Making Dinner Work: Harissa Spiced Pork Shoulder

Get up. Pee. Brush teeth. Drink water, take supplements.

Go downstairs. Start coffee. Let dogs out. Let cat in. Sip coffee. Let dogs in. Feed dogs. Sit down to the computer.

Sip coffee. Check email. Sip coffee. Check work email. Sip coffee. Visit The Facebook. Make more coffee. Get down to writing/recipe research/yoga class design/etc.

It takes a lot to get us out of our routines. From dogs to children to adults, we are all of us creatures of habit. When I was a horse owner, even the horses knew what to do and when; it got so that I didn’t have to put halters on to move them from pasture to pasture, and they stood in the same spot every day for dinner.

The dog knows when it is 5 p.m. just as if he had a watch strapped to his wrist. And could tell time. And had any understanding of the concept of “time.”

But I digress.

Routines provide a sense of structure that can be comforting and predictable. “Predictable” is often used as an epithet, but predictability is what our lives are based on. This keeps the trains running and makes sure that the grocery store has enough toilet paper on any given day (or your own personal bathroom at home, which is why most people in the U.S. go shopping every week).

Sometimes, though, routines call to be busted up. Routine-busting can be because you are compelled to do something differently because whatever is going on forces you to make a change.

And you know it’s bad if an introvert comes off the couch. #HearMeRoar

If something is gone awry, it might be because whatever routine we have fallen into no longer works, or our routine is suddenly disrupted. We might call it something else, but it’s that transition period between the old and the new – not the the old or the new itself – that causes us such turmoil. Once that period of transition is over, we fall into a new routine until the next thing happens.

This transition is both full of promise and scary as hell, simultaneously. Parents know that the first night with a new baby is joyful and nerve-wracking. Travelers know that coming into a new country for the first time is anxiety-producing and thrilling, often in equal measure.

On a daily, more microcosmic level, this idea of routine versus no routine (or a shook-up routine) is the difference between cooking and making dinner.

Making dinner is that thing that happens between 5 and 7 p.m. every night where you have the gaping maws of your family staring at you, opening and closing like baby birds who have forgotten that they possess opposable thumbs and can get their own damn snack before dinner.

Making dinner is why there is food in boxes that you add milk and butter to in order to get something resembling macaroni and cheese. It’s why there are rotisserie chicken soldiers, hot and ready, when you walk into the store at 5 pm, desperate because it’s Monday and you know everybody at home is hangry and you just need to shove something in their face so there is no arguing.

Cooking is something altogether different.

Cooking is wandering through the farmer’s market and seeing what looks good.

Cooking shops for each meal separately, not all at once, once a week.

Cooking has a sip of wine and is often alone with music playing and maybe a snoring dog (because it’s not necessarily 5 pm yet so the dog isn’t drooling and staring at you).

This recipe is in between making dinner and cooking. There is some leisure to it, but it doesn’t actually require much hands-on attention. There is only one ingredient in this that might require a leisurely trip to a store, but everything else can be thrown into the cart with all of the other groceries.

Leftovers are just as good as the day before and so make excellent brown-bag lunches that will make all of your co-workers drool. I imagine you could also make a ridiculous sandwich with this on some crusty bread with arugula.

Harissa And Orange Spiced Pork Shoulder

Just the delicious beginning.

Full disclosure: as much as I would like to say it’s mine, this idea is taken from another recipe and adapted with amounts added. The other recipe is a video and doesn’t really specify anything but cooking times, so I made some adjustments to that and also the ingredients based on what was available.

Ingredients

4-5 pounds pork shoulder

1/2 cup Mina harissa sauce (or 2 tablespoons harissa paste)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon agave, maple syrup, or honey

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 cups orange juice

6-8 sprigs fresh thyme

1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Optional: lime wedges and fresh flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine harissa, tomato paste, vinegar, agave, and garlic in a small bowl. Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper, then rub the harissa mixture all over the pork shoulder (hands work best here). At this point, you could let the pork shoulder sit for a few hours (or overnight), or you can proceed.

Place pork shoulder fat-side-up in a Dutch oven or similar oven-safe, heavy cooking pan with a lid. Pour orange juice around the pork shoulder and throw in the thyme.

Cover pork shoulder and let it roast, covered, for 2 1/2 hours (or so).

Increase heat to 400 degrees and add cannellini beans to the pot. Cover and return to the oven for another 45 minutes to an hour.

When ready to serve, remove pork shoulder and slice. Return pork shoulder to the pot, or arrange on a platter and serve with sauce poured over.

