Thursday, April 28, 2011

Everyday Yumminess: Mini Shrimp Cheesecakes

Alright. Let's go ahead and get the shameful part of this out of the way at the start: This is an Emeril Lagasse recipe. For me, he eventually came to represent everything that went horribly wrong with The Food Network... but back in his Essence of Emeril days (before "BAM!") he wasn't so bad. And the fact that this Shrimp Cheesecake is absurdly delicious has forced me to come to terms with the fact that even obnoxious TV chefs can still write some kick-ass recipes. Without further ado, let's talk about Shrimp Cheesecake.
As you can see, I made two sizes: one for a full meal and one for an appetizer. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another dish that is perfect for mini cheesecake pans. I have no idea what I would do with an entire shrimp cheesecake, but the smaller versions are great for one serving and freeze well for future deliciousness. I first made this many years ago when I was calculating nutritional information for everything I made. Knowing what I know, I would not recommend making this as a regular-sized cheesecake unless you have 11 guests or are feeling dangerously under-weight. Even with guests, I really enjoy the look of a single cheesecake for each person rather than a thin slice... Anyway. The first ingredient to prep was the cooked shrimp. Buying cooked shrimp never made sense to me (they're typically over-cooked and you can't add any flavor of your own...), so I took some raw shrimp and cooked them sous vide to make sure they came out perfectly cooked.
I diced up some (Amish) butter to vacuum seal along with the shrimp, the idea being that the butter melts as the shrimp cook in their water bath so that you are essentially poaching the shrimp in (Amish) butter.
After about 12-15 minutes at 138°F, the shrimp were perfectly cooked. I tossed them into an ice bath and then into the fridge so they didn't carry-over cook past where I wanted them. When the time came to make the filling, I chopped them into relatively small pieces.I made this recipe in a few stages because I was having kind of a rough day. In the morning I made the shrimp and the crust, after lunch I made the filling, and I baked the cakes off an hour before I wanted to eat dinner. The crust is equal parts bread crumbs and grated Parmesan...
... held together with some melted (Amish) butter.
I pressed this into the bases of my cheesecake pans and tossed it in the fridge until I was ready to do more...
Next up is the yummy, yummy filling. I used half full-fat cream cheese and half 1/3-less-fat cream cheese to make it a little less insane. The cream cheese is beaten together with eggs until smooth and creamy.
The vegetables (healthy!) in the filling are red bell pepper, finely diced carrot, and onion.
The veggies are sautéed off and cooled slightly in preparation to add to the filling. The last filling ingredient is grated smoked Gouda. Mmm....
These components (and the shrimp) all go into the cream cheese mixture and are beaten to combine.
Next came the time to season with salt and pepper, but I decided to season with salt and cayenne instead. I used about this much:
The cayenne is absolutely perfect in this. It adds interest and depth to each bite, without adding any real palate-destroying heat. After these seasonings are mixed in, the filling is ready to go into the crusts that I prepared that morning.
The recipe calls for 75 minutes at 350°F when you make a full cheesecake. I usually do about half the recommended full cheesecake cooking time when I do the appetizer-sized cheesecakes and around 60% for the larger mini-cheesecakes. The appetizer size were looking good at 35 minutes...
... and the larger batch was ready to pull from the oven 10 minutes later.
I decided to serve this with a big salad (healthy!) rather than the sauce/dressing in the recipe that involves 1/2 cup mayonnaise... I made my go-to shallot-dijon-vinegar-olive oil dressing, but used champagne vinegar this time instead of my usual cider vinegar. (I use about equal parts vinegar and oil because I like my dressing nice and tangy...) I dressed up my greens with some shredded scallion and sliced radish.
And... that's it. Not much work, and super-easy overall...
As always happens to me, these souffléed up and then fell, so the sides look a little janky. This problem can be fixed by plating your cheesecake in the bed of greens, as I did for the appetizer portions.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, these are amazing. I had one for dinner on a couple nights and, even though I was looking forward to how delicious they would be, I still found myself being surprised that they were even more delicious than I had remembered. (That cayenne was brilliant, I tell ya...) I am very happy to have more in the freezer waiting for a day when I want something a little special for dinner without having to do anything more than re-heating and tossing together a salad.

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