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Here’s a twist on cheesecake

While most of my favorite snack foods are in the carb family instead of the sweets category there is one thing that I absolutely love for dessert and that is cheesecake.

The dense, thick Ricotta deli-style from New York to the soft, pillowy Southern style, either one is fine with me. Plain vanilla, chocolate, white chocolate, pumpkin, whatever the season, whatever the occasion I can find a cheesecake that works for me.

Many years ago, when my husband and I were in Dallas for a medical meeting, we ate at a restaurant where the chef was an upcoming star named Stephen Pyles. Pyles is now renowned for his food and restaurants but at that time he was new on the scene and some of his ideas were considered pretty fancy.

This particular night’s dessert special was a cheesecake chimichanga and of course I had to try it. It was magnificent, soft cool cheesecake inside deep-fried tortilla, sprinkled with powdered sugar and drizzled with dark chocolate — it was like a Mexican cannoli!

Naturally I tried to get the recipe, but that was a no go. Over the years I’ve thought of that dessert numerous times, and finally a few weeks ago I ran across a recipe that was almost identical. A few tweaks later, and I think it’s pretty close to Chef Pyles creation.

 

Cheesecake chimichangas

 

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

6 8-inch soft flour tortillas

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup sliced strawberries or other fruit

 

With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sour cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Lay your tortillas out and divided cheesecake mixture evenly between the tortillas. Make the portions as even as possible in the lower third of each tortilla. Next, fold the two sides of each tortilla toward the center, and then roll the tortilla up like a burrito and secure it with a toothpick. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining tortillas.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set it aside. Line a large plate with paper towels. Place about 3 inches of vegetable oil in a large, deep saucepan and heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 360º F on a deep-fry thermometer.

I definitely use a thermometer for this — frying these on the correct temperature ensures they fry up quickly without burning and without being greasy.

Frying 2 or 3 at a time until golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes, flipping them as needed. Place the chimichangas on the paper towel-lined plate to drain for 1 minute, and then roll them in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Repeat this process with the remaining chimichangas. To serve, remove all toothpicks from the chimichangas and lay them on your serving plates. Top each with a portion of the remaining 1 cup of sliced strawberries, sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve immediately.

 

Christina Hall writes a weekly food column for The Democrat. She can be reached at christina.hall@natchezdemocrat.com.