christmas

Cedar Plank Salmon with Hollandaise

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I can’t eat like I used to. About a year and a half ago I picked up running for some ungodly reason, and damned if it hasn’t had a fantastic effect on my health. So for Christmas Eve I’ve decided to make a wonderful dinner that’s also on the lighter side: Salmon Filets on cedar planks. Of course to aid in people feeling like they’re over-indulging I’ll be adding richness in the form of a fresh hollandaise sauce.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Hollandaise

Ingredients

4 salmon filets (4 – 6 oz each)

2 Cedar planks, roughly 6″ x 12″ or so (Optional)

Marinade

3 gloves garlic, minced

4 TBSP Olive Oil

2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp black pepper

1 ½ tsp salt

 

Hollandaise

4 egg yolks

1 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ cup unsalted melted butter

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp tarragon

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp white vinegar

Soak your cedar planks, if you’re going that route, for at least 2 hours in lightly salted water. Meanwhile whisk marinade ingredients and pour over salmon filets. Allow to marinate in refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes, turning once.

Heat oven to 400. If not using cedar planks, spray a glass pan or cookie sheet with non-stick spray or cover in aluminum foil, and place salmon skin side down on cookie sheet or plank. Bake salmon uncovered for 12-16 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork. Cook until the internal temp of 130-135 degrees is reached; the more you cook salmon the “fishier” tasting it will become. Me? I like my fish to lack any “fishiness” and aim for just a warm center, about 12-13 minutes of cooking.

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While the salmon is baking, get your hollandaise together. I’m not going to lie: This isn’t fun to make. Is it worth it? Yes. Will your arm whisk those yolks so much that you’ll feel it 12 hours after finishing your meal? Probably.

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Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel or glass bowl until they’ve thickened a bit. Please the bowl over a saucepan containing water that is barely simmering (or a double boiler if you got one); make sure the water level is low enough that it does not touch the bottom of the bowl you’ve placed over it. While whisking the egg yolk mixture, drizzle in the melted butter. Once incorporated, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the salt, peppers, and tarragon. If the sauce becomes too thick, whisk in the white vinegar. If the sauce is too thin move it back over the simmering water for another couple of minutes while whisking constantly. It should be thick enough to nicely coat a spoon, but still be drizzled over your yummy target of fish, poached eggs, artichoke, etc.

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Once your salmon is out of the oven drizzle about ¼ TBSP of Hollandaise sauce over every 1 oz of fish. If you’ve got fillets that are roughly 4oz each, I would recommend a mere 1 TBSP of Hollandaise per filet, as you want to TASTE the salmon. Sure, there will be some who want to drown the protein in the Hollandaise, but they really just want the Hollandaise, not the fish. And, besides, if you have some Hollandaise left over, you can store it in tupperware in the fridge for up to 2 days and reheat by whisking over the double boiler again, i.e. EGGS BENEDICT FOR BREAKFAST THE NEXT MORNING!! Whoot to the Whizoot.

Serve with rice, a simple salad, or even grilled asparagus with shaves Parmesan.

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Alton Brown Bread Pudding Mashup

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This is the bread pudding recipe so good that even those claim to hate bread pudding will ask for a second helping.

In his episode The Proof is in the Bread Pudding, Alton Brown makes a spiced pudding in a bread crust, and a second chocolate version with chunks of challah bread in a pyrex dish. If I was going to attempt this whole bread pudding thing I’d want a custard that was rich and flavorful, had a relatively simple recipe and task list (i.e. pyrex over a perfectly carved crust basin), and perfect texture rather than just damp bread. I decided to balance AB’s two recipes, switch a few items, and add chewy Craisins and Ghirardelli chocolate chunks for texture.

Kate’s Mashup of AB’s Bread Puddings

Ingredients

1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried orange peel
15 whole cloves
15 whole peppercorns
1/2 ounce crystallized ginger, chopped
4 cups half-and-half, divided
2 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 ounces spiced rum

1 Challah cubed into 1 inch pieces

1/2 Dark Chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% dark cocoa chips)
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (optional)

Directions

Place the cinnamon, nutmeg, dried orange peel, cloves, peppercorns, and ginger into 3 cups of half-and-half in a microwavable container and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Check the temperature of the mixture and microwave in 30 second increments until it reaches 180 degrees F. Cover and steep 15 minutes.

