I never thought I would be annoyed making meat and cheese trays.
Each ship has its own unique food needs, maybe they expect appetizers, snacks in the middle of the night, fresh bread all the time, or a set menu for breakfast. When I got to Sorlandet I checked in with the shipboard director, she’d been there for a few years and knew details for every department so she filled me in on what I needed to do. For the students I needed to always serve fruit, bread and cereal at breakfast, pretty simple. For the adult crew that ate in the captain’s saloon I needed to provide a meat and cheese with bread at both breakfast and lunch. I was definitely confused at first, did they not expect me to make real food for those meals?
Later I found out that it wasn’t something unique to Sorlandet but something unique to Norway. I guess the way cooks use to be paid on ships was from whatever money was leftover from their food budget, they’d use ingredients that were really cheap so they could benefit from the difference. Now it’s just part of their customs to have those things provided at breakfast on ships, plus open faced sandwiches are a big thing in Scandinavia.
So for a time I was sick of arranging slices of meat and cheese onto trays, after awhile I’d just slap down big chunks of cheese and let them deal with it. Now I appreciate cheese presented in a creative way, like cheesecake, who said cheesecake has to be sweet, cheese is often served as a dessert. I bring to you savory cheese cake with all the same elements of the classic dessert we are familiar with.
You start with a crumbly crust, topped with a smooth cheese mixture and topped with fruit, just like classic cheese cake. To make is savory the crust has pistachios and butter crackers, the cream cheese gets an addition of blue cheese and the topping is hydrated apricots with a bit of mustard and vinegar to give it a little zip. This recipe is very versatile, replace the nuts with something else or more crackers, choose a difference cheese and topping combo. As long as you keep about the same ratio of ingredients you can change it up how ever you like, I’m thinking goat cheese with pepper jelly to try next.
Chop the pistachios in a food processor until fine crumbs, add the cracker crumbs and melted butter. Put a scant tablespoon of mixture per muffin cup and press flat.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the cheeses together until smooth, if your soft cheese has a rind leave it on and just mix a little longer. Add the reaming ingredients and beat till smooth and fully combined.
Put 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of mixture into each muffin cup on top of the pistachio crust, I used an ice cream dishes to help divide the cheese mixture. Lightly drop the tray twice to help flatten the mound of cheese and then use the back of a spoon to spread it more evenly in the cup. Drop the tray a few more times to smooth out the tops.
Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes until the edges have a kiss of color, they will be tall and puffy and will shrink as they cool.
Cool completely and chill for at least one hour before attempting to remove from the cups.
Put all of the toppings into a small pan, simmer on medium heat till about half of the water has evaporated and the apricots have plumped up. It’s okay to cook it longer, add a bit of water to loosen the final product to the consistency you want before you serve.
Run a butter knife around the edges of the cheese cake to help release it and pull out of the cup. If you are leaving some crust behind dip the tray into a hot water bath for a minute to melt the butter and release the cheesecakes. Since the cheese cakes shrink a little as they cool they leave a little well in the center, fill that with your apricot topping and serve with crackers.
I’m a tall ship cook, I prefer to cook with water beneath me, no land in sight and lots of mouths to feed. I like to play with bold flavors, pushing people’s taste buds in new directions and using a recipe as a guideline, my hands are my measuring spoons. Read More about “About Me”…