When I first moved to DC about a year and a half ago I had the fortune of making a really good friend early upon my arrival to our new city. One of the first interactions I ever had with Sarah was one in which I asked her about good brunch places in the city. She told me about mysundaybrunch.com, which is an awesome website that sorts DC brunch places by cuisine, neighborhood, and cost. After she showed me this very helpful website, we decided we would go to brunch together in order to get to know one another better. Ironically enough, we have never made it to brunch in the last 18 months. We have had tons of other very interesting and memorable experiences (even some we tried to remember but couldn't) over the last several months. We have traveled together, worked together and definitely partied together. But none of these experiences have included mimosas, jazz music, or that coveted meal in between breakfast and lunch that normally accompanies these things. I decided this week that our Bruch date was way overdue so I made the decision to cook brunch for my friend who has been so wonderful to me since I moved here.
I wanted to do a little different twist on Brunch and stray from the traditional breakfast type dishes that are often associated with Brunch. Inspired by a recipe sent to me by a friend (thanks Tim!), I decided to make a Crabmeat Cheesecake and serve it with a simple salad. In New Orleans there is a family of restaurateurs named the Brennans. Amongst them they own undoubtedly several of the cities most famous and delicious restaurants. One of their gems is the Palace Cafe on Canal Street (if you ever make it to NOLA try to have at least one meal here - trust me). They serve their Crabmeat Cheesecake as an appetizer on their menu and I planned on having it as my main course. Armed with my new rolling pin, silicon mat, and pastry blender I got to work. This was yet another very involved recipe, but it was perfect for a Sunday since I had the time to devote to getting it right. This savory take on an otherwise sweet classic was lucious and fit the bill perfectly for a brunch entree.
Palace Cafe Crabmeat Cheesecake
Recipe courtesy The Palace Cafe: The Flavor of New Orleans by Dickie Brennan
2 cups pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fine salt
5 tablespoons butter, cold
3 tablespoons ice water
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces crabmeat
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup Creole cream cheese or sour cream
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (recommended: Crystal brand hot sauce)
Kosher salt and white pepper
1 lemon, peeled and quartered
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup hot pepper sauce
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pound butter, cold, cut into small cubes, and divided
Kosher salt and white pepper
2 cups sliced mixed wild mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter, softened
24 crab claw fingers
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Finely grind pecans in a food processor. Add flour and salt. Mix well. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and cut in butter, working butter into flour with 2 knives until dough is in crumbs the size of small peas. Add ice water and evenly incorporate into the mixture, which should remain fairly crumbly. Roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Press dough into a lightly greased 9-inch tart pan, starting with the sides and then the bottom. Bake crust for 20 minutes, or until golden.
Note: Dough can be made ahead of time. If doing so, wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Allow dough to come to room temperature before rolling out.
Preparing the Filling:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a skillet, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add crabmeat and cook just until heated through, then remove from heat. Blend cream cheese until smooth in a mixer fitted with a paddle, or by hand using a wooden spoon. Add Creole cream cheese and mix well. Mix in eggs 1 at a time. Gently fold in the crabmeat mixture. Stir in hot sauce and season, to taste, with salt and white pepper. Spoon filling into prepared crust. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
Preparing the Meuniere Sauce and Garnish:
Combine lemon, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce in a heavy saucepot. Reduce over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until mixture becomes thick and syrupy. Whisk in heavy whipping cream. Reduce heat to low and slowly blend in butter, 1 cube at a time, adding additional butter only after each cube has been completely incorporated into the sauce. This process is called "mounting the butter." Remove from heat and continue to stir. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Strain through a fine strainer and keep warm.
Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter until tender and all moisture has cooked off. Excess water from the mushrooms may break your sauce if it isn't cooked off. Stir mushrooms into Meuniere sauce. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saute pan and warm crab fingers over low heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Slice cheesecake and top each piece with warm Meuniere sauce and 3 crab claws.
As you can see, I didn't garnish with crab claws. I wasn't able to find them at the supermarket. I also felt that I didn't roll the dough out thin enough because it seemed it was too thick in the final product. I had trouble when I was making the dough because it was very dry and crumbly (as the recipe says it should be) which made it very difficult to work with.