Monday, February 1, 2010

Rock Stars and Cheesecake

Last night was Grammy night. Is it me or are all the awards show starting to look pretty much alike? Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Record of the Year, It seems like I saw them give the same award four or five times last night. Add that to the fact that it kind of seemed like they were scraping the bottom of the idea barrel with a few of their acts, and you have a pretty bland evening.

When they did have a good opportunity to put on an extravaganza, it kind of fell flat. For example, the Michael Jackson 3D tribute. It was really a good idea for the 150 people who managed to get by Target and pick up their 3D glasses, but for the other 30 million of us it was just 6 minutes of a fuzzy picture on our high definition televisions.

My daughter will laugh when she sees this, but if I were in charge, I’d have to fire whoever had that brilliant idea. She says that if I were an employer, I’d have no employees for all of the firings I would carry out. At least they had the good sense to let MJ’s beautiful children accept the Grammy for him.

As if the MJ debacle at weren’t enough, then someone had the bright idea to have an online vote for which of three nominated songs the public could choose and have Bon Jovi perform. I don’t think that anyone will be surprised that the four middle aged Bon Jovi fans who had nothing else to do but vote, voted for Living on a Prayer. Wow, I don’t know about you, but the suspense was killing me (NOT!).

Ok, before I start sounding like some disgruntled cynic, I’d better give credit where credit is due. Lady Gaga and Elton John started things off with a nice remix of Your Song. I never thought about it before but if Elton and Madonna were to have a love child, it would have to be Lady Gaga.

Beyonce and Pink were both great. Pink looked and sounded fantastic performing some sort of trapeze thing and singing Glitter in the Air. Beyonce, with her army of black Storm Troopers, did a great medley of songs. The Dave Matthews Band was fab as usual.

In my opinion, one of the more macabre highlights of the evening was seeing the resurrected Leon Russell perform again. I truly thought he was dead and was really glad to find out that he wasn't'.  I understand that he has had some brain injury and applaud him for getting back on stage.

Whenever one of these award shows or big sporting events are on, I of course get all wrapped up in the food I’m going to cook in order to make it a real celebration. If I would have known that the Grammy Awards was going to bring back a busload of ‘70s rockers like, Elton John, Leon Russell, Stevie Nicks, Carlos Santana and Jeff Beck, I would have cooked up some ‘70s favorites like French Onion Dip, fondue or maybe a little Tang to celebrate their heyday.

Instead, since my son has been after me to make a cheesecake for sometime, I gave in and last night was the night. I’ve tried lots of different cheesecake recipes but Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Cheesecake gets my vote for the Best Dessert Made with Cream Cheese Award. It is light, smooth, super creamy and pretty easy to boot.

I do caution you though, last time I made this in Nottingham for Karen’s birthday, I thought that I’d save a pound or two and use Asda’s store brand of cream cheese. I wasn’t pleased with the result at all. What I got was pretty good flavor but a grainy texture. So take it from me, whether you are making a cheesecake for rock stars, birthday girls or sons on Grammy night, spend the extra money and buy Philly or some other premium cream cheese, it’s really worth it.



Tyler's Ultimate Cheesecake 

2 cups crushed graham crackers or digestive biscuits
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter (113g), melted
1 pound (500g) cream cheese, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup (175g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (500ml) soured cream

Preheat oven to 325 (170C) degrees.

Combine the graham crackers or digestive biscuits, the cinnamon and butter. Spray an 8” spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Press the graham cracker mixture into the spring form pan, using the bottom of a cup or glass to press into the corners. Place in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to chill.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the softened cream cheese until it is smooth, approximately 2 minutes; add the room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly add the sugar, then the vanilla and soured cream. Pour into the chilled crust. Wrap the bottom of the spring form pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil, pressing foil to form a seal. Place spring form pan in the middle of a larger pan. Pour boiling water half way up the sides of the pan.

Place in the oven and bake for approximately 50 minutes. Check for doneness by giggling the pan. If the center giggles like firm jelly, remove from the oven and cool in the pan with the hot water. Cover loosely with plastic wrap before transferring to the refrigerator and chilling for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Easily serves 10.

Tyler’s original recipe calls for the zest of one lemon to be added to the uncooked cheesecake. He also tops the cheesecake with a Lemon Blueberry Sauce. His recipe calls for 2 cups of fresh blueberries, the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of sugar to be cooked over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Allow the mixture to cool to warm before spooning over the cold cheesecake.

This topping sounds really great and I plan to try it sometime but we just love it plain with a bit of fresh whipped cream and maybe a few fresh berries on the side. It’s hard to improve upon perfection.
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