The original cheesecake recipe includes a biscuit crust and a fried-onion garnish, and it's used to make individual cakes. This version is simplified. The cake is baked whole and cut into slices, the crust is made with Cheez-It crackers and the fried onions disappear. A spicy chowchow enhances both versions.
Make Ahead: You'll have lots of pimento cheese left over; it can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The cake should be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
- For the cheese
- 1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded if desired and cut into small dice
- 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup finely chopped pimentos
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the cheesecake
- 2 cups Cheez-It crackers, crushed
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) pimento cheese (see above)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 3/4 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
- For the chowchow
- 3 jalapeño peppers
- 3 Fresno or Anaheim chili peppers
- 1 serrano chili pepper
- 2 large leaves savoy cabbage, torn into pieces
- 2 teaspoons pectin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (3 to 4 tablespoons)
- 1/2 cup Chablis
For the cheese: Combine the cheddar cheese, jalapeno (to taste), red onion, garlic, pimentos, mustard, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just long enough to combine; do not overmix. Transfer to a container; the yield is about 2 3/4 cups. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
For the cheesecake: Have a 9-inch springform pan with a removable bottom at hand.
Combine the crushed crackers with butter, sugar and salt in a bowl to coat evenly, then press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan.
Combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low; add the pimento cheese. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add the salt, then gradually pour in the buttermilk to form a smooth batter. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl; taste, and adjust the seasoning or sweetness as needed.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Boil a kettle of water. Have at hand a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan.
Pour the cheesecake filling into the springform pan with the crust, spreading it evenly. Line the outside bottom of the pan with aluminum foil to make it water-tight. Place in the roasting pan, then transfer to the middle oven rack, leaving the rack partially pulled out. Pour enough of the just-boiled water into the roasting pan to come at least one-third of the way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake uncovered for 70 minutes, until the batter has almost no wiggle to it. Transfer from the water bath to a wire rack to cool completely before covering and refrigerating or serving.
Meanwhile, make the chowchow: Combine the peppers, cabbage, pectin, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just enough to coarsely chop. Transfer to a small saucepan, then add the lemon juice and wine; cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. Let cool.
To serve, remove the springform pan sides. Cut the cake into thin wedges. Serve with a dollop of the chowchow on top.
Adapted by David Hagedorn from Beatrice & Woodsley, a restaurant in Denver.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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