Monday, June 20, 2011

Friend Wins for Savory Crab on Sweltering Day

I am far less creatively and culinarily gifted than most of my friends.  I may write and critique, but it is my wonderful friends who actually cook, create, and invent.  While I was covering Savor DC, my friend Kasey was besting the competition a few hours north, taking second place in Philadelphia's Cheese Experiment with her Summertime Savory Cheesecake.

I first met Kasey when I was in graduate school almost ten years ago now.  B and I had just started dating when a loud, brash woman--his friend from college--arrived on B's doorstep.  Anyone who has met Kasey knows she is one of a kind and quite frankly (and she knows this) I did not know what to make of her. As a star waitress at Morton's in Boston's Back Bay, she graciously opened my eyes (and stomach) to my first premium steakhouse filet.

But Kasey is the ultimate hostess inside her own home as well.  I remember a Christmas party in her cramped Beacon Hill apartment; in spite of the closet-sized living room, the place took on a grandiose and resplendent aura.  My glass never fell below half full (or empty), and her culinary prowess was on full display. 

Like so many of my friends, we now live in different cities, but might Kasey's passion and talent be starting to reach the culinariatti in Philly?  I hope so. So DC, in honor of her birthday, I give you the incomparable Kasey and her most recent award-winning invention.


Here's the backstory in Kasey's own words -- a Louisville Kentucky native, you will catch a hint of Paula Deen and Ina Garten in both her writing and cooking styles.

There were 20 something competitors, I think, from savory to sweet. I had read about the contest when we were having that gross heat wave, so I decided I wanted to avoid anything hot and heavy. I then remembered a crawfish cheesecake that I had devoured once in New Orleans, and I thought hell. Never tried it, but how hard can that be?

Crawfish season had just passed, so I settled for crab meat, and did mostly claw meat for the flavor and color, and some jumbo lump to give a nice, firm, crabby mouthful every once in a while. The recipe was shockingly easy.

The recipe follows, save for one thing: I made homemade cream cheese (because it was a cheese contest) for all of the cakes save one because I ran out. And honestly, I could not tell the difference except for a tiny bit of a texture change.

Savory Crab Cheesecake

Puff Pastry Sheet
One medium onion
12-16 ounces of crab meat
16 ounces cream cheese
8-10 ounces of good, sharp goat cheese. (Kasey used Shellbark Farms Sharp Goat)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces sour cream or yogurt (Kasey used plain, organic yogurt)
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a puff pastry sheet  to be a little bit bigger than the bottom of your springform pan. Cover with tin foil and weigh down with beans, a plate or a weight of some kind that will cover most of the bottom. Cook for 8 minutes and let cool. Remove foil and weight. It may shrink so that it doesn't cover entire biggie. Turn oven down to 250.

Chop one medium onion and caramelize with a few teaspoons of Whole Food's "Red Chili Paste" found in their Asian/Thai section. Let cool.

Go through the crab carefully to pick out and shells or connective pieces.

Mix both cheeses, cornstarch, salt and yogurt together until combined. Scrape down sides, then add eggs one at a time, mixing well.

Gently fold in the onion and crab, trying to keep the crab pieces as whole as possible. When well combined, pour into springform pan and put into 250 degree oven. Bake for one hour, then turn off and without opening the door, let the cheesecake sit in the over for another hour.

Let cool for at least 4 hours, and serve either at room temp or chilled.

And if you are so creatively inclined, serve the Kasey way: I threw together a little sour cream/yogurt sauce with some thai spices, but it's also wonderful without.

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