In the 80's, on TVs here in NYC, ran a series of commercials paid for by the American Cheese board, to the tune of "Food, glorious food," from the musical "Oliver!" It was the first time I noticed that commercials were allowed to buy a perfectly good song, and then put in their own silly words to help sell a product. Remember Minute Maid's "You are the sunshine of my life" campaign? It was years before I knew that was a terrific song by Stevie Wonder.
The truth is, though, that those cheese board guys are right. Cheese is glorious, especially when you make it into a cake. It's a no-brainer, really: cheese is glorious, cake is glorious, hence cheesecake= double glorious. I love all kinds of cheesecake. There's the NY style straight-up cream cheese cake. There is the Italian-style ricotta cheesecake at Venieros that I love so much. There's the cheesecake at Cafe Lalo on the UWS that Billy and I used to share, latenight. I even like the vegan pumpkin cheesecake at Candle Cafe.
A few nights ago, for my friends, glorious friends, I made a chevre cheesecake, modified from a recipe that Gourmet printed. It is apparently from Mecca, a restaurant in San Francisco. It calls for a separately made shortbread crust which I have omitted. Also, the recipe for the poached pears calls for cardomom pods, which I did not use, and it still tasted great.
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
8 oz. soft mild goat cheese
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
For spiced poached pears:
1 cup Ruby Port
1 cup sugar
1/4 cups water
5 strips orange zet
5 strips lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cinnamon stik
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp cardamom pods
1 1/2 tsp juniper berries
1/2 vanilla bean
2 firm ripe Anjou pears
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Wrap outside of 9 inch springform pan with a large sheet of heavy duty tin foil to waterproof it.
Butter the pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment, then butter it
Gently dust pan with sugar (oh wow, I forgot this part)
Boil cream with 3/4 cup sugar in a heavy suacepan over a moderately high heat, uncovered.
Stir occassionally until reduced, about 8 minutes.
Transfer cream to a metal bowl and set the bowl in a large bath of ice water, cooling it to room temperature.
Halve vanilla bean lengthewise and scrape seeds into a large bowl.
Add goat cheese, cream cheese, then beat with electric mixer until fluffy, 2 minutes.
Reduce speed to low and add crream in 3 batches, mixing well after each addition.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each one.
Pour batter into springform pan, put in a roasting pan, in 1 inch lukewarm water (this is called a "bain marie")
Bake until cake appears set but still trembles slightly at the center when gently shaken, about 1 hour.
Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen it, cool completely in springform.
Chill for 8 hours or as long as you have time for before your guests arrive!
Cut a round of parchment the size of your saucepan, set it aside.
Stir together port, sugar, water, zests, lemon juice, spices and vanilla bean in saucepan and bring to a boil.
Peel and quarter and core pears, then add to port mixture and cover surface directly with the parchment round.
Poach pears at a bare simmer until tender, about 25-30 minutes.
Remove from heat, cool, then chill for 8 hours.
After cooling, take pears out of liquid and pour liquid throuhg a fine sieve, discard solids.
Return liquid to saucepan and boil uncovered over hight heat until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.
Cool. Add pears again.
Serve cake with pears.