From the Kitchen and the backyard – crispy sticky rice, cheesecake, a mutant challah, plus a possum

rice-cakeAfter cooking the Thai flavored pork shoulder for Thanksgiving, we decided we needed another side dish for it since there was about 8 pounds of pork to eat.   The December 2016 Food & Wine magazine presented yet another Thai flavored recipe and that’s what was made as a side to accompany the rest of the pork. This recipe, Crispy Coconut Sticky Rice, is great, and could serve as a meal on its own with perhaps a nice salad. I used a cheap 10” non-stick skillet to make this in; my cast iron skillet is a bit of a monster and far too big to use for the amount of rice. You just need to watch it, and it doesn’t take that long to get a nice golden, with a few darker spots, crust on the rice. It is soft in the inside, a bit crispy outside and has a lovely coconut curry flavor with a fair amount of heat. It also nukes up very nicely.

The cheesecake was a bit of serendipity. I had been craving a crustless cheesecake like I used to get when I was on my internship in Washington DC all of those year ago (no, not the White House). I would go to the local Giant grocery store and they would have lots of items that were for single folks. You could buy a slice of cheesecake and I could make it last a week, nibbling on it. (that’s when I also discovered Frusen Gladje praline ice cream which I also crave and which is no longer produced).

cheesecakeThen, at weekend before Thanksgiving, my mom hands me this yellowed slip of newspaper. “Do you remember this?” she asks.   It was a clipping of Father Guido Sarducci’s cheesecake recipe. Now, for those of you who perhaps were too young, non-existent, or not from the US, Father Guido Sarducci was a character most known from Saturday Night Live, the Vatican’s gossip columnist and rock critic, played by Don Novello (who also did a character on the Disney Atlantis, Vinny Santorini, an explosives expert).

This is the recipe which has been around for at least a couple of decades now.. I haven’t the slightest idea why it is named for him:

1 lb. ricotta cheese
2 c. sour cream
16 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted and cooled,
3 extra lg. eggs
3 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. cornstarch
5 tsp. vanilla
5 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Makes 1 (10 inch) cheese cake. Let all ingredients come to room temperature. First process ricotta in food processer to make smoother (this doesn’t have to be done but I like sinfully smooth cheesecake). Then, combine ricotta cheese and sour cream in a mixing bowl. Beating slowly, add cream cheese, sugar and butter. Increase speed to medium and add eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat on highest speed possible without splattering for 5 more minutes. Pour mixture into a 10 inch springform pan.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for 1 hour. Turn heat off and leave in oven with door closed for 1 more hour. Cool on rack.

I had a standard spring-form pan of about 9 inches that you get in the sets of three that are commonly seen around the holidays. I did put about two teaspoons of micro-planed lemon zest in since I had a whole lemon right there. I think if I made this again, I would cut the temp to 325 degrees F and up the active bake time to 1 ½ hours. That might cut the browning just around the edge and make it more even. The batter did not escape the pan (I did put a layer of aluminum foil around the pan in case) though at the time and temp indicated on the recipe, it did rise like a soufflé about an inch and a half out of the pan much to my consternation (it sinks as it cools). I would also make the batter and stir to release more air, and then let it sit overnight, then let the batter come back to room temperature to make a denser cake.

As you see, there is a big crack in it. Oh well. That would be easily covered by sweetened sour cream/crème fraiche or some fruit. Or both!

The two of us ate the entire thing in a week; it makes a lovely breakfast. I’d also like to try it with less sugar and some sweetener in it, like Splenda.

p1000781The challah was a late addition, just made today. The recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking. Someone else took the time to write it out here and she mentions Alton Brown’s sock puppets which always gets kudos in my book. I used a wash of one egg yolk and a little water which makes that lovely caramel color. For me it was a very slack (wet and sticky) dough that took a fair amount of flour in the kneading process. Considering how it looks, more like a well toasted witchetty grub than a braid (it was a braid when in went into the oven, I swear), I don’t know if I got my Jew Scouts badge (I had always thought Moses looked like the MCP out of Tron, and I guess that was what was intended).

As for the possum (yes, I know the term is opossum, but I grew up saying “possum”), I have a friendly feral cat that I put food out for (would like to catch him but he’s not quite that friendly and is a big smart tom cat). The possum was helping herself (I have no idea if it’s male or female but decided randomly to name it Primrose). It is not as cute as the picture makes it seem. They are *ugly* in a rather cute way, much more the rear view with the naked tail. We have quite a menagerie for living in the city limits: possum, groundhog, rabbits, skunk, etc.

I’ve had some adventures with them. One late morning, as I was getting ready to go to work at the grocery store, I saw some movement where none should be. We have a small water feature in the backyard, a pool about 50 gallons or so that has a water circulating through a pipe as one might see in any rural area sticking out of a hillside, draining a spring or just groundwater. In the pool was a skunk, swimming for his life. The sides were too slick for him to get out and he had knocked down the rocks and water lily pot in the center. I couldn’t let the poor fellow drown.

I found an old broken snow shovel, and got it under him. I initially tried to just get him up enough for him to scrabble onto the rocks behind the pond, *away* from me. He was out, then he fell back in. So, I got the shovel under him again, and pulled him out toward me. Once he was clear, I left the shovel go and backed away slowly. He shook himself off like a dog, stared at me for what seemed to be a minute and then waddled his way out of our garden, disappearing under the fence gate.

At least I didn’t have to call into work trying to explain why I couldn’t be in for days. 🙂

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2 responses to “From the Kitchen and the backyard – crispy sticky rice, cheesecake, a mutant challah, plus a possum

  1. My trick for getting cheesecakes not to crack, which works most of the time, is to put a large pan of water in the oven with the cheesecake, for the whole baking time. This keeps the humidity up, so the top doesn’t dry out and split.

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