Like the last several years, my Thanksgiving will be spent at work. The place I work will have over 200 people for lunch. That means I will be in early, and out at about the normal time. It also means that I don’t prepare my own turkey. Amy will be doing that for her family, and keeping as much of it gluten-free as possible. (Everything that will be prepared here, and any leftovers will be gluten-free!) My family will be having dinner when I get there. I’ll get off work and head to mom’s for dinner. Pretty much as soon as I get there I will be carving the turkey, and eating. For the last several years I have brought something to dinner. This year I have decided that I am going to make a pumpkin cheesecake! The obvious problem is the crust, but a lot of recipes also call for a little flour in the filling. This recipe handles all of the problems, and it tastes great! Everybody who tried it really enjoyed it!
I wanted something that would taste similar to the traditional graham cracker crust. I decided to go with some Honey Nut Chex. The Chex are a bit sweeter than the graham crackers so I left out the extra sugar that gets added normally.
The first thing you need is a spring form pan, roughly 9 inches across. What I did is put a piece of parchment paper in the bottom so it was held in place by the two pieces. This should help it not leak, and also make it easier to deal with later. (At least that is my theory. We’ll see how it works when it comes time to serve it.The first thing we’ll need to do is make our crust.
1 cup Honey Nut Chex crumbs (This took quite a bit more than one cup)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Like I mentioned before I used Honey Nut Chex, they are gluten-free, and taste great. Since they are a little sweeter than graham crackers I didn’t add any extra sugar to the crust. Crush the Chex so you end up with a cup of crumbs. I poured them into a zipper bag, and used a wine bottle to crush them. Once you have fairly fine crumbs, mix them with the melted butter, and mix well. You want the mixture to just stick together a little. Then press the mixture into the bottom of your spring form pan. I tried using my fingers, but I ended up with more on my fingers than in the pan. I ended up using a fork to spread the crumbs evenly.
Bake the crust for ten minutes in a 350F oven, and then allow it to cool completely. This will give you a nice solid crust for the cheesecake.
This is the first cheesecake I have ever made, so I did quite a bit of searching to find a recipe that I liked. I knew that I was going to have to skip the crust no matter what recipe I used. I found one that I liked on Good Housekeeping’s web site. I did slightly modify it, but it was nothing that would affect the way it baked. I also doubled it, so Amy’s family could have one, and mine could have one too.
For the filling for one cheesecake:
2 8 oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
1 1/4 cup sugar
15 oz can or half of the 29 oz can that I had (Libby’s is gluten-free and what I used)pumpkin not pumpkin pie mix
3/4 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons of bourbon or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (I used the bourbon)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (my tweak)
1/4 teaspoon salt
First thing, put the cream cheese in the bowl of your mixer, and beat it for a minute. Then with the mixer on low add the sugar, and mix until it is blended. Next add all of the other ingredients except the eggs. With the mixer on low make sure that everything is well mixed. Next add the eggs, one at a time and allow each one to be completely mixed in before adding the next. I’d let it mix a little longer just to make sure everything is combined.
Here is where things start to get interesting. Place your spring form pan in a larger pan. Pour the pumpkin filling into the spring form pan. Open the oven and set the whole thing on the rack of your oven. Pour hot water into the outer pan, about an inch up the side of the spring form pan. This will help keep the custard from cooking too quickly since the water will never go above 212F.
Close the door and set a timer for 1 hour and ten minutes. DO NOT open the door until the timer goes off. When it does, gently move the spring form pan without removing it from the water. If the center just giggles a little you are good to go. Take the whole thing out of the water bath, and allow it to cool on a rack. After a couple of minutes take a thin knife, and run it around the side of the cheesecake to release it. This will help prevent cracks on the top as it cools. After a little while pop it in the fridge and allow it to cool over night. (This will be hard, it is going to smell fantastic!)
There was a sour cream topping that was included in the recipe, but after doubling the recipe I didn’t have enough, and decided that whipped cream or Cool Whip would be fantastic as well.
