Food Bloggin' with Chef Patrick Whittaker: Savory Point Reyes Blue Cheesecake with Bourbon Glazed Pears

Let's Talk Cheese

     Do a little searching on the inter-webs to find a high-quality cheese monger in your area. Skip the normal chit-chat and dive right into the friend-zone by incorporating “cheesy” puns throughout your encounters with them. Sure, they might act like they’re unamused or even feign irritation, but the truth is, all cheese mongers are suckers for word play. Prime examples include; “I’m so glad I fond-ue," or “You and I would look goud-a together." Chances are, you’ve caught them off guard and they’re probably uncomfortable (but secretly flattered) -- that’s good! Now they'll be inclined to answer all your queso-related questions quickly and accurately, as they’re doubly motivated to break free of your pun-snare and end this social interaction as quickly as possible. It's all about the approach, you know?

   For our savory service today, I’m using Point Reyes Bay Blue Cheese  -- it’s my absolute favorite blue to work with. Reminiscent of Stilton, the unique creamy texture allows bold notes of salt and caramel to truly shine in this application. Point Reyes Original Blue would be fabulous here as well.

     Not a fan of blue cheese? An equally exquisite option would be Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove Creamery -- it's an out-of-this-world goat cheese with tons of complexity and classic earthy flavor.  Even a milder Chevre would work well too. The grand world of cheesy choices is a delicious rabbit hole -- seriously, find a local cheese shop, get to know some of the folks behind the counter, and get ready for endless adventure. Visit frequently and ask them what's new, what's weird, and what they love. Find a new favorite and roll into my next recipe; it's perfect to pair with our next Stasis Project: the macadamia nut cookie-inspired bourbon barrel aged strong ale, Staff of Asir. 

 Photos by Kevin Tackett

Photos by Kevin Tackett

For the crust

  • 6oz, herb crackers
  • ½ lb unsalted butter, browned
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper

For the Cheesecake

  • 4 oz Point Reyes Blue
  • 1 lb cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tb lemon zest
  • 1 Tb thyme, minced
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper

For the Pears

  • 3 medium sized red D’anjou pears, cut in eighths
  • 1 cup top shelf bourbon
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 Tb thyme, minced
  • 1 Tb lemon zest
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted macadamia nuts

 

Building the Crust

  • In a food processor, pulse the herb crackers until they become fine crumbs.
  • While the processor is running, gently stream in the slightly cooled brown butter until the mixture reaches the consistency of wet sand.
  • Take a 9” spring form baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Grease the pan with unsalted butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  • Transfer the crumble to the bottom of the pan. Using the flat bottom of a cup, firmly press the crumb mixture into the pan until you’ve formed an even base.
  • In a 350˚ oven, blind bake (=baking a pie crust or other pastry without the filling) the crust until fragrant and lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes. Allow the crust to cool before use in the next step.

For the Cheesecake

  • Reduce the heat of your oven to 325˚ degrees.

Pro Tip: Allow your cheeses to come to room temperature before mixing for a smoother filling.

  • In a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, mix the cream cheese and blue cheese until airy and smooth.
  • Add the lemon zest, minced thyme, sour cream, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper to the mixture. Mix to combine.
  • Add eggs one at a time while the mixer is running. Allow the mixer to fully incorporate the first egg before adding the second.
  • Stop the stand mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl into the center. Mix again for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Add the cheesecake mixture to your cooled crust and bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour. The finished cheesecake should be golden brown with the tiniest jiggle when gently shifted.
  • Allow the cheesecake to cool completely. Once cool, refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours prior to serving.

Poaching the pears

  • In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the pears. Stir the mixture over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Gently add pears to the mixture and bring the sauce pan to boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the pears to gently poach in the bourbon mixture until tender, approximately 5 mins.
  • Remove the pears and allow to cool for later use.
  • Return the heat to medium-high and reduce the bourbon poaching liquid to a syrup. Allow to cool.
  • In a small mixing bowl, gently dress the pears with the bourbon syrup and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Lightly season with salt, fresh cracked pepper, lemon zest, and minced thyme. Incorporate toasted macadamia nuts as a finishing touch to this garnish.

 

Bring it home

    Transfer the cooled cheesecake to your preferred serving platter. Arrange the pears on top of the cheesecake to create an alluring centerpiece for any occasion. I’ve opted to add a peppery salad of arugula lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and some toasted macadamia nuts. Enjoy a slice as a savory end-of-meal treat in lieu of dessert, or add a hearty wedge on a thoughtfully selected cheese plate to share with friends. Pair with a generous pour of Staff of Asir, where the cocoa butter richness of this unique brew is beautifully contrasted by delicate fruity esters and macadamia nuttiness -- a natural complement to the salty, savory flavors of Point Reyes Blue Cheese.

 Photos by Kevin Tackett

Photos by Kevin Tackett

   Staff of Asir is a masterfully blended collaboration between Horus Aged Ales and Bottle Logic and is the liquid embodiment of the culinary classic White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie. This American Strong Ale was brewed with macadamia nut flour, lactose, and cocoa butter before fermentation, aged in bourbon barrels, then filtered through more than one hundred pounds of macadamia nuts for their creamy, sweetly rich character. Brown sugar base notes from caramelized malt melt into the soft flavors of oak and Madagascar vanilla beans for a perfect sip of fresh-baked nostalgia. Tickets go live at noon this Sunday -- check out the sale site for all the details!

Posted on May 18, 2018 .