St. Patrick’s Day Treats: Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake & Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur

St. Patrick’s Day is this Monday, so we’re tipping our Irish hats to my family’s heritage for a change this week. Fortunately, Tony loves both of the recipes we’re sharing today, so I won’t be losing my Italian-by-marriage credentials anytime soon.

This week’s featured recipe is Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake which, for Tony, equals happiness. We’ve offered this dessert at Sarello’s many times throughout the years, and the recipe is always requested whenever we do. In fact, it’s so good there’s hardly room for improvement, but I think I’ve found a way to make it even better.

Try making it with your very own, homemade Irish cream liqueur, which is surprisingly easy to create and even better than the original version. We’ve included this recipe as a special bonus, just for all you lads and lasses out there (over 21, of course). This is a foolproof endeavor as you can control the flavor by adjusting the amount of Irish whiskey and other ingredients according to your taste.

Many people find the prospect of making a cheesecake from scratch a bit intimidating. I’ll admit – I’ve had that same perception, so I turned to the talented Ben Walker, our Sous Chef at Sarello’s, who just happens to be a master of cheesecake.

Chef Ben gave me some great advice to ensure that my cheesecake turned out as good as the ones he makes for our guests. He began by stressing the importance of having all of the ingredients at room temperature before starting, as this step nearly guarantees that the right consistency is achieved when mixed together.

Use the paddle attachment of a stand mixer to combine the sugar and cream cheese until creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. The texture should be light and smooth, so if you taste it and find that it’s grainy, gritty or lumpy, keep mixing. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix until just incorporated; Chef Ben cautioned against over-mixing the batter at this stage, which can alter the final texture of the cake.

Once all of the ingredients have been mixed together, firmly tap the bottom of the mixing bowl against the counter several times to remove any air bubbles, which helps to prevent the cake from cracking.

Next, Chef Ben recommended using a springform pan to prevent leaks and provide easy access to the cake. For easy removal, lightly coat the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, followed by a liner of parchment paper.

And finally, to fully ensure that the cheesecake is evenly cooked throughout, it must be baked in a water bath. People tend to recoil when they hear that, thinking this technique signals that the recipe is beyond their skill set. I used to be guilty of this, too. But, really, all it means is preparing a pan of water to set the cake pan in before it goes into the oven. It’s that simple, and makes a world of difference in the result.

To prevent any water from creeping inside the cake pan, Chef Ben suggested lining the outside with aluminum foil. Once the cake is baked, allow it to cool for about 30 minutes and then refrigerate until ready to serve, up to four days.

See? Cheesecake made simple, and delicious. The Irish cream liqueur is even easier to make and we won’t tell anyone if you sip as you bake. May the luck of the Irish be with you (and Chef Ben) always!

Click here for the Baileys Irish Cream Cheesecake Recipe
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur

Do you have any favorite St. Patrick’s Day food traditions?
Let us know what you love about this fun holiday in the Comments section!

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Cooking Video: Sarello’s Red Curry Scallops

This week on North Dakota Today Tony showed the viewers how to make our Signature Sarello’s Red Curry Scallops. We featured this recipe on the blog and in our column a year ago, and you can CLICK HERE to read the article or HERE for the recipe.

CLICK on the PHOTO BELOW to watch Tony’s video presentation, and then let us know if you have any questions or comments – we LOVE to hear from our readers!

Whipped/Mashed Potatoes Q&A: How do I…?

As we expected, potatoes are a popular topic, especially at this time of year. We’ve received a couple of really good questions from our readers about our Whipped Potatoes recipe, and our answers are below:

Marilyn H. writes:
“Love the mashed potato ideas…but how do you strain a pot of potatoes, then put them back in the kettle on medium high heat for 10 minutes without scorching /burning them?”

Tony says:
Great question, Marilyn, and thanks so much for asking us. Of course, every stove is different, so what works on ours may not necessarily work on yours. If you think medium-high will be too hot on your stove, start out at a lower heat, and stir frequently.

If your pot seems to be getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a minute or two, adjust your heat down, and return it to the heat for another minute or two. If the potatoes seem to be getting a little brown, just remove from the heat – they should be ready. Five to ten minutes of extra cooking should be ample.

If you pay attention to the potatoes throughout this process, you should have good results.

M.B. asks:
“Can I make whipped potatoes ahead of time and keep them warm in a crock pot?”

Tony says:
Another great question – who wants to eat cold potatoes? The answer is a resounding yes, the crock pot is a great way to hold the whipped/mashed potatoes until you’re ready to serve them. Just follow these easy steps, and your potatoes should stay warm for up to 4 hours:

  1. Prep the crock pot: Grease the inside of the pot with butter, and pour a small amount of heavy cream into the pot (approx. 1 to 2 tablespoons).
  2. To keep food in the “safe-serving” zone, make sure you transfer the potatoes to the crock pot while they’re still warm – re-heating refrigerated food in a slow cooker is a no-no.
  3. Set the crock pot on LOW and stir at least once an hour, for up to four hours before serving.
  4. Stir the potatoes again before serving, as the cream may tend to separate.