Leave it in the spring form pan until you are ready to serve. What I did (because I didn’t want to scratch my new non-stick), is open the sides and lift it off, and then take the parchment and slide the cheesecake off of the bottom very gently onto something I could cut it on. After we had all had a piece I just slid it back on to the base and put the sides back on.I had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope you did as well. This turned out to be a lot easier than I expected, and certainly worth the time and effort to make it!
For a lot of people this is a stressful time of year. Not for me. My mom will have dinner for 5 people, and it will taste great. Before I go to mom’s house for dinner I will have nearly 300 people for Thanksgiving Dinner (lunch, actually) at work. The quantities of food we get out will be nothing short of staggering for most people! As an example, our cranberry sauce starts with 24 pounds of cranberries!
I guess you might be wondering what my point is. My point is this, plan ahead. You know what you plan on having for your menu by now, I would hope! Take a little time to think about what you can do ahead. For instance, at work, I made the cranberry sauce yesterday. Potatoes for mashed potatoes can be cut in advance. You had better have your turkey thawing in the fridge already.
Obviously I don’t know what you are planning on having for dinner on Thanksgiving so I can’t give you a plan, but the general principal holds true whether you have 300 or 3 for dinner. Figure out what you can safely do ahead of time without compromising the quality of the product, and do it. Have a plan written down if needed so that you can essentially walk into the kitchen and without even giving it a second thought, KNOW exactly what you need to accomplish how long it should take, when you need to get the turkey in so that it has time to rest before you start trying to carve it. Obviously, a little planning will go a long way. I mean chances are you only have one oven, four burners, a microwave, and several dishes to get done all at the same time. Planning this out shouldn’t be that hard to do, because you already know fairly well how long it will take to do each item. You’ve done them all before. Now you have to put them together, and make it all work so you can get dinner on the table.
At work, we have an extensive prep list. Each item on the menu is assigned to a person. Each of us has several items that we need to get done, and as long as all of those things get done, there will be no problem, and none of us will have to kill ourselves to make sure it gets done. Thursday morning, everything will be as ready as it can be. Essentially, we will go through a process of plating cold items, and heating everything that needs to be hot. We get huge turkeys (30-ish pounds each!), and they get started early so that they can be out, and rested, before we break them down to give to the carver.
You should always rest meat. How long depends on how large of a piece of meat you are dealing with. After you take a piece of meat out of the oven or off of whatever heat the temperature will continue to increase. Perhaps by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t have to worry about it getting cold. However, if you pull it out of the oven, and just start carving into your turkey, you will end up with dry turkey. I can’t say that I know why exactly, but all of the juices in your meat will run out if you don’t let it rest. Almost as if the meat will hold more moisture when it is cooler!
Turkey is rested? Now you want to know what I mean by break down the turkey to give to the carver? Well, most people like breast meat, but don’t really care for the dark meat of the legs and thighs. Remove the wings, almost like you would if it was raw, but because it is cooked it will be easier. Cut around the wing, and pull against the joint, and sever the tendons. Next, do the thighs. Cut the skin between the breast and legs. Then break the joint, and cut through the tendons. Now for the gruesome part! With the breast up, lift up by the sternum, and cut down through the side of the rib cage on both sides. This will cut the back away from the breast, and leave you with a perfect turkey breast. The advantage of this is that the breast will be more stable, and make it easier to carve without all of the meat that nobody wants. We do send a few legs out to the carvers, just for the rare bird(sorry) that does like dark meat. This method of breaking down a turkey does take some practice, but it works very well. After the next three Thanksgivings you should have it down. The sad fact is that for most of us, a whole roasted turkey is a once a year treat, or is it an ordeal? A big part of that is the amount of work that goes into Thanksgiving dinner. Work all day, spend 30 minutes eating, and then the rest of the night cleaning.
So, to wrap up. Work ahead as much as you can, so that Thursday is as simple as possible, and have a plan that is as detailed as you need. The more detail the better, to a point. Don’t try to have everything planned to the minute, otherwise, you’ll fall behind, and panic. Write down all of the dishes you are making, and when you want to start them. Good luck, and have a great Thanksgiving everyone!