I forgot how much I love this cheesecake. I’ve made it on and off – obviously mostly off recently – for the better part of my baking life. The first time I made it was for a boss’s birthday many moons ago and then for quite a while it was my go-to party dessert. Somewhere along the way, much like mood rings and shoulder pads in ladies suits, it fell out of favor or I got bored with it … In either case, my loss. But no more!
Casseroles have a bad rap. And rightly so if the spokesmodel for the category is that tan viscous, flaccid-noodled, hot tuna dish with potato chip topping. Oh, the inhumanity. I know people love the stuff. I, however, am of the other camp. Just entering Lent, I have had my share of flashbacks to Fridays when chances were at least a few of them would feature tuna casserole in Mom’s go-to red Pyrex bowl with gold embellishments. Lipstick that pig all you want, the stuff was horrid. No offense to Bunny, generally an awesome cook (discounting the liver and onions fiasco of my youth and her wayward foray into lima beans; bletch). The upside was that I would always consider eating the casserole as my Lenten penance for the day, freeing up whatever chocolate was around for guilt-free consumption.
A sheet-tray meal popular in our family long before they became an Instagram sensation (or there was even color television), this combination of crisp-skinned chicken, juicy sausages, and potatoes that have sopped up the delicious flavors of the meats, garlic and pepperoncini are a perennial family favorite and perfect for feeding a crowd.
Growing up in a large extended family, I learned two very important family meal rules pretty quickly. First, never giggle while saying grace. The hand of Bunny, backward with onxy ring a’flashing would be down on the back of your head in a New York second. Second, and probably even more importantly, never ever sit across from Cizzie at the table.