While rich, creamy cheesecake is a fine way to end the meal, we didn't think it had to be sweet to do so. We wanted a savory cheesecake, one that could finish the meal as a cheese course. And so we cut the sugar and substituted blue cheese for part of the cream cheese.
And since blue cheese pairs so nicely with fruit, we added a topping of pears poached in red wine and balsamic vinegar. A black-pepper walnut crust accentuates the play on sweet and savory.
But note -- this cheesecake is exceptionally rich. Serve it in small slivers. Both the cheesecake and pears also hold well and can be prepared a day or two ahead. The pears can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. To reheat the pears, simply place them and the syrup in a large saute pan and heat over low.
Blue Cheesecake With Cabernet Caramelized Pears And Pepper-Walnut Crust
For the crust:
1 cup walnuts
¼ cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
6 tablespoons butter, melted
For the filling:
1 pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces strong blue cheese, such as roquefort
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
For the pears:
4 fresh, firm pears such as bosc
1½ cups cabernet sauvignon
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup sugar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse together the walnuts, sugar, flour, salt, and black pepper until the walnuts are the size of small peas. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is just moistened. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden around the edges and fragrant. Leave the oven on.
While the crust bakes, mix the cake filling.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, blue cheese, flour and sugar. Mix on medium-low until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping the bowl in between until the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
After the crust is baked, pour the filling into the pan and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the center just barely jiggles when you shake the pan and the top slightly puffs. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (and up to 2 days) before serving.
To prepare the pears, peel the pears, then cut each half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the core.
In a deep saute pan, combine the wine, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the pears, core side down. Allow the mixture to simmer until the liquid is syrupy and the pears are caramelized and tender, occasionally basting the pears with the liquid, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
When ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to loosen the cheesecake. Remove the sides of the pan. If desired, run a long spatula under the crust and slide the cake onto a serving plate. Top the cheesecake with the caramelized pears.