Serves: Makes 12 to 14 servings
- ½ cup (2 ounces) walnuts, toasted and cooled completely
- ½ cup (2½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 pound cream cheese
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces crumbled Stilton, or other good-quality blue cheese
- 1 recipe Port-Braised Pears
- Crackers, or toasted baguette or walnut bread slices, for serving
- Lightly dressed salad greens and additional toasted walnuts, for serving as a plated first course (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with butter or high-heat canola-oil spray.
- Make the crust: Place the walnuts and flour in the bowl of the food processor and process for 15 seconds, or until the nuts are finely ground. Add the butter pieces and process another 10 seconds. Add the egg yolk and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until the mixture looks like wet sand and holds together in small clumps. With the spatula, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press the crumbs into an even layer across the bottom (do not go up the sides). Bake the crust for 20 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
- Make the filling: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl twice to ensure the mixture blends evenly and that there are no lumps left (you will not be able to smooth them out later). Add the eggs, one at a time, pulsing 3 to 5 seconds after each addition to blend them in thoroughly. Add the black pepper and blend well. Transfer the mixture to the medium bowl and gently fold in the Stilton. Scrape the mixture into the cooled crust and spread evenly.
- Bake the cheesecake: Set the cheesecake pan on the baking sheet (in case of any leakage). Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the edge is set but the center still has a loose area about the size of a quarter (it will firm up during cooling and chilling).
- Transfer the cheesecake to a cooling rack and immediately run a thin and flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the cake, gently pressing into the side of the pan to avoid gouging the cake. This will release the cake from the side of the pan and prevent cracking as it cools. Let the cheesecake cool completely, 1 to 2 hours. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
- Unmold the cheesecake: Run the thin knife or spatula around the cake edge again, as described above. Pop the side off the pan. Use an icing spatula to loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan and slide it off the pan bottom onto a cake cardboard or serving plate.
- Serve the cheesecake: Cut the cheesecake into wedges with a thin, sharp knife, pulling the knife out at the bottom of the cake to keep the surface of the cake smooth and beautiful. Dip the knife in hot water and then wipe dry after each slice.
- To serve as hors d'oeuvres, set out on a platter surrounded by slices of the braised pears and crackers or toasted bread. To serve as a first course, place a thin slice of cheesecake next to a salad of mixed greens, along with slices of the braised pears and toasted walnuts. Try using a little of the pears braising liquid as part of the vinaigrette for the salad to tie the dish together. Accompany with a couple of slices of toasted baguette. Storing The cooled cheesecake can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 4 days.