Taste the nouvelle Northwest in Braiden Rex-Johnson's latest cookbook, Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining. Recipes include Cervelle de Canut (Herbed Goat Cheese with Walnut Crostini); Baked Oysters with Orange-Thyme Beurre Blanc and Citrus Zest; and Blue Cheesecake.
Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Slowly stir in the cornmeal, stirring in one direction to avoid lumps, then add the garlic, basil, if using, herbes de Provence, and salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until smooth and creamy, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary so the polenta doesn't overcook or bubble up and splatter, 12 to 15 minutes.
While the polenta is cooking, place the cream cheese and blue cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time and mix by hand (if you are very strong!) or beat with an electric mixer until the eggs are thoroughly incorporated. Set aside.
Arrange the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
When the polenta is done, remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Let cool for 5 minutes. With a rubber spatula, press the polenta into the bottom of the prepared springform pan and set aside.
Pour the reserved cheese filling evenly over the polenta crust. Tap the pan lightly on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and arrange them around the perimeter of the pan at equal distances. Sprinkle the hazelnuts evenly in the center of the cheesecake.
Place the cheesecake on a baking sheet to catch any drips, transfer to the oven, and bake for 1 hour, or until the cake springs back when lightly jiggled and the internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer reaches 160 degrees F. Cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.
To serve, release and remove the sides of the springform pan. Serve the cheesecake warm or at room temperature, cut into slices as an appetizer or spread onto crostini or crackers for a more rustic look. The cheesecake can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (its flavors meld and deepen the longer it sits). If serving from the refrigerator, slice and warm it in a 350 degrees F oven or microwave briefly before serving.
Cook's Hint: To roast individual cloves of garlic, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove as much skin as possible from each clove, place in a small baking dish without crowding (a pie plate also works well for this), cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the garlic is very tender and easily squeezed from the skin, 35 minutes.
This page created November 2007
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