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Place the eggs and yolks in a blender with an 8-cup carafe. Blend on the lowest speed for 30 seconds. Raise the speed to quarter power and slowly add the sugars and blend until thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Add the remaining cup of half-and-half. With the machine still running, pour in the spiced half-and-half through a small hand strainer and add the rum. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours.

Butter or non-stick spray a 9 by 13-inch metal pan and place the cubed bread in the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and dried cranberries on top of the bread and slowly pour in the custard. Press down on the mixture with a spatula or the back of a spoon (or your hands) to thoroughly saturate. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours. You can do this the night before if you want.

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Bake about 40 – 45 minutes. If you’d like your top extra crispy, set your oven to the high broil setting with the oven door slightly ajar. Remove the bread pudding from the oven. Pour the melted butter into a spray bottle and spritz the top of the bread pudding or brush on melted butter carefully. Return to the middle rack and broil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

I served mine with vanilla ice cream and leftovers kept for 3 days in the fridge.

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The Value of a Dollar

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I chat throughout my day with friends online. We live in a world of almost constant communication and business never rests, so the opportunity for a lunch or break of any kind comes few and far between. Or not at all. The periodic chat with a friend helps break up the day without having to take more than a minute or two away from email. Helps morale. And some times, a good memory comes up.
______________________________
Patrick:  so tell me something
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me:  Are you following that up with a question that you want an answer to, or are you asking me to tell you a story, joke, etc?
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Patrick:  story
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me:  Hmm….okay….
So, I’ve had glasses for more than half my life. The first time my folks allowed me to get a more expensive pair, one that I could pick out myself, however, was when I was about 15.
I was so excited and had waited for them to come in for, like, 2 weeks, which to a 15 year old girl is an ETERNITY.
I picked them up on a Saturday and almost immediately headed over to Joanna’s wearing them, much to the shargrin of my folks.
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Joanna and I were going to camp in her back yard, in the sand of her volley ball court, which was surrounded by dense forest.
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Patrick:  ok
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me:  Our friend Jeremy lived next door, so he was having Tommy and Brendon over, and they were going to sneak out and camp with us – no hanky panky on my part, I was just good buds with those boys.
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We go out, play all night, wrestle, talk, split a beer so we’re all “drunk”, play music, whatever. Kids crap.
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I wake up in the morning and …
                                                           …where are my glasses?
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Where are they?
WHERE ARE THEY?!
                                                                                                                           Fuck, they’re not here.
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Oh, my god, my folks are going to kill me.
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HOLY CRAP!!!!!
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                                                       ….but what are you going to do?
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After a couple of hours of crying and panicking I had resolved myself to simply tell my parents that the glasses were lost and they’d just have to buy me a new pair and move on with what ever punishment.
How bad could it be? A grounding for a week? Two? Not bad, survivable certainly.
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But my folks had other ideas.
Yes, this is really my mother. I took this picture while she was yelling at me as a young adult…
…and had it put on a mug for her that same year for Christmas. She did not like it.
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So enraged were they about the lost glasses, that they refused to buy me a new pair, as they should have.
I was told I would not be getting a new pair, which would put my future in jeopardy because I would not be able to drive without them, heaven’s to betsy!
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I couldn’t not learn to drive in the next year!
{Appropriate Teenage Freakout ensues}
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So, I headed back to Joanna’s and searched.
                                           And searched.
                                                                 And searched.
                                                                               Until it was night again.
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Defeated, I crawled back home, face puffy and red from crying all day.
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My folks, still angry, took a small bit of pity on me, and the next day my father took me to Home Depot.
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…To rent a metal detector.
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And sent me back over to Joanna’s to resume the search.
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It took about another hour, but lo-and-behold, I found the with the damn metal doohickey. Not even a scratch on the lenses or anything. I had never been so relieved.
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 Guess what I gave my Dad for Christmas?
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Patrick: a metal detector?
me: Was there any question?

Christmas Dinner: Braised Short Ribs & Yorkshire Pudding

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Finally.

Dinner time!

