Sunday, September 21, 2008

i made a butternut squash & caramelized onion tart

if you know me in person you've already guessed this, but lately i've been obsessed with making tarts. i have actually made fruit tarts several more times than i have written about. because who wants to read about four fruit tarts? (except me.)

but this pastry dough recipe is just too great to put down. it takes literally seconds of active time to put together (of course, i speak from the cushy position of having a food processor - thanks, melissa!), and when you roll it out it doesn't stick or break or thin out into a hole. like i said before, it's spaz-proof. and when i succeed at something new or scary, i can't get enough of the succeeding.

so on i go with the tart-making. my next attempt, i decided, would be at savory tarts. i'd been thinking about some kind of onion tart, based on the pissaladiere of provence. then i found a recipe talking about caramelized onions and butternut squash, oooh -- uh, and also cheese and eggs and cream and butter and bread crumbs. that didn't sound like the bright burst of flavor i wanted out of my late-summer tart. i set it aside to fiddle-with and lighten-up, but in the meantime, late-summer turned to officially-fall. so i figured i'd let in a few of those heavy ingredients after all.

basically it was a compromise: a cross between their recipe and the thing i'd pictured in my head. to their recipe's credit, making a pureed, more liquidy filling and adding eggs would allow it to fluff up a bit; and to my preconception's detriment, using simple chopped-up squash would probably just shrink my filling down into scrawny, albeit intense-tasting, chunks.

and i just pulled this thing out of the oven and am waiting for it to cool. i'll let you know.

one recipe of pastry dough, prepared and chilled and ready to roll out
small butternut squash (about a pound)
2 medium onions, sliced into semi-circles about 1 cm thin
3 Tablespoons light olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1 egg
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 c. coarsely grated parmesan cheese
grated zest of half a lemon (scrub it well!)
3 large leaves of fresh sage, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stems
another pinch of salt
2 more Tablespoons butter
1/3 c. bread crumbs

preheat oven to 375F. on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough large enough to cover a 10'' pie pan. spray a pie pan with cooking spray and gently lay the circle of dough into the pan. use your fingers to make sure it is tucked into the corner all the way around, then trim the edge with scissors to leave a 1/4'' overhang. cover with foil, fill with a layer of uncooked rice (yes -- to weigh down the dough and prevent a bumpy bottom), and bake for 20 minutes. then remove the rice and the foil (the foil makes a handy funnel to put the rice back into its bag) and bake for another 10 minutes. remove to cool.

meanwhile, line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. cut the squash crosswise into three chunks of approximately-equal size and place them cut-side down on the foil. (yes, i know one of your pieces will have two cut sides--i'm sorry. just pick one, okay?) roast for 30-40 min or however long it takes for it to be fork-pokable. some of the pieces will be very soft and some will be at the firmer end of the definitely-edible range. that's good. remove to cool. then scoop out the pocket of seeds and strings with a spoon and peel the skin off with a peeler, and cut the flesh into small cubes (about 1cm) and move it to a mixing bowl.

while the squash is roasting, we'll get the onions ready. in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan (NOT non-stick), heat the olive oil over medium flame and then add in the sliced onions and the teaspoon of salt. using tongs, quickly toss them to coat in oil, then reduce the heat to very low and let cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning and sticking, until the onions are soft and golden-brown. this will take 20-30 minutes. when they're about ready, add in one tablespoon of butter and stir til it's melted. then remove from heat.

with a fork, mix/mash the squash cubes with the egg; you'll get a squashy mush flecked with sturdier cubes. mix in
the sage, thyme and lemon zest, then the parmesan and goat cheeses. taste and salt and taste again. dump this filling into the tart shell and smooth out to an even thickness. in the microwave, melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter in a bowl, then dump in the bread crumbs and toss with a fork. sprinkle the buttered crumbs evenly over the filling. bake the tart for 40 minutes. cool and eat.

whew! that was longer to write than it was to cook. i promise.

and now it's cooled and i just had a piece and, well, it was delicious! jake had some too and seems even more impressed than i am. next time i'll add more salt to the filling (and also remember to find the pepper grinder) and cut back on the mass of buttered bread crumbs. i do also still want to try an eggless version that's less pureed and more just squash-and-onions, but that's definitely not to say i'm disappointed with this one; i'm really quite pleased with myself. yum yum, homemade lunch tomorrow.

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