Say hello — and congratulations! — to Seattle’s own Mandy Heaston, who’s not a real “Real Woman of Philadelphia” (like yours truly) but thanks to Southern comfort-food maven Paula Deen, plays one on the small screen.
This week, the vivacious mother of three joined her Food Network hero on stage in Savannah, Georgia and landed herself a big win in a Kraft-sponsored on-line cooking contest thanks to this recipe for Asparagus and Parmesan Cream Pastry, that video (one of 5000 entries) and America’s favorite brand-name schmear.
After a whirlwind weekend down South, Mandy and 15 other finalists flown in for the occasion got to say “(cream) cheese!” at a cook-off where they prepared their entries for Paula, among other judges. Four winners (for appetizer, side dish, entree and dessert) were announced Wednesday night at a simultaneously-Webcast shindig and the recipe-savvy home-cooks each received a $25,000 “talent contract” — some of which translates to cash.
That news got me thinking about my favorite recipe involving cream cheese, and lots of it: the one I’d have entered if I wasn’t already a real woman of Philadelphia. Had I won, I’d have had the opportunity to visit my mother, who’s now drinking “wood-er” and rooting for the “Iggles” from one of those golf-carty residential villages near Savannah where I — and her only grandson — have yet to visit, don’t get her started.
Long after I first tasted my buddy Joe Britton’s prized chocolate cheesecake, I wowed friends with my own version of the recipe he graciously shared: a Paula Deen-worthy dessert if ever there was one, with at least 10, 000 calories per slice. And if you like chocolate and cheesecake — or know someone who does — I insist, “Hey, y’all! Give this a trah!”
Alaska Joe Britton’s Chocolate Cheesecake
For the crust
1 1/2 packages chocolate wafer cookies, ground into crumbs in a food processor (or by hand in a Zip-Loc bag using a rolling pin)
1 cube (8 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
Prepare crust by mixing cookie-crumbles with melted butter and pressing into a springform pan. (I’ve used a 9-inch and 10-inch pan for this, both work well.)
12 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce bricks) Philadelphia Cream Cheese
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
(note: cream cheese and eggs should be brought to room temperature before preparing)
Melt chocolate and butter together, and incorporate.
Using an electric mixer: beat cream cheese in a deep bowl till smooth; slowly add melted chocolate/butter mixture; then whipping cream and vanilla extract; slowly add sugar; add eggs one at a time and incorporate each well before adding the next one; add coffee.
Carefully pour into the cookie-crusted pan. Turn the pan several times to settle.
Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven down to 325-degrees and continue baking 30 minutes more for a total of 1 hour. Turn off oven, partially open the oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven until the cake cools. Remove from oven, cover and chill for at least four hours.