This time of year, a few a weeks short of Thanksgiving, it is easy to get lost in the business of the holidays. Parties, visits, and of course prepping for the big holiday can eat up so much time that the festivities begin to feel…well, less festive and more like work. I find that when I start to feel this way, when my shoulders begin to creep up to my ears and my dreams are full of possible cooking disasters nothing remedies that like playing with dough, making a pie, or kneading some bread.
The rhythm of kneading and mixing can be quite meditative for me. Recently I found out that the husband and I would not be hosting Thanksgiving this year at our new house. In fact, I would not be cooking any of my dishes for it and that did not sit well with me. You see I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving dinner (aside from the Turkey) for 14 years and had fallen in love with the whole process of preparing and cooking for Thanksgiving. I had my eye on what wine glasses I wanted to buy and was exited to use my wedding china for the first time. I had all the appetizers, sides, and desserts planned out as well as the plating. But alas it wasn’t meant to be. After a day of moping, venting, and some retail therapy I realized that what would really make me feel better is getting back into my kitchen and cooking something that I loved to eat, something that feels like Thanksgiving in every bite.
Five years ago I was in a squash phase. Every time I went to the market I would come home with a kabocha squash and try out new recipes. I cooked soups, breads, and even pinakbet. But of all the recipes that I tried the one that my family fell in love with was my savory squash tarts. There’s just something so delicious about the combination of acorn squash, cheese, onions, rosemary, thyme, and a buttery, flakey, crust. The crust of the tart is so important. It has to be buttery, crisp, and flakey without being greasy, crunchy, or cracker like. It also has to have some of its own flavor. I do this by adding Parmesan, cracked black pepper, and by replacing some of the butter with rendered bacon fat.
So I headed to my kitchen armed with my newest cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Temping Recipes, which has a recipe for gluten-free tart crust, four new flours to work with, and all my other ingredients. I was set to workout my frustration. And as it turns out it didn’t take much effort. As I was measuring out the flours and marveling over their differing consistency I could already feel the tension slowly releasing its grip over me. When it got time to mix everything together I dug my fingers into the dough feeling it change as the moisture became evenly distributed from tacky to one smooth piece. I couldn’t help but lean in and smell the dough. Immediately the scent of black pepper and Parmesan cheese assaulted my nose followed by the soft sweetness of the rice flour reminding me of all the bilo-bilo I would make with my Lola Fely for her famous ginataan. At this point I was so engrossed in the making of the squash tart that everything else fell away from me. It was amazing to me how easy the dough was to roll out, easier than dough using gluten. It wasn’t as sticky as a gluten dough and there is no need to worry about overworking the dough, because it lacks the gluten that turns it tough.
After I removed the finished tarts from the oven and let them cool, I took my first bite and couldn’t help but sigh. Yes, it was Thanksgiving in a bite and I was happy with that.
This recipe is a submission for a challenge that Shauna James Ahern, of the blog Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, made. She challenged bloggers to create gluten-free Thanksgiving dishes to make the Internet a better resource for those looking to cook for others that cannot consume gluten. Shauna and her husband Danny are also authors of the cookbook Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes. I am very enamored with it, I finished in two days laughing, tearing up, and salivating over the recipes. It’s part love story, part cookbook, all of it is beautifully written, and more importantly it is full of delicious recipes that celebrate food, life, and love.
I just found out that Shauna is hosting a giveaway on her site. All you have to do is comment and you could win one of seven prizes, including her book and a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Check it out here.
Savory Squash Tarts
Makes one 11” tart or 6 individual sized tarts.
Tart Shell recipe adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes
½ cup sweet rice flour (3.4 oz)
½ cup sorghum flour (2.2 oz)
½ cup potato starch (3.4 oz)
½ cup tapioca flour (2 oz)
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp salt
4 tablespoons of frozen butter (1/2 stick)
4 tablespoons of frozen strained bacon grease (I like to strain it through a cheesecloth placed over a fine sieve, I then measure out 2 tablespoons into a single compartment on an ice cube tray and freeze)
¼ cup ice cold water
Squash filling adapted from epicurious.com
1 acorn squash (I like kabocha best but butternut works well) around 1 lb
3 slices thick cut bacon minced
2 small onions – chopped
1 sprig thyme
¼ cup milk
4 ounces of fresh goat cheese crumbled
1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano
1 ounce grated Parmesan + ½ ounce grated parmesan – separated
1 teaspoon minced thyme
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
¼ tsp salt
Sift flours together into a bowl and repeat. Stir in the salt, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Grate frozen butter and bacon grease into the flours and mix until the dough feels sandy.
In a separate bowl mix egg and water together. Pour into the center of the flours slowly and mix working from the outside in. This reminds me of making pasta.
Shape dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Take dough at and let it come to room temperature, about an hour. Or you can try beating it with your rolling pin, if you are impatient, but that hardly ever works for me. Butter and flour tart pan, I used both sorghum and rice flour.
Roll out dough using 2 pieces of parchment paper to size of pan and place inside forming it to the pan. Cut off excess. If any holes or tears appear just patch it up with excess dough. No gluten means no need to worry about overworking dough. Woohoo! Place pan in freezer for an hour.
When dough is ready preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Take a piece of tin foil the size of the pan and butter one side. Place butter side down on the dough forming the foil to the shape of the pan and bake until it feels flakey and is not quite a light brown, around 20 minutes for me.
While tart shell is baking, fry bacon over medium low heat until crisp.
Cut squash in half and remove the seeds. Rub a little olive oil on the flesh of the squash, place face down on a lined baking sheet and bake until done. Around 45 minutes.
Once bacon is done remove from pan but leave the rendered fat. Add the chopped onions and thyme sprig to the bacon fat. Cook until caramelized and a golden brown. Remove and discard the thyme.
When squash is done let it cool until it can be handled. Remove the flesh and combine in a food processor with the eggs and milk until the squash is thoroughly pureed. Pour into a bowl and mix with the cheeses (except for reserved parmesan), herbs, onions, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine but don’t dissolve the goat cheese completely into the filling
Mix the minced bacon with the reserved Parmesan cheese.
Pour filling into the shell and top with the bacon Parmesan mixture.
Bake 11” tart for 40 minutes and individual sized tarts for 25 minutes or until set. Allow the tarts to cool and serve with a dollop of sour cream or cream fraiche.
For more gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes, check out what these fabulous bloggers came up with, all drool worthy so don’t say I didn’t warn you.