with Pecan Crust,
from the Palace Café

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!

Pecan Crust:



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 ...

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)