In this, the second instalment of the Reporter’s new feature, What’s Cookin’, Unit Chef René Picarella and his talented baker Paul De Resendes, share with you their legendary Cheesecake recipe just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Yield: Serves 12
Prep time: 30 mins
• Cook time: 1 hr 15 mins
700 g (25 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup cooking cream 35%
½ cup sour cream
115 g (4 ounces) margarine, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon corn starch
¼ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
15 graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons margarine, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9-inch spring form pan, using margarine or butter.
In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted margarine. Press the crust mixture onto the bottom of spring form pan.
In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, the sour cream, the cooking cream and the margarine with the sugar until smooth. Gently incorporate the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the corn starch and the sifted flour, blend until smooth. Pour the filling over the prepared crust.
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes. Then, turn the oven off and place a bowl of water on another shelf in the oven. Leaving the oven door slightly opened, let the cake cool for at least 2 hours; this will prevent the cake from cracking. Chill in refrigerator overnight and serve the following day. Garnish with fresh berries or your favorite fruit coulis.
Meet Unit Chef René Picarella
Chef Unit René Picarella was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany. As a child, he spent his summers in Sicily, enjoying ripe tomatoes, homemade olive oil, and fresh figs from his uncle’s farm. However, it wasn’t until graduating from the Bertha Von Suttner Cooking School in Frankfurt and working in the 5-star Hotel de la paix in Geneva, Switzerland, that Picarella realized his true calling was the culinary world.
Picarella went on to work in noted hotel chains such as Intercontinental and Sheraton. Prior to McGill, Picarella’s career with Lufthansa LSG Sky Chefs included serving the former United States president, Bill Clinton; Germany’s prime minister, Angela Merkel; the world launch of the Porsche Cayenne; and countless red carpet movie premieres.
When asked to describe his favorite dish, Picarella is more than precise: “Lightly-breaded milk fed veal scaloppini, but two of them, and they have to be big! Browned in butter, with a Porcini and Chanterelle mushroom sauce, poured à la minute, with gratin dauphinois and garlic sautéed rapini, with a drizzle of my uncle’s olive oil.” Picarella’s culinary philosophy is tainted of his Italian upbringing: “Fresh, local and à la minute: you know you never go wrong.”