Beecher's No-Bake Super-Light Cheesecake with Butternut Squash Compote

This cheesecake is easy to make and doesn’t require any esoteric tools or pans. Instead of using the standard cream cheese, this recipe combines the full flavor of Beecher’s Flagship cheese with creamy mascarpone. I like to coarsely grate the cheese so I can taste it distinctly within the cheesecake. The crust can be made ahead, baked, cooled, and stored wrapped in airtight plastic wrap for 24 hours.  

For the Crust
1 (5 ounce) bag Beecher’s Honey Hazelnut Crackers
4 tablespoons brown Sugar Mountain
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling
1 teaspoon gelatin
¼ cup lemon juice
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Beecher’s Flagship cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 ½ cups)

Butternut Compote for Super Light Cheesecake
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted, divided
7 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ¾-inch cubes (from approx. 2 ½-3 lb. squash)
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar, divided
1 ¼ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup, plus 2 teaspoons Cider vinegar, divided
½ teaspoon Gelatin powder dissolved in ¼ c. cold water
¾ cup Water
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Vanilla

To make the crust, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350° F. In a food processor, process the crackers and sugar to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter in a steady stream while pulsing; pulse until the mixture is evenly moistened and sticks together when pressed between your fingers.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie pan. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup press the cracker mixture firmly and evenly into the pan bottom and up the sides. Use the back of a spoon to make an even edge. Bake until fragrant and golden brown, 12 to 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the filling, while the crust is cooling, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface of the lemon juice in a small microwave safe bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Heat the gelatin mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until steaming. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, mix the mascarpone and ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar with a spatula. In a separate large bowl, whisk the cream and remaining 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar until soft peaks form, 3 to 5 minutes, and set aside. Stir the cooled gelatin mixture into the mascarpone mixture. Stir in the grated cheese. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone cheese mixture.

Transfer the filling to the cooled crust. Using a spoon, spread the filling to the outer edges to create an indentation in the middle with a 1-inch lip around the edges. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to set.

To make the topping, preheat oven to 450° F (425° convection oven)

In a large bowl combine the squash cubes, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, kosher salt, and chili powder.  Mix well and spread onto a sheet pan leaving some space around each of the squash cubes.  Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until starting to brown and cooked through.  Remove from oven to cool slightly.

Meanwhile heat remaining butter in saucepan over medium low heat until the milk solids begin to brown and smell nutty.  Add ¼ cup cider vinegar and cook for 1-2 minutes or until acrid smell dissipates.  Add ½ c water, gelatin mixture, cinnamon, vanilla, remaining 2 tsp.  brown sugar and half of the roasted butternut squash.  Stir and cook for 1 minute, breaking up some of the squash to thicken the sauce.  Remove from heat, stir in remaining butternut squash and remaining 2 tsp. cider vinegar. 

Cool to room temperature and top cheesecake.  There will be extra!

Roasted Mushroom Salad with Baby Kale

Roasted mushrooms are packed with more flavor than almost any other vegetarian item. When combined with ultra-savory Beecher’s Smoked Flagship Cheese in a salad of hearty kale and fennel, you have the recipe for a memorable vegetarian entrée or healthy side for Thanksgiving.

Roasted Mushroom Salad with Baby Kale
1 recipe Roasted Mushrooms
5 ounces baby kale, roughly chopped
½ cup of pickled red onions
½ fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced or shaved on a mandolin
4 jarred piquillo peppers, sliced (about ½ cup)
6 ounces Beecher’s Smoked Flagship Cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, toss mushrooms, kale, onions, fennel, and peppers until thoroughly mixed. Gently fold in cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: If you can’t find baby kale, substitute mature kale cut into thick ribbons (aka chiffonade) 

Roasted Mushrooms

For the most robust flavor, I suggest using Portobello mushrooms. However, creminis (cut in half) can be substituted for milder flavor. The Butcher’s Table Seasoning Blend really shines in this recipe. Roasting transforms the mushrooms into vegetarian umami bombs, and this savory seasoning blend amplifies their meatiness.

