We live in a city that claims to have the best of everything: the best pizza, the best newspaper, the best restaurants, the best-looking people, the best music scene. It’s in our nature to covet the best of things, whether it’s a $3,000 handbag or a $50 hamburger stuffed with foie gras and topped with truffle butter. In the world of food, New York has long claimed ownership of a variety of gastronomic inventions. New York-style cheesecake is a fine example of this phenomenon. Although cheesecake, in all likelihood, was first created outside of New York’s city limits, its appearance on menus in Midtown in the 1920s and its presence on the countertops of Jewish-style delis throughout the city deemed it “officially” a New York product. When asked what differentiates it from Philadelphia cheesecake or Italian-style cheesecakes made with fresh farmer’s cheese or ricotta, New Yorkers are the first to defend its origin in response. But isn’t that what makes us New Yorkers: pretension and a certainty that New York City is the best place on earth?
Chef’s Tip: If you want to marble your cheesecake, drizzle melted chocolate over the top of the batter before you put it in the oven and give it a few gentle stirs, allowing the chocolate to distribute evenly. Warm up some strawberry jam and place a dollop on top of each slice for ultimate satisfaction.
New York Style Cheesecake Serves 6-8
Equipment: One 10-inch spring-form pan
1 package of graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter
An 8 oz. package of cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pint sour cream (not the fat-free stuff)
1 teaspoon vanilla
The zest of one lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the melted butter and the graham cracker crumbs. Press the mixture against all sides of the spring-form pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Mix well until smooth. Pour into the pan. Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with tin foil to prevent water from entering. Fill a larger pan with a 1/4 inch of water. Place the spring-form pan inside. Place in the oven for one hour. Remove and test for doneness with a toothpick. Let cool in the fridge, approximately three hours.