Tonight’s entree was braised short ribs with a red wine reduction. And because that’s simply not fattening enough, my husband made Yorkshire pudding out of the drippings. A meal so dripping in its own fat that the eaters will have shiny faces by the time the plates are empty.

This recipe takes 3 – 4 hours, so start a while before you want to eat.

3 1/2 pounds short ribs. Debone those suckers and brown ’em.

1 large onion chopped, white, yellow, or sweet. I don’t recommend red.

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Lots of fresh minced garlic. I used 8 or 9 cloves, at least 4 of them rather larger.

3 cups red wine (And one for the chef!…I mean just finish off the bottle by pouring it in a glass and drinking it. Do a little something for you in all this.)

1 cup low sodium beef broth

6 carrots sliced into 2-3 inch pieces

2 – 4 sprigs of Thyme if you got it. I did not.

1 bay leaf

1/2 Tbsp ginger

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

I bought 3 1/2 pounds of short ribs, cut them off the bone, and browned the meat. I chose to debone to cut out a ton of greasy fat I didn’t want to have deal with later. The gelatin in the recipe will retain the bone flavor, however, and makes for a silky, smooth sauce in the end.

Once I browned the meat I poured all, but about a tablespoon of the drippings out of the cast iron pan into a separate bowl for Yorkshire pudding. We’ll get to this later on. It’s best to use a dutch oven for this recipe, but I don’t own one, so I used a regular stock pot. In the stock pot I browned 1 large, chopped onion in that last remaining tablespoon of drippings I mentioned two sentences earlier. I didn’t want the onion to brown too quickly so I sauteed, stirring quite a bit, for 10 minutes or so. Next came the tomato paste, which browned fairly quickly. I added the garlic cloves, stirring until they were just aromatic. At that point I preheated my oven to 300 degrees. I then poured in the red wine over the onion, tomato paste, and garlic and deglazed the pot. I let the red wine simmer away and reduce to about half.

Once the red wine got nice and thick, I added a cup of low sodium beef broth, the bay leaf, ginger, and, finally, the boneless and browned short ribs. Once this mixture was at a simmer, I covered it and slipped it into the preheated oven for 2 hours. While waiting I read most of The World According to Clarkson while Chip put together the LEGO White House.

Those 2 hours took forever. I took the stock pot out of the oven and set it aside while I bloomed the gelatin. In the 1/4 cup of cold water I sprinkled the gelatin and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Gelatin needs to bloom in cold water for at least five minutes, other wise the consistency won’t be as smooth. While the gelatin was doing it’s thing I removed the short ribs and carrots from the pot, plated them and tented the dish with aluminum foil. I then strained the remainder of the stock pot contents in to a large pyrex measuring up and placed it into the fridge, chucking the solids left in the mesh strainer. I let the fat rise in the pyrex for about 10 minutes. After straining the fat from the liquid I poured the liquid back into the stockpot and heated it over medium high heat until it reduced to about 1 cup, just a few minutes. Removing from heat, I whisked in the gelatin. This is a perfect time to taste the sauce and make sure it has enough salt and pepper to your liking.

While I was making the sauce, Chip was making the Yorkshire pudding from a family 2-2-4 recipe.

2 cups milk

2 cups flour

4 eggs

1/2 – 3/4 cups drippings, what ever you got

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Beat together the milk, flour, eggs, and salt. In a 3 quart rectangle glass dish pour the meat drippings and place in the oven. Get those drippings smoking hot – super, sizzling hot, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove the pan frm the oven and Carefully pour the custard mixture of milk, flour, and eggs into the sizzling hot drippings.

Replace the rectangle dish back into the oven to cook at 450 for another 10 minutes or until it reaches your preferred pudding texture. You can make it as chewing or as crisp as you like. When it’s done it’ll look like…

Once the yorkshire pudding was out of the oven, we de-tented the short ribs and carrots, poured the reduced sauce over the top, added basic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus to the mix, and sat down to an awesome Christmas dinner.

Christmas Appetizer: Prosciutto, Pear, & Brie

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After a nice hunk of leftover chocolate cheesecake for breakfast the task at hand for Christmas Day was to prepare dinner: Short Ribs in a red wine reduction. But you’ll hear about that later.

