Last Thursday evening (and admittedly every Thursday since
Halloween okay, okay, early to mid-October), I jumped up, wide-eyed with a toothy grin that stretched from ear to ear, shrieking hysterically to anyone nearby that would listen or pretend to listen (including our periwinkle-colored beta fish that swims ever-so-carelessly in his newly-purchased and attractively-decorated tank next to the kitchen): “Oh my god, oh my god! It’s almost Thanksgiving!”
Do we really even need to wonder why?! I love Thanksgiving: the never ending grocery list and wish list for the subsequent Black Friday, the utter madness of stiff, over-sized metal shopping carts running into each other at Costco, Sam’s Club, and any other supermarket imaginable, the mindless snatching of every possible thing in sight paired with the constant little voice of reassurance inside your head telling you “you’re definitely going to need this for Thanksgiving dinner and if not, you’ll definitely use it later” even when you pretty much already know you won’t, and the frenzy and mess involved in prepping and cooking everything from appetizers to sides and main courses to how can we possibly forget, desserts (notice the plural). I can even candidly say I
kind of enjoy the all-consuming, I-can’t-breathe-nor-take-another-bite kind of food coma that is imminently self-inflicted by every participant. Seriously though, is that wrong? I love Thanksgiving. The whole sha-bang.
Most of all though, I love what Thanksgiving implies: the gathering of loved ones, the harvesting of good food and good people. I didn’t grow up celebrating the American Thanksgiving. In fact, I doubt my Korean family so much as recognizes the holiday as more than an extra day off from school for my sister and I (since we both attended international schools living in Korea). Regardless of this unfortunate depreciation of this revered day by my family, it has quickly become my favorite holiday – one that, over the past few years, I have made my own.
My Thanksgivings don’t really consist of the standard rituals or traditions. It has been spent with different people and different families, eating different variations of the classic dishes every year. Last year, I baked this Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake for my friend Malia and her family who generously invited me to their family Thanksgiving lunch. It was absolutely gorgeous, an irresistible hit. This year, I plan to bake it again, but this time for a dinner that my roommates and I are hosting for others. This will be my new ritual and tradition. Not necessarily to always bake this amazing Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake for myself and for others (though I’d more than happily comply to doing), but to spend it with the people who have adopted me into their families, the people that I have adopted to form my own. I can’t even begin to give enough thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (seriously, I am smitten!)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (from five 4 3/4- by 2 1/4-inch crackers)
1/2 cup pecans (1 3/4 ounce), finely chopped
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional, but not for me at least)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sour cream (20 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
Garnish: pecan halves
Invert bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (to create flat bottom, which will make it easier to remove cake from pan), then lock on side and butter pan.
Stir together crumbs, pecans, sugars, and butter in a bowl until combined well. Press crumb mixture evenly onto bottom and 1/2 inch up side of pan, then chill crust, 1 hour.
Make filling and bake cheesecake:
Put oven rack in middle position and Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl until combined.
Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt in large bowl.
Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, then add pumpkin mixture and beat until smooth.
Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 5 minutes. (Leave oven on.)
Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and liqueur (if using) in a bowl, then spread on top of cheesecake and bake 5 additional minutes.
Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours.
Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.
Baked cheesecake can be chilled, covered, up to 2 days.