Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
You'll excuse me for not having a Christmas song for today's post. You see, this post is for my husband, whose birthday is this Saturday. And this song just happens to be his absolute favorite. Anyone who knows our family knows that Pink Floyd reigns supreme. And while his favorite Christmas song is "I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day," I couldn't find a recording of it that really got me excited. Besides, Comfortably Numb goes perfectly with this recipe. You have the tartness of the cherries going up against the sweetness of the crust and in between them is the glorious creamy filling which is a little of both. In the song you have the verses sung by Roger Waters, whose voice seems slightly sadistic, like a peddler of snake oil. Then you have David Gilmour's reply in the chorus - ethereal, other-worldly in nature. His guitar solo has to be the "filling" - all angst and spiritual rolled into one. I bounce between wanting to cry (for the mournful seemingly trapped soul in the song) and shout praises (for the talent which takes me there.) This pie is rich - it is not a quick eat. It's meant to be slowly cherished - as is this song. Why not do both at the same time?
Well, there's Cherry Cheesecake in the fridge. That must mean that it's either (A) Father's Day or (B) my husband's birthday. Ding! Ding! Ding! If you read the song pairing you knew to choose B!
I didn't like my husband when I first met him. I found him annoying and, well, a little arrogant. I was also very young (16) and got annoyed easily by many things - which is the job of an adolescent girl, right? He had a "presence," though, which demanded my respect. Which kind of annoyed me even more. I guess you can say that the basis for our relationship, on my part anyway, was respect for him. Slowly I grew to admire him. Admiration led to friendship. Friendship to a fondness. And, then, to be honest, folks, fondness was the edge of the cliff, and I just fell from there straight to head-over-heels in love with the guy! And there I've been for, oh, the last 34 years of my life!
My husband is what is commonly referred to as a "solid guy." I like to think of myself as a "solid girl." We have always had clear goals toward which we have worked - being realistic in our expectations of attaining those goals - and willing to make the sacrifices required along the way in our pursuit of them. I'm not a sports enthusiast at all (he is) but I love a game plan. We are good teammates and complement each other nicely. I'm quirky - he's more conventional. I'm bubbly - he's happy to watch me bubble away. We enjoy a great life now because we made up a realistic game plan and worked like crazy to see it through - straddling the hurdles along the way the best we could. He is a great leader of our family. I doubt there is a more loved father out there.
This recipe came to our home via a fellow classmate in our college days. She had made it for him as a "thank you" for some nice gesture on his part and he raved and raved about it. No lie. It made me a little jealous, all this raving. I asked if maybe he could get the recipe from her. She obliged, saying it was super easy. I had tasted the cheesecake. It didn't taste easy. I was very excited, though, to find that it was exactly as easy as it gets! For years I purchased the pre-made graham cracker crust - still do if things are crazy. It calls for cherry pie filling. I buy that, too, but I will also get a can of blueberry pie filling because that is my own particular favorite.
Why do I only make this once or twice a year? At first, I think, it was because our funds were so tight that we couldn't afford the "extravagant" ingredients - like the sweetened condensed milk - one of those sacrifices I mentioned earlier as part of our game plan. It never occurred to me to make my own graham cracker crust. It fell into the category of "I'm sure that that's really hard to do so I'll have to buy it." And cherry pie filling? That was way beyond my scope! So - the recipe was relegated to the "only on special occasion" folder and has stayed there since. Nowadays, it wouldn't be a sacrifice at all to make this regularly, but then it might lose it's "special" status. And that would make me sad. It's nice to have special dishes that also happen to be super-easy-to-prepare dishes. I did make my own graham cracker crust this time. And I added some toasted almonds in with the graham crumbs. Next time, I'm going to add vanilla beans instead of the vanilla extract. It makes me sad when the color gets dulled a bit when you add the extract.
We have no elaborate plans for my husband's birthday this year. I have been known to throw some humdinger birthday parties, though, to celebrate the passing of certain decades. This year we will celebrate quietly, though. Just us, a daughter, and a yummy Cherry Cheesecake!
Printable Recipe Card
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 t. vanilla
1 graham cracker crust
cherry pie filling
graham cracker crust: (should you choose to make your own)
1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 16 graham crackers)
5 T. butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar
If you are making your own crumbs, put the crackers in a food processor and chop til they are fine. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse until it starts acting like it's going to come together. You should be able to squeeze the crumbs and have them stick together.
Pour the crumb mixture into a pie plate and distribute evenly, going up the sides as well. Use the outside of a measuring cup to help press the crumbs tightly all around the sides and on the bottom as well.
You want the mixture to be nice and compact. At this point you can just refrigerate or freeze until you're ready to use it. I like to do a par bake on mine as it gives it a nice toasty flavor. To do this, heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 6 - 8 minutes. Chill.
For the filling:
Put the softened cream cheese in a bowl and beat with a mixer to loosen it up and make it smooth. This helps prevent any lumps from forming - which are difficult to get rid of later. Add the sweetened condensed milk and blend very well. Slowly add the lemon juice while you are mixing and blend well. Add the vanilla extract or vanilla beans from 1/2 vanilla pod and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared shell and chill 3 - 4 hours until set.
To serve, slice into even wedges and place on the plate. Add a dollop of pie filling over the top of the wedge, letting some of the sauce run down the sides. Mmmmmm!