Tuesday is the Tadlet's 16th birthday. (Look! Only two more years before I can tell the ex where to shove his head. Ahem.)
The tradition in the house that I'm living in is this: whatever else is going on, whatever presents happen, on your birthday, you get to request a particular meal of me. For years, now, Tadlet's go-to birthday meal has been potato-leek soup with bread, and a cheesecake. (Thanks to Chris for teaching me to make cheesecake, because seriously, that was one of the best things I ever learned!)
This year, it's maple baked beans (with onions and TONS of salt pork in) and a cheesecake. The beans are easy: soak your beans overnight. Drain them, put them in a pot on the stove, boil for 30 to 40 minutes, drain and reserve liquid. Dice up a shitload of salt pork. Chop an onion. Arrange in layers in your cooking vessel, whether it's a slow cooker or a pot that goes in the oven, going beans, salt pork, onions, beans, salt pork, onions. Take your hot bean water, add 1/3 cup of brown sugar, a cup of real maple syrup, a tsp of mustard powder, a little salt. Pour that over the beans to cover. Cook for a LONG FUCKING TIME until done. For me, if it's a slow-cooker, then eventually I get fed up and shove it in the oven to reduce the liquid to a syrupy glaze. It's my version of the Williams Sonoma recipe, so you can look it up on the internet if you want exact measurements.
They'll be a bit weird: I couldn't find my mustard powder. I substituted rather less than a teaspoon of cayenne. I'm not telling anyone.
Now, cheesecake...cheesecake is FUN. Cheesecake has a basic recipe from Philly cream cheese, also available on the internet. The first major tweak is that you want to put a pan of water on a lower rack to steam it. Also, bang the pan repeatedly to try to get the air bubbles out, so that it won't crack. (But really, who cares if it does? It'll still taste good!)
The fun part of cheesecake is that you can mess with it near endlessly and it'll still be amazing. I've done mango cheesecake, where I pureed frozen mango and put that in the batter and diced the rest of the mango and cooked it and then threw that in the batter as actual chunks. (That's fucking amazing, btw.)
Today's cheesecake is as follows: 3/4 cup of white sugar, 1/4 of light brown in with the cream cheese. Then I added some mulled cider that's in my fridge to flavor it instead of using vanilla. (If I'd been thinking, I'd have reduced a cup of it down to a few tablespoons, that would have been muuuuch better and stronger. But there's been a lot of cooking today.) I chopped up three apples and cooked them on the stove with butter, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. And I made dulce de leche, as it's a caramel-apple cheesecake. (To make dulce de leche in the oven: take your 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk. Pour it in a deep dish pie plate. Cover it with foil. Put that pie plate into a roasting pan and pour in water halfway up the side. Bake at 425 for 45 minutes, refill the water if necessary, bake for another 45 minutes. Let it cool. Next time, I'm salting it a bit, because sprinkling salt on afterwards took it from Amazing to Orgasmic.)
To put the cheesecake together, I put in the graham cracker crust, sprinkled it with some of the apples, poured in half the batter, put in a few chunks of the dulce de leche. Then I put in some more of my dulce in with the rest of the apples and heated it just enough to coat the apples. I put those in as a layer, put in the rest of the batter and tapped out as many bubbles as possible.
Updates later on how it turned out, it's in the oven now.