Of course we’d need something to nosh on while cooking the ribs, so I made some prosciutto bites. A combination of sweet pear, with sharp brie, and salty, delicate ham, makes for a snack no one can resist. As a lover of prosciutto, it was not hard for me to play around with combinations until I came up with something just right. A sacrifice of time I was happy to make and it was never hard to find willing taste testers, either.

Kayto’s Prodigal Prosciutto Pear Peaks

1 baguette, sliced into 3-4 inch thick long, 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal

1 8oz Brie wheel, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices

1 jar Pear preserves

12 oz Boar’s Head Prosciutto Picollo

I go with the Boar’s Head Piccolo here, because it is a very tasty prosciutto at just about half the cost of the prosciutto de parma. And it’s significantly less expensive than the pre-packaged containers of 3-4 oz of Columbus brand prosciutto and far better tasting.

Make sure the brie has been well refrigerated otherwise it’s just a total bitch to get into slices. Once sliced you can leave at room temperature until your bread is toast. Lightly toast the baguette slices on a cookie sheet in the oven under the broiler until they’re just golden brown, about 3 minutes. Take the sliced baguette out of the oven and lay a piece of brie onto each serving of bread. The brie will get warmed, but not super melty. If you want a gooeyer offering, feel free to throw the slices of brie onto the bread for the last minute or so that it’s under the broiler.

On top of the brie smear about 1 – 2 tsp of pear preserves on each. This doesn’t sound like much, but it is very sweet so a little goes a long way. Take a single slice of the prosciutto and tear in half. Fold or curl gently onto the pear preserves.

Then shove the entire thing your mouth before somebody else tries to take it from you. Then lament that you have to make a full tray of them that other people get to eat.

 

Christmas Eve Dinner: Banh Mi Baguettes

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Banh mi’s are delicious Vietnamese pork sandwiches. The pork loin, hot off the grill, sweet and spicy, is topped with crisp, cool slaw and layered on a fresh baguette with mayonnaise. Each bite is filled with different complimenting flavors and the heat of the pork is cooled perfectly with the creamy mayo.

I’ve tried these sandwiches at three different restaurants in town, each serving very authentic Vietnamese cuisine. I took what was traditional, what I liked from each, and brought those flavor ideas home to create this recipe. That’s the fantastic thing about cooking recipes like this: You taste it as you go along and can tweak it so it is uniquely you. And a person should never be afraid to try new recipes. The worst case scenario is that they don’t come out properly and you have to get take out.

First assemble the slaw.

3/4 cup julienned carrots

3/4 cup julienned radishes

1/2 cup julienned cucumber

1 cup thinnly sliced red cabbage

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

1-2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

1/4 rice or white vinegar

a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Next I marinate pork loin for an hour or two. The marinade varies and, again, this is all up to your personal tastes, but what I do is based on the flavors of the pork from the Vietnamese sandwich shops here.

2 pounds pork center cut loin chops, pounded thin

1 tsp sesame oil

3 tbsp teriyaki glaze

2 tbsp sriracha chili sauce – this is the heat

1 tbsp minced garlic

Tonight I cooked these on high heat in a cast on pan; it’s December, it’s cold, it’s rainy. This caramelized the sweetness of the teriyaki perfectly into charred deliciousness on the edges of the pork loins. Once all the pork was browned, juicy, and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side, I allowed my guests to make their own sandwiches. Each was given an entire demi or half of a full fresh baked baguette and was free to pile it high with pig, slaw, and Christmas joy. I served this with bacon and shallot braised Brussels sprouts and baked sweet potato fries. The perfect very relaxed, very delicious Christmas Eve dinner.

Christmas Eve Starts with Dessert: Chocolate Cheesecake

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I wanted something special for holiday dessert this year, but I am not normally a treat maker. I often have prewrapped chocolate in my house, a box of Skinny Cows, or, if I’m really feeling an indulgent dessert, I’ll make cookies, but it pretty much stops there. I tried twice in my life to make pies and both ended terribly: At high altitude I couldn’t get my apples to cook after being in the oven for two hours, and on a torrential downpour day, my pecan pie came out as mere ice cream topping rather than anything even close to solid.

So, naturally, I choose Christmas Eve when I’m hosting guests to try an intermediate level recipe I’ve never tried before. No practice, no nothing. If it didn’t work out, we’d be having Rolos for dessert.