Joyce G. asks:
“ I enjoy reading your columns and am planning to make your whipped potatoes for our Thanksgiving meal.  Your recipe specifies unsalted butter, but I only have the regular salted version on hand.  Is it ok to use that and just cut down on the added kosher salt?  How much salt should I use?  Thanks for your help!”

Tony says:
Very good question – Yes, you may use salted butter for this recipe. Taste the potatoes as they’re being mixed and then add kosher salt according to your taste. I would start with a half-teaspoon first and go from there.

The reason we use unsalted butter in all of our recipes is that this allows us to control the level of salt in the recipe, according to our taste. This is a classic rule among professional chefs, but many home cooks are accustomed to using salted butter.

Karen K. asks:

“How do you heat your make-ahead whipped potatoes?”

Tony says:
While there are whipped potato recipes geared for the purpose of making them well in advance of serving, ours isn’t one of them. For best results, we recommend serving the potatoes immediately once they’re ready. *See above answers for heating instructions.

Nona O. asks:
“Can I cook the mashed potatoes a day ahead and then re-heat in the oven the next day like in the morning and then put into a crock pot to keep warm until afternoon serving time?”

Sarah says:
We would not recommend doing this for this particular recipe, as we feel that the potatoes will just be too dry when it’s time to serve them. Instead, I’m going to recommend a recipe from Ree Drummond (a.k.a., The Pioneer Woman), which uses cream cheese.

My grandmother used to make a dish very similar to this one, which she would prepare the day before and bake on Thanksgiving day. To be honest, we don’t know how these will keep once transferred to a crock pot, but if you go this route, add a little cream to the pot before the potatoes go in, and be sure to stir every so often. Hopefully, that should work for you.

Here is Ree Drummond’s mashed potato recipe: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/11/delicious_creamy_mashed_potatoes/

Nona O. asks:
“Would you provide information on how one should re-heat the Sarello’s Whipped Potatoes. Temperature, time and any other suggestions”

Tony says:
Great question, Nona, thank you for asking it. For cold whipped potatoes, we recommend the following:

Place potatoes in a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of cream, and stir constantly to soften the potatoes and work the cream in. Keep stirring until well mixed and hot. If the potatoes start to dry up, add more cream. This process will take about 5 to 10 minutes.

CLICK HERE for the Sarello’s Classic Whipped Potato Recipe

If you have any questions you need answered before Thanksgiving, feel free to post them here on the blog or send us an email to dine@sarellos.com.

Be sure to check out our THANKSGIVING 101 section, which has Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips, Thawing Guideilnes, Wine Pairings, and Recipes.

Remember: We’re here for you, and you CAN do this! :)

PARTY DIP TASTE & VOTE: Tonight is your last chance to pick a winner!

We had a terrific turn-out last night at our Party Dip Contest event, and with just one more night to Taste and Vote, we’re dying to know: Will our winner be Peggy Fisher with her delicious Hot Beef Taco Dip? Or were voters swayed by the crimson beauty of Jean Eppler’s Cranberries Gone Wild Dip? What about Sherre Sattler’s crowd-pleasing Jalapeno Popper Dip? Everyone agreed that it was amazing, but will voters turn out to help her win? Let’s not forget Jenny Marhula’s unique and exotic Curried Chutney Dip, or Martha Simmons’ colorful, festive and healthy Black-Eyed Pea Dip. And of course, Marlys Santwire’s warm, comforting and cheesy Spinach Dip could still take home the Grand Prize.

It’s still anyone’s game, and we’re counting on YOU to PICK THE WINNER in our Search for the Perfect Party Dip Recipe Contest. Show your support for our finalists and join us in the Sarello’s Wine Lounge TONIGHT, Wednesdsay, Oct. 30th for our Public TASTE & VOTE EVENT from 5:30 to 6:30 PM! Congratulations and GOOD LUCK to all our Finalists!

CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST OF LUCK TO ALL OUR FINALISTS!

THE LOST ITALIAN’S RECIPE CONTEST 
IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT PARTY DIP RECIPE
FINAL ROUND CONTESTANTS
(in no particular order)

  1. Jalapeño Popper Dip, Sherre Sattler, Grand Forks, ND
  2. Black-Eyed Pea Dip, Martha Simmons, Moorhead, MN
  3. Cranberries Gone Wild Dip, Jean Eppler, Fargo, ND
  4. Hot Beef Taco Dip, Peggy Fisher, Fargo, ND
  5. Curried Chutney Dip, Jenny Marhula, West Fargo, ND
  6. Spinach Dip, Marlys Santwire, Detroit Lakes, MN

We’d like to give a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to our participating sponsors
for helping us design an incredible Grand Prize Package, including:

A Four-Course Dinner for Two at
Sarello’s
(value: approx. $150)

One Daily Bread each month for a year,
with a selection of dipping oils and vinegar from
Breadsmith of Fargo
(value: $125) 

A “Chip and Dip” piece of Tama Smith’s original pottery from
Prairie Fire Pottery
(value: $140)
If you click on the link, the pictured piece is similar to the prize gift

A $50 Gift Card to
Hornbacher’s SuperValu

* Thank-you gifts will also be awarded to all of the runner-up finalists *

To see a list of all the entries, click here: Party Dip Contest Recipes. We’d like to know: Do YOU have a favorite from this list? If so, post it in the Comments section below.