Monday, February 14, 2011

Butternut Galette with Roasted Onions, Pecans, and Blue Cheese

Here's my tip of the day: a game that Ben and his friend Ava invented (although it doubtless exists already) in which somebody chooses a word (candy, say), and then everyone has to convert it into a kind of acronym-sentence (Clementines and nectarines dangle yellowly.) We had so much fun playing it over dinner last night, and the kids are really good-natured about indulging my misspelled words, so long as I do the accent to go with my chosen spelling. For instance, for Ben's "jelly," they let me get away with the Slavic: "Jellyfish, eels, lionfish live yundervater."  We sat over empty plates and flickering, dying candles long into the night, so involved were we in our loony sentences. I can't recommend it enough. "It's amazing," Ben said, "how much fun you can have with just words!" Tell me about it.

Butternut Galette with Roasted Onions, Pecans, and Blue Cheese
Serves 4 for dinner, or 8 as an appetizer, or 16 if it's a potluck and you cut it very skinny
Active time: 25 minutes; total time 1 hour +

This is a free-form tart the point of which is to use a super-easy and tasty pastry to convert a random accumulation of cheese and vegetables into dinner. There are endless variations, many of which I have tried: pickled beets, blue cheese, and walnuts (yet another use for pickled beets!); apple slices, roasted onions, and smoked cheddar; thinly sliced potatoes (cook these first in a covered pan with olive oil, salt, and a splash of water until just tender), roasted onions, and cheddar. Oh, and the summer ones! Fresh tomatoes (cut in half, squeeze out some of the juicy guts, then slice), basil, pine nuts, and parmesan; corn, roasted chiles, and Monterey Jack. I am planning this week to make one with deeply sautéed cabbage, onions, and a nutty cheese, such as Parano or Gouda--but I thought this might be a little over-the-top Plebian to photograph. "You vill eat kraut pie, yes?"

1 small butternut squash (around 1-2 pounds--how's that for exact?)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
Kosher salt
A few sprigs fresh thyme or a pinch dried
1 smallish red or yellow onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups flour (I use half white and half spelt or whole-wheat)
1 stick salted butter, sliced into small pieces
1/4 cup sour cream whisked with 1/4 cup very cold water
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (or 1 heaping cup grated cheese such as cheddar or, yum, smoked cheddar)
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Heat the oven to 450 and line two baking sheets with foil. Trim the top and bottom from the squash and peel it, using a very sharp vegetable peeler or a paring knife. Slice it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and stringy insides, and then slice it crosswise 1/3-inch thick. On one of the prepared baking sheets, toss the squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the thyme, then spread it into a single layer. On the other prepared baking sheet, toss the onion with the remaining oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and spread it into a single layer. Roast the vegetables until the squash is very tender and browning, and the onion is soft and brown--around 15 minutes for the onion, and 25-30 for the squash (I always cook the onion too long at this stage and then it burns later, so I'm trying to stop doing that). Toss the onion with the balsamic vinegar, and urn the oven down to 400.

While the vegetables cook prepare the dough: in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the flour with 3/4 teaspoon salt, then add the butter slices and pulse until the mixture just forms coarse crumbs. Pour the sour cream-water mixture through the feed tube and pulse again until the dough just starts to come together into large clumps. Turn the dough onto a work surface and gather it gently together, then press it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill it in the freezer while the vegetables finish cooking.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, roll the floured dough out on a floured surface until it is a thin 12-inch circle (it doesn't need to be perfectly thin or a perfect circle!). Fold the dough loosely into quarters to transfer it to an ungreased baking sheet (simply removed the foil and veggies from one you've already used), then unfold it back into a circle. Arrange the squash over the dough, leaving a 1- or 2-inch border around the edge which you will fold over later. Arrange the cheese and pecans over the squash and then, finally, top with the onions and any of their vinegary juices that have accumulated in the pan. Fold the border over the filling, pleating as necessary to keep its shape; the center will be open.

Bake at 400 for 30 to 40 minutes until deeply golden. Cool briefly, then cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

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