This fabulous cheesecake by Chef Robert Bruce is the signature appetizer at the Palace Café in New Orleans, one of my favorite restaurants back home. It's decidedly different from Chef Emeril Lagasse's savory cheesecakes, for which he is well known, primarily for its nutty crust and the special tang of Creole cream cheese.
Creole cream cheese is unfortunately impossible to find outside of New Orleans, and is even difficult to find within the city limits (Dorignac's Food Center on Veterans in Metairie still makes their own, bless 'em). You won't be able to make this like the restaurant does without it, but for the Creole cream cheese you can substitute equal parts of plain yogurt and sour cream. Believe me, the cheesecake will still taste fantastic!
- 3/4 cup pecans
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 4 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 ounces Creole cream cheese (or 3 tablespoons each plain yogurt and sour cream)
- 2 eggs
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- Crystal hot sauce to taste (or your favorite hot sauce)
For the pecan crust: Grind the pecans, flour and salt in a food processor until fine. Transfer to a bowl. Add the butter. Work the butter into the flour until you have crumbs about the size of a pea. Toss in the ice water, lifting up the dough with your fingers to incorporate evenly. The dough will remain fairly crumbly. Starting with the sides, and then the bottom, press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Bake the crust in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes. Allow the crust to cool before filling. Meanwhile, make the filling ...
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
- 4 ounces sliced mixed wild and exotic mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 ounces Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ounce hot sauce
- 3 ounces heavy whipping cream (UK: single cream)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 24 crab claw fingers
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the filling: Cook the onion in a bit of butter over medium heat until translucent. Add the crabmeat and cook just until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand using a wooden spoon), blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the Creole cream cheese and then the eggs one at a time. Fold in the crabmeat mixture. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and hot sauce. Pour the mix into the prepared cooled crust. Bake at 300°F for about 30 minutes until set and firm to the touch.
For the garnish topping: Sauté shallots until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sweat until just cooked through. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, and reduce by 3/4. Add the heavy cream and reduce by half. Whisk in the butter.
In a separate sauté pan, add crab claw fingers. Salt and pepper to taste, then pour the reduction over and keep warm. Each slice of cheesecake gets three crab claws and 2 tablespoons of sauce.
Yield: 8 servings from one 9" tart
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)