Nearly every admirable trait that I developed growing up was acquired by watching and listening to my grandparents. Theirs is a pretty extraordinary story and one that I’ll no doubt provide snippets of here from time to time. My grandmother likes to tell me how, when I was just a wee lad sitting in my high chair whipping handfulls of strained pears across the kitchen, the one thing that would stop me in mid-whip was the sound of her preparing bread dough for its ultimate ovenly destination. The sound involved her slapping the bejeezus out of the dough in order to rid it of air bubbles created by the yeast. This would apparently send me into uncontrollable fits of giggling, which only encouraged her. I tell her now that it was a nervous giggle, because I was thinking at the time, ‘Better that dough than my butt’, because she brooked no misbehavior or outright rebellion under her roof. At all. Ever. Seriously, no one messed with grandma. Even now, at 87…No one. Messes. With grandma.
This little event marked the initiation of something very important. It evolved from high-chair viewing, to sitting on a stool next to her at the kitchen counter, to standing next to her at the counter, to later and even now, towering over her while standing next to her at the counter, always watching. And learning. Through these impromptu lessons and subsequent years of trial and error, I’ve managed to go from ‘pretty capable cook’ to the kind of person that sets fire to sauces while yelling ‘Opa!’ and knows what a reduction is and which wines work better than others. I also ended up a marginally capable baker of things that make a person both fat and happy (pies, cakes, etc.). And this, you see, is awesome.
Maybe the greatest aspect of these lessons was that of improvisation. Recipes are a nice start, but not necessarily to be stringently followed. It’s the natural course of things to find ways of making them better over time. You just have to understand the effect of over- or under-doing certain ingredients. Cooking, therefore, becomes both science and art in many ways. Once you manage to get a dish or a confection exactly the way you like it, there’s nothing quite like eating well to make everything else in your world a little better. If someone asked me to rank my greatest accomplishments in life, finally getting my pie crust on par with my grandmother’s would easily be in the top 5. That was a banner day, indeed.
Now whenever I get a hankerin’ for anything food related, the craving is easily satisfied. Thanks, grandma. And this week, the hankerin’ took the form of cheesecake, but not just any cheesecake. See, it started as just any cheesecake, then morphed into something beautiful; a dessert so rich, so amazing in its artery-strangling perfection, that to simply gaze upon it invites madness. So, gird your loins for insanity!: Chocolate/Espresso cheesecake WIIIIIIIITH….a shot of Jameson’s for my homies.
‘How?!?!?!?’, you ask?
Practice, practice, practice. The great thing about this recipe is that even when it doesn’t turn out exactly the way you’d like, it’ll probably still be highly edible. Cheesecake involving chocolate (like most things involving chocolate) rarely sucks, regardless of what it looks like or what else might’ve gone wrong. With this recipe, I have given you the key; now you must go forth and do … oh, whatever, just go make the friekin’ cheesecake.
Sir @ July 9, 2008