Roasted Mushrooms
Makes 10 ounces
1 tablespoon The Butcher’s Table Seasoning Blend
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons expeller-pressed safflower oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 pound Portobello mushrooms (about 4)

Preheat oven to 450° F.

In a large bowl, whisk together The Butcher’s Table Seasoning Blend, salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar.

Cut the mushrooms in half and then cut each half in half again. Toss the mushrooms in the vinegar mixture until evenly distributed. (The vinegar mixture will not fully coat the mushrooms.)

Spread the mushrooms evenly on a baking sheet, making sure they are not touching.

Roast until softened and browned on the exterior, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 12 minutes.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy

No Thanksgiving turkey is complete without a richly flavored gravy, but this is so good you'll be using it year round. Unlike most gravies, it can be made ahead to cut down on cooking stress.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
Makes 3 cups

8 cups Turkey Stock
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 diced button or crimini mushrooms
3 tablespoons minced shallots
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, reduce the turkey stock over medium-high heat to 3 cups. This will take about 30 minutes and will concentrate the turkey flavor. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking occasionally. Slowly add 1 cup of the reduced turkey stock and whisk until fully combined. Add the remaining stock, thyme, salt, and pepper. Whisk over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thickened.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as needed.

Make ahead tip: The gravy will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat it gently over medium heat before serving.

Turkey Stock

Instad of waiting until Thanksgiving, I make turkey stock year-round. Just as versatile as chicken stock but with a decidedly different flavor, turkey stock is a wonderful addition to soups and sauces.

This stock can be stored until needed and is great in Turkey Tortilla Soup, or in any recipe that calls for chicken stock.

Turkey Stock
Makes about 3 quarts

Turkey bones from 1 (13-pound) whole turkey breast
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon expeller-pressed safflower oil
1 gallon water

Preheat the oven to 425°F

Using kitchen shears, cut the bones into pieces that will fit into a stockpot. In a large bowl, toss the bones with the salt, pepper, and oil. Spread the bones on a baking sheet and roast until deeply browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove the bones from the oven and transfer to a stockpot, covering with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the meat falls off the bones and the liquid reduces by 20 percent, 1 to 2 hours.

Using a mesh strainer, strain the stock, discarding the solids, cool, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

This recipe comes from my cookbook, Pure Food

Old Bay Roasted Turkey Breasts

This simple recipe gets its great flavor from Old Bay Seasoning, which you may be surprised to hear is one of the few original seasoning mixes that remains all-natural and free of additives.

Turkeys are sold in a range of sizes, which means the breasts you find at the grocery store may not be the same weight as what I call for in this recipe. If the breast you end up with is smaller, simply scale down the seasoning and cooking time accordingly.

Be sure to buy bone-in breasts if you can. It may seem like a pain to have to do the butchering work yourself, but meat purchased on the bone tends to be of a higher quality, and will leave you with bones and trim for making Turkey Stock (recipe to follow). You can ask your butcher to do this for you - just be sure you go home with the bones for making stocks.

It's also good to keep in mind that these large breasts will continue cooking once they leave the oven, just like larger meat roasts do. Be sure to remove them from the oven before they're fully cooked and allow them to rest before slicing and serving.

Old Bay Roasted Turkey Breast
Serves 12 to 18, or 4 to 6 with plenty of leftovers

1 (13-pound) whole turkey breasts (already butchered: about 9 pounds of boneless, skin-on breast meat)
1/3 cup expeller-pressed safflower oil
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

With the skin side of the turkey breast facing up, use the tip of your knife to gently remove each breast from either side of the central breastbone and back ribs. Set the breasts aside in a large bowl.

Reserve the bones for making Turkey Stock (recipe to follow).

Add the oil, Old Bay Seasoning, thyme, salt, and pepper to the turkey, mixing thoroughly until the turkey is evenly coated. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator for 1 to 24 hours (the longer the better).

Preheat the oven to 400°F

Transfer the marinated turkey breasts, skin side up to a roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender and no longer pink. Transfer the breasts onto a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes.

Cut the breasts into 1/2 inch thick slices and serve immediately.
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