Sour Cream Is a Comfort Food in Its Own Right.
Case in Point: This Cheesecake Recipe
October 26, 2019 ● 4 min read
Photo Gavin Christopher Jones/Collage: ChefsFeed
Anyone who’s made their bones showcasing the crispy, craggy landscape of fried chicken, the virtues of a buttery brioche bun piled high with even more buttery lobster, or the various melty overtures of macaroni and cheese knows a thing or two about the art of comfort in the culinary canon.
Chef Michael Ferraro, director of culinary concepts for the Charlie Palmer Collective, is that kind of someone.
Comfort food’s natural roots spring from nostalgia—both the deeply personal variety and the kind cemented by pop culture. Ice cream, burgers, spaghetti. Homey things with flavors that spark some essential sense of ease in our jangling brains. The signature tang of sour cream in particular was a near-constant presence for those of us who grew up with Taco Tuesdays, slow-cookers full of chili, tomato soup with a side of grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, perfect omelets… the list goes on.
“One of the best things about sour cream is its versatility,” says Ferraro. “It’s a blank canvas, but definitely not a boring one.”
Because of that, he adds, slotting sour cream into your repertoire isn’t hard. It serves up velveteen texture just as readily as it balances out richness with a subtle tart high note. These days, we already readily accept a kick of glamour from a swirl of French cultured crème fraiche or Italian mascarpone—Ferraro says it’s as simple as choosing to highlight sour cream instead to see what it can do.
“There’s not too many things where you’re like, this doesn’t really work here,” Ferraro says. “Even with something as basic as cheesecake, making these small changes gives it a different profile. It’s not always going to be a perfect swap out, but it can pick up anything. Lime and cilantro. Vanilla and smoked sea salt.”
A cloud of whipped heavy cream is nostalgic, of course. Comforting like a beloved duvet. But sour cream has the power to valorize the complexity in comfort—and that’s infinitely more interesting.
Blueberry Sour Cream Cheesecake Bites
Ferraro brought blueberries to this party to neatly echo the tartness of the sour cream. Swapping out the cream cheese completely won’t quite give you the classical cheesecake texture, he says, but don’t be afraid to play with your ratios and have fun testing the outcome.
Makes: Thirty-six 1½” bites bites
For Cheesecake Bites:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
15oz box graham crackers, finely crumbled
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1¾ cups FAGEⓇ Sour Cream
1 pound cream cheese, softened
3oz fresh goat cheese, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla
For Blueberry Compote:
2 cups fresh blueberries
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1. Preheat oven to 300℉. Line a 9” square pan with parchment paper so parchment extends over 2 sides of pan, then lightly brush pan with some of the melted butter.
2. In a medium bowl, combine crumbled graham crackers, remaining melted butter, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Press ⅔ of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place remaining crumbs on a baking sheet.
3. Bake both the crust and the remaining mixture for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool completely. Reserve additional crumbs.
4. In a large bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sour cream for 10 seconds. Add cream cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 1 cup sugar and mix on low for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl.
5. In a medium bowl whisk to combine eggs, yolks, and vanilla. With mixer on medium, slowly add egg mixture, stopping and scraping down bowl occasionally until incorporated. Pour into the cooled crust.
6. Place cheesecake inside a larger pan such as a roasting pan. Set pan on a pulled-out oven rack, then add hot but not boiling water to come halfway up sides of pan. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.
7. Turn oven off and open door for 1 minute. Close door and leave cheesecake inside for 15 minutes more.
8. Take cheesecake out of water bath and refrigerate for 6 hours before serving.
9. For the compote, in a medium saucepan combine blueberries, sugar, and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until berries break down, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl stir to combine lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir mixture into blueberries and simmer briefly, just until thickened. Transfer to a bowl, let cool, and refrigerate, covered, until cold (or up to 3 days).
10. When ready to serve, submerge bottom of pan into hot water for about 15 seconds, then use parchment handles to lift cheesecake out onto a cutting board.
11. To slice, dip a knife into hot water and wipe dry each time you cut the cake. Served bites topped with blueberry compote and reserved crumbs.
Want even more sour cream comfort from Michael? Watch him make an incredible French Onion Soup Dip in this video, then make it with this recipe:
French Onion Soup Dip
Makes: 8-10 servings
For the Dip:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups FAGEⓇ Sour Cream
1 cup shredded gruyère cheese (4oz)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped chives
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kettle-cooked potato chips (for serving)
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, and thyme, stirring occasionally, until onion is deep golden brown and very soft, 35–40 minutes. If needed, turn down heat to prevent onions from burning.
2. Add stock, increase heat to bring stock to a simmer, and reduce until only 1 tablespoon stock is left. Stir in butter and chill.
3. Once cool, in a medium bowl mix caramelized onions, sour cream, cheese, shallot, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and chives. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Let sit 30 minutes to let flavors meld. Serve with potato chips for dipping.