Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is just around the corner.  For many people that means attending and/or hosting holiday meals and cocktail parties.  When I host a cocktail party one of the things that I try to do is make as much ahead as I can, so that I can enjoy the party and not spend too much time in the kitchen, or behind the bar.  For the bar that means making punches and large batches of pre-mixed cocktails, and for the food that means coming up with dishes that can be made ahead but still have a wow factor to them.  This Crab Cheesecake fits the bill nicely.  I can, and should be made a day ahead, that way the flavors have a chance to meld and mature.

Whether for a brunch buffet, appetizer buffet, or light lunch (along with a salad) savory cheesecakes are great, especially since they are best prepared the day ahead and allowed to chill over night. . This cheesecake can be made as 1 large cheesecake or 2 small ones. Even if I was throwing a larger party I would probably still do the 2 smaller pans. Going that route will help keep the buffet looking nice. With a full sized cheesecake it starts looking sloppy after half of it is gone. The smaller cheesecakes make things look a lot more tidy. But if you really want to make a larger cheesecake I would probably prepare 1 1/2 – 2 times the amount of filling. The crust ingredients will probably be enough for 1 large pan.

Crab Cheesecake
makes 2 7″ cheesecakes

2/3 cups Ritz Crackers, crushed
2 Tb. Butter, melted

8 oz. Cream Cheese,softened
1/4 cup Sour Cream
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
3-4 splashes Hot Sauce (Tabasco, Crystal or other)
10 oz. Crabmeat, picked clean

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl combine the crackers and butter. Mix well and press into 2 7″ springform pans. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and lower the temperature to 325°F.

Meanwhile combine the cream cheese and sour cream and mix until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Pour into the springform pans and smooth the top as best you can.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, prop the door open slightly and allow to sit in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

Run a knife around the edge of the pans to loosen then remove the ring from the base. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill completely.

To serve for a buffet you can “frost” the cheesecake with sour cream for a more elegant look and then garnish with herbs or just go with an herb garnish. Place on a plate surrounded by crackers and serve. For a plated meal, cut into wedges and serve individual slices plated with a small salad.
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