I have to admit, I’m not super clear on the whole rating the level of difficulty in a recipe thing. I mean, you follow the directions. Tweak it if you’re gutsy. There’s either less directions or more directions and all you have to do is follow them. Really, I think recipes should just be based on time, such as less time or a crap ton of time. Because you’re supposed to refrigerate a cheesecake for a while, this would get a Crap Ton Of Time rating.

This is more of a chocolate mousse cheesecake; it has cottage cheese in it. That’s not the norm, no, but I hate eating a slice of cheesecake and then immediately feeling like I’m about to have a baby because I’m so full and fatty-fat  fatfat. And this one comes out sweet, but not sugary, fluffy, but very cheesecake-creamy. Amazing with coffee. And I realized the the problem with lighter cheesecake is it’s hard to stop after one piece…

I think I had consumed so much food at this point that I was lying on the floor, but, like a champ, this didn’t deter me from another slice.

Like all good cheesecakes, this one begins with water. I preheated my oven to 325 and placed a roasting pan filled with about 2 inches of water on the second to last rack level. I went out (prior to heating my oven), bought a spring-form pan, took it apart, played with it, struggled to put it back together (I’m no winner), and then coated the inside with cooking spray. I also wrapped the outside bottom edge in aluminum foil to stop any of our cheesecake filling from leaking out.

Next came the crust:

1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 10 full sheets. (The recipe called for chocolate graham cracker crumbs, but I wasn’t on the ball or paying close enough attention to the recipe when I went shopping.)

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp water

2 1/2 tbsp melted unsalted butter

Crushing the graham crackers is a great task for kids to do. Or, if you harbor any ill will toward mankind, it’s a great way to work that angst out, as well. In my case I improvised a giant pestle and mortar and worked out regular holiday tension.

Wine bottles: Not just for Boozing it up any more. They make good rolling pins & great pestles.

I mixed everything together until moist and pressed it into the bottom of the spring-form pan. The recipe then called for the crust to be frozen for 15 minutes, and who am I to argue? I was doing this while watching Ancient Aliens on Netflix anyway, so it’s not like I didn’t have other things going on.

Next was the filling:

2/3 cups Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips. The recipe called for 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, but I like bittersweet and who the hell knows what the measurement of an ounce of chocolate is? (I do. It’s about 1/3 cup to every ounce.)

24 oz container of cottage cheese.

8 oz room temperature cream cheese

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

I’m starting to get bored now. Someone put on the Never Ending Story.

2 tbsp flour

1 egg

2 egg whites

2 tsp instant espresso powder (Don’t skip this. Use decaf if you’d prefer, but this really intensifies the chocolate.)

2 1/2 tsp vanilla (I like things extra vanilla-y)

I pureed the cottage cheese with an immersion hand blender. I then poured it into a kitchen aid mixer so that could do the rest of the blending for me. Often you can use a food processor to really make your cheesecake SUPER smooth. I am neither smooth nor the owner of a food processor, so I used a stand mixer. To the cottage cheese I added the cream cheese and then all the dry stuff. Once that was blended smooth, I added the egg & whites, the vanilla, melted the chocolate in the microwave and added that, too.

I poured the mixture onto the crust in the pan and into the oven it went (with the roasting pan of water still in there) on the upper third rack and baked it about 50 minutes, until the center jiggled like my gut. Then I let it sit in the oven for an additional hour with the heat turned off.

After that time I plated the cake and poured a ganache over the top.

Super simple Ganache topping:

1/2 cup semisweet Ghiradelli chips. Yes, I used semi-sweet instead of bittersweet for the ganache and there is a difference.

3 tbsp unsalted butter

Microwave the butter and chocolate together until melted and smooth. Pour over cheesecake. Viola.

After I let cool at room temperature for an additional hour, I put the cheesecake into the fridge. The final step, according to the original recipe, which I’d long since ditched, was to refrigerate for 8 hours or over night so it could really setup.

I let it chill for about 7 hours before it was time to dig in and it was great; no need for the 8+ hours. When plating I topped it with beautiful, sweet fresh raspberries and a dusting of powered sugar. I plan on having a left over slice for breakfast.