September 13, 2006
Arthur's Hamptons Cheesecake Named #1
In 1992, Arthur French showed his first signs of culinary promise by successfully submitting a recipe for roast duck to Newsday's "Who's Cooking" column — a dish "which, believe me, is the most fabulous duck you'll ever taste," he said. Newsday agreed, doing a spread on French and his signature dish.
His second foray into the world of competitive cooking has proved similarly sweet. French, a retired Nassau County Police Department sergeant living in Wainscott, entered a recipe for cheesecake into the "Taste of America" contest run by Thermador, the makers of high-end kitchen supplies. The cake's mixture of richness and lightness proved a hit with the judge Bradley Ogden, the executive chef at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, who deemed it the best entry from New York. Called "Arthur's Hamptons Cheesecake," it is featured in the Taste of America cookbook, released earlier this year.
"I debated whether or not to do it, but I said, 'What the heck. It could be fun,'" French explained.
The win came as something of a surprise: "I'm still smiling and giggling because I'm saying 'How could this be?'" he said.
The cheesecake's mixture of cream cheese, sugar, sweet butter and sour cream is "very rich, but when you eat it, it's also very light. It's not heavy," French noted.
French wasn't always so culinary-minded. Years ago when he separated from his wife, "It really became a situation where you either cook or starve," he said.
"When we went our separate ways, I would call her and say, "How did you do this? How did you do that? She said, 'You should have wrote it down. You should have paid closer attention,'" he added with a laugh.
But he found that with good preparation, fresh ingredients and an eye towards presentation, the mysteries of cooking proved easily solvable. "The more I experimented, I realized it's not rocket science," French said.
"Arthur's Hamptons Cheesecake"
Ingredients for 8 or 9" pan.
Bottom Half: Two 8 oz. pkgs. of cream cheese, softened to room temp. 3/4 cup of sugar, a dash of salt, three eggs, 1/2 tsp. of almond extract.
Top Half: Two cups of sour cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, dash of salt, one tsp. of vanilla extract, mixed at low speed.
Crust: 1&1/4 cups of graham cracker mix, 2/3 cup of sweet butter, melted, 1/4 cup of sugar.
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease spring pan, mix cracker crust per directions on box and place firmly in pan. Bake for six to eight minutes; remove and cool. For the bottom half, mix cream cheese, sugar at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and beat into mix. Mix in almond extract and bake for 25 min. at 350. Remove and let stand for 20 min. For the top half, pour the mixture slowly on top and bake at 350 for 15 min. Remove and place uncovered in refrigerator. Garnish with strawberries or assorted berries.