There are several secrets to producing a creamy, crack-free cheesecake. First, beat the softened cream cheese vigorously until absolutely smooth before adding eggs. After adding the eggs, gently incorporate the remaining ingredients to avoid over-beating and toughening the cheesecake. Second, bake in a water bath at a lower oven temperature to ensure moderate, even baking. Third, allow the cheesecake to cool slowly and naturally after removing from the oven, and do not refrigerate until completely cool. Follow these three simple rules, and your cheesecake will be perfect every time!
Mix together the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, Creole seasoning, black pepper and butter. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Place in the refrigerator, and chill until firm, about 30 minutes (or place in the freezer for 10 minutes).
For the Custard: Place a medium sauté pan over medium heat; add the oil and heat through.
Stir in the onions and Creole seasoning, and cook until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and cook just until the peppers are beginning to soften and the garlic aroma is released, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat, and transfer to a plate; set aside to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium to medium-high speed until it is completely smooth; add the flour and continue beating to combine,
scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.
Beat in the lemon juice, zest and sour cream, then add the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is smooth, creamy and uniform in texture.
With the motor on medium-low, add the cooled sautéed vegetables, chives, dill and chopped smoked salmon to the cream cheese mixture, and beat just until evenly incorporated. (Note: Do not over-beat at this point; mix just until gently incorporated.)
Pour the batter into the prepared crust, and place the springform pan in a baking dish. Set the baking dish in the center of the oven, and carefully pour in enough simmering water to reach halfway up the sides of the pan. (Important Note: Be careful when preparing the water bath; do not splash water into the batter.) Bake for 1 hour.
Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar and allow the cheesecake to rest in the oven until and the top is set but the very center jiggles just slightly when nudged, about 1 hour more.
Place the cheesecake on a wire rack and let set until cool to the touch; transfer to the refrigerator, and chill for at least 8 hours.
To Serve: Roll 12 very thin salmon slices into rosettes. (Note: If not using immediately, place on a plate, cover gently with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.)
When ready to serve, run a thin bladed knife around the circumference of the cheesecake to ensure it is loosened from the sides of the pan. Unmold the cheesecake, then use a large, sharp knife to cut the cheesecake into 12 wedges, wiping the blade clean after each cut.
Place a wedge of cheesecake in the center of each plate; top with a salmon rosette, and garnish with fresh dill sprigs. Sprinkle salmon caviar (if using), red onions, capers, egg yolks and whites around the plates, or make neat little piles of each for garnish. Serve chilled or at
room temperature with pumpernickel bagel chips or toast points.
Tips and Techniques
* Tony Chachere’s® Famous Creole Seasoning is available in the spice section of many grocery stores or online at foodlocker.com or cajungrocer.com.
Serving Suggestion: If you prefer, unmold the cheesecake onto a cake stand, and garnish the top with salmon rosettes and fresh dill sprigs. Serve guests buffet-style with additional garnish on the side.
Make It Ahead: Make the cheesecake up to 3 days in advance; store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator - or freeze up to one month. If the cheesecake is to be made and served the same day, allow a minimum of 10 hours for preparing it - 2 hours for baking and cooling, and 8 hours for chilling.
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