register 170 degrees on an insta-read thermometer and the mixture is thick enough to cling to the back of a spoon. So y'all? BE VERY CAREFUL. Do not stop whisking or stirring for one single second and make sure your burner is not too hot - otherwise you will scramble your egg whites. Which I totally did during my first attempt. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in 2 Tbsp. of cold, unsalted butter that's been cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Stir in 1 Tbsp. heavy cream, 1/4 tsp. vanilla and a pinch of salt then pour the curd through a fine mesh strainer into a small nonreactive bowl. Cover the surface of the curd directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
To finish the cake: When the cheesecake is cool, scrape the lemon curd onto the cheesecake still in the springform pan. Using an offset icing spatula, spread the curd evenly over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cake into wedges.
So yeah - this is like the yummiest cheesecake ever. I kid you not. And the whole evening was pretty much a crapload of fun because really, when this is the cast of characters you've got, fun is guaranteed. In fact, we were having so much fun that we took our little ragtag band of debauchery down to Zippers to end the evening. Because nothing caps an old school steak night like bad karaoke and cheap bottled beer.
And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...
2 days ago