If desired, squeeze fresh lime over the pork shoulder and garnish with fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley.

 

Connection Of The Day: Fried Macaroni And Cheese. And Crows.

Balls.

This past holiday was a strange one, on many different levels.

As noted in previous posts, I continue to see people struggling with mixed emotions and difficult feelings this year. I spent the holiday away from my child, which was the first time ever and proved to be more challenging than I thought it would be.

Fortunately, there was Khristian and his family.

I have hesitated, cursor blinking, at the period of that last sentence for ten minutes, unsure how to write the next one.

Khristian and I have some very eerie connections that have unfolded over this past year, but this holiday brought one that was deeper than others.

We have each lived in the same place, although at different times.

We both have moms with male nicknames – Khristian’s mom is Hank, and my mom is Mike (only my dad and my parents’ close friend Ben called her that).

But perhaps the strangest connection of all is between our fathers, both deceased, and both of cancer.

When I was little, my dad was minorly obsessed with crows. I remember very clearly chirping black crow babies in the kitchen of the house I grew up in, rescued by my dad (and I think nursed back to health, but this could just be the blurring of childhood memories).

One of my fondest memories from childhood involved my dad and a moonlit field full of crows. It’s a very long story, but suffice it to say that he and I walked home from a basketball game on a winter night when I was in sixth grade, five or so miles; the end of our journey took us across a harvested field of corn, severed stalks frozen and brittle beneath our feet. The sky was clear and cold and the moon was high, almost like daylight, and as we walked a murder of crows took flight, just a small one, strays, really, their voices echoing across the utterly silent field.

Magic.

Thirty years later, I walked into Khristian’s mom’s house over Christmas and ran smack into a painting of crows that I had seen first in 2012 at my friend Mandy’s house in Marietta, Georgia.

Mandy’s painting struck me from the moment I saw it, so much so that I took a picture of the crow, thinking I would get a tattoo.

Irony in acrylic.

Turns out, Khristian’s dad painted that painting and all of the ones that I saw this past Christmas (under the name “Abigail Christmas,” of all things).

With his left hand (as a right-handed person).

And was utterly obsessed by crows.

I believe Khristian’s dad and I would have gotten along swimmingly, and I am sorry that I didn’t get to meet him before he died (well before me, but still).

But the connection is undeniable and surreal (the word of the year, also on many different levels); in many ways, and tragically in the end, it seems as if Khristian and I have travelled across our own frozen, moonlit fields towards each other.

Although our connection seems to have been written before we met, the same cannot necessarily be said of our respective children. It’s difficult to be a step-parent (of a type) when you never thought you’d be one.

Nevermind that our kids are both great and have (for the most part) been very welcoming and warm. They never expected to be step-children either, and Khristian and I are both very aware (overly aware?) of the impact on them.

As my child is overseas, way very so far away, I spent 20 hours of my holiday driving to and from Georgia with Khristian and his child, D. Roadtrips are a true litmus test of any relationship, and this holds for those new relationships forged with children, too.

Sparing you the details, I will say it was largely successful with the exception of one shitty nap where someone (me) woke up grumpy, and a dearth of true roadtrip snacks. As this was Khristian’s family and thus his roadtrip, I left the organizing to him. This means that our roadtrip snacks consisted of a couple bananas, an apple, and a snack bag of leftover macaroni and cheese. This last was problematic because utensils were not to be found in the rental car; out of desperation, boredom, and hunger, D ended up squeezing the mac and cheese out of a tiny hole in the plastic bag.

Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to have mac and cheese on the road?

Fried Macaroni And Cheese

Note: The velvety base of this macaroni and cheese is one of the French mother sauces: béchamel. Béchamel is a mild white sauce often used as a base for other flavors; here I have added cheese, making a rich, creamy, and deliciously, deeply flavored sauce. Pop in your macaroni, and you are done!

These are portable as hell and totally awful for you. Perfect for a roadtrip.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour (or regular)

2 cups whole milk, warmed

1 cup grated cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups gluten-free macaroni, cooked (or regular macaroni)

1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley, and a pinch of cayenne

Oil for cooking

Method

Prepare macaroni noodles according to package directions; rinse with cold water and set aside.

Make the béchamel: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter until it is bubbly but not brown. Add your flour and cook until it begins to smell slightly nutty and to faintly color (not too dark – it’s a white sauce). Using a whisk, add warmed milk and whisk until there are no lumps.

Continue to cook, stirring, until the sauce begins to boil. Turn heat down slightly and cook for two minutes more.

Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until completely melted, then taste before adding salt and pepper (cheese varies in saltiness, so don’t salt until the very end).

Add cheese sauce to cooked pasta and stir.

Place in ‘fridge until completely cooled.

Season breadcrumbs and place them in a shallow dish (a pie pan works here).

Remove macaroni from the ‘fridge. Using an ice cream scoop (or your bare hands, you beast!), form mac-n-cheese into 12 balls. Roll each ball in breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs firmly into the pasta. Place in the ‘fridge while your oil heats.

Pour about two inches of oil in a large pot. Bring oil to 350 degrees. Carefully drop macaroni balls into the hot oil and cook for about two minutes until the outside is brown and crispy.

Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve warm. Prepare not to do much for about an hour after you eat them.

Recipe notes

  • I used Colby-jack cheese for its creamy texture, but cheddar, fontina, and gouda are all good options.
  • The gluten-free pasta I prefer is Tinkyada brown rice pasta. No soy, no corn; it acts very much like gluten-y pasta. I cooked it slightly less than the package directions to account for the bit of cooking that occurs when it is fried.
  • Don’t buy expensive gluten-free breadcrumbs: make your own. For 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, I toasted four slices of gluten-free bread in the oven and then let dry completely before placing them in a sealed Ziploc and bashing them with a rolling pin and seasoning them. #Boom
  • If I am being honest, which I always try to be, this is a completely decadent, totally unrealistic regular meal. This recipe is why Americans have high rates of cardiovascular disease. But the mac and cheese itself is delicious; when not travelling, I favor a big plate of this and some peas.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude, Day 2: Latkes, Roast Chicken, And Unphotogenic Curry

NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?

Latkes, roast chicken, and unphotogenic curry: what do these things have in common?

These are the three favorite dishes of the Gorgeous Girl, the Muffin, My Darling Child. The Kid.

My Gorgeous Girl, with her kitty, in the tiny house she built.
My Gorgeous Girl, with her kitty, in the tiny house she built.

I hesitated to put her on this list. The level of gratitude I have for my child is indescribable, and many people aren’t interested in reading a thousand-word Ode To Someone Else’s Child.

Still. She needs to be on here because she has made me a better person than I might ever have been without her, and for that I am truly grateful.

This is gratitude and love from a person who never wanted kids. Like, ever. Who treated the realization of her conception like a death sentence.

That’s dramatic, but close.

Sicily knows that she was, to be politically correct, “unplanned.” She is aware that her father and I may or may not have conceived her on a couch or in the front seat of a Sebring convertible somewhere in southeastern Virginia on a hormone-fueled two-week road trip up the east coast back in 1999, just six short months after our first meeting.

She knows this because I have told her. In my defense and in response to some who might object to this candid and open conversation, Sicily asked. She is curious and wants to know but also knows when she shouldn’t necessarily know yet. When she was eight or nine, she saw a magazine that said “STD” on the cover when we were in line at the supermarket.

“What’s an STD?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, feeling everyone in line lean toward me as I started to answer. “You know how when you get a cold and your nose is stuffy but sometimes also snotty and just generally feels terrible?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Very simply, it’s something like that, but on your vagina or your penis.”

Long pause.

“Yeah, I think I am too young to know that,” she said.

This is not even the beginning of why I adore her so much.

When Sicily was three, the cat threw up on the couch. AGAIN. Cursing under my breath, I ran to get paper towels to clean it up and came back to find Sicily gently petting the kitty and saying, “Mommy, the kitty feels really bad.”

This was my first indication of the kindness and compassion of this child, and it stopped me in my distracted irritation towards the cat.

She loves her friends, loves her family, and loves her mother, even when her mother is unlovable.

She knows how to apologize when she is wrong. She asks questions when she doesn’t know. She is most like her father in that she accepts people at face value. She is stubborn as hell, a blessing and a curse.

Sicily is studying in France for a year, not only because she wanted to but also because she was utterly terrified to do so. She is 16, and she left her home and all of her friends because even at this young age she recognized that you can be afraid and still do the thing anyway.

I have used this quote before when it comes to my child, and I will use it again, as it always applies:

“Having a child is consenting to have your heart walk around outside of your body.” ~Maya Angelou~

I never knew how deep love could go until I met Sicily at 11:20 pm on May 4, 2000.

When I asked her what her favorite foods were (foods that I make – Frito Lay’s Honey BBQ Twists were not an eligible answer), her answer reflected very different periods of her life.

1). Latkes: “Because it reminds me of Nana and Pop-pop when I was little.”

2). Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and crunchy broccoli and carrots: This is something I made frequently when we lived on five acres in Georgia. Her reason? “Because it is simple and nice.”

3). “That beef curry over rice that you used to make all the time at the house in Medfield (our temporary rental in Baltimore while our current house was rehabbed) because it makes me feel warm.”

That beef curry is pretty much the most comforting food you can put in your mouth. It fills the house with  a delicious smell, and the spices knock off even the deepest chill. If you are sick or feeling sad, that beef curry is filling and comforting and makes your nose (and maybe eyes) run just a little. If you are well, it reinforces that fact that all is good in the world.

It is not a true curry in the sense that you can throw it together in the time it takes for the rice to cook, but I never claimed to be a curry expert. I made it because I wanted to try something new, and it was a roaring success.

That Sicily picked these three humble, warming dishes is reflective of the person that she is. On this second day of 30 Days of Thanks, I offer my humble gratitude to her for becoming the person she is and to the universe for allowing me to have the experience of being her parent.

What (or who) are you grateful for today?

 

 

Gratitude, Day 1: Mushroom Galette For My Particular Friend

NOTE: I am a fan of 30-day challenges, and November is traditionally a time of two: National Novel Writing Month, and 30 Days of Thanks. As I am not a fiction writer, this year I have chosen to publish a daily blog for the entire month, expressing my gratitude. This may not be entirely food-focused, but expect recipes aplenty. Feel free to join me in the comments below. What are you thankful for today?

Last week I drove to Pennsylvania to visit my nearly-98-year-old grandmother. It was the day after a particularly difficult therapy session (yes, we can talk about this: it’s mental health, y’all), and the drive out of the city was a welcome escape.

There is something about sunny, crisp days when the trees are outlined in black against the clearest blue sky and golden-hued leaves fall like rain from the trees that fills me up with a complicated mix of emotions.

On this particular day, I had a very clear sense of myself and what it is I am trying to do.

Let go.

Give in.

Lean in.

(a phrase I hate but which is utterly appropriate here)

On a day like this, I feel like every step I take is a step towards the person I have always wanted to become in this lifetime and away from the person that I was becoming, the child who experienced trauma but had never looked it square in the eyes as an adult. It is difficult to imagine doing work like this on a clear, sunny day, and yet this is one of the few times when I feel at peace with myself.

I cannot always talk explicitly about the things I am dealing with; it’s not a fit for this blog, and it will be hurtful to some who are still on the earth. But it is important work for me, and as I drove the two hours to see Grandma, I kept returning to one person with whom I have been able to talk explicity, slowly unwinding the knotted threads of decades-old hurts and haunts.

In this endeavor, I have been supported this past (nearly) year by someone who has previously only been known as my “particular friend.”

I am 45. “Boyfriend” sounds dumb at my age.

“Partner” could be many different things.

“Lovin’ spoonful” is silly and applies but is often dismissed.

“Lover” just doesn’t work in mixed company.

In light of this, I will start my 30 Days of Thanks by introducing Khristian Weeks, my particular friend.

#Happiness
#Happiness

I introduce him here, this first day, because he has been in the 11 months I have known him a source of tremendous joy, love, and support.

Khristian is an artist. He loves children and has decided to love my dogs, even though he isn’t, himself, actually a dog person (and they love him sloppily back).

He brings me coffee in bed.

I cook for him, and he loves it.

We go for long walks.

We kiss in public, quite a lot (sorry, everyone in the freezer section of MOM’s in Hampden).

He talks to me about creative things and wants to collaborate with me, a first for me in all of my time as a writer (and with a host of other past artistic boyfriends who maybe never saw me as an artist).

Khristian has made me happy and given me hope for everything that is to come in this life.

So for all of this, I am making him a mushroom galette.

Khristian is a newly-minted pescatarian, and he loves all things vegetable.

Except mushrooms.

So why in hell would I decide to make a mushroom galette for this person who means so much to me? Isn’t that sort of shitty?

Well, here’s the thing.

I like a challenge. Khristian hates mushrooms; I want to make him something with mushrooms that he loves.

When my friend Laura posted that she had foraged some maitake mushrooms (also known as hen of the woods) from Druid Hill Park, I swapped her buttermilk mashed potatoes, two types of slaw, and a roasted chicken thigh for a huge bag of maitakes and a smaller bag of chicken of the woods mushrooms (which I am planning on frying like chicken and slathering in barbecue sauce. #Trust).

#GoodTrade

The recipe below uses my  gluten-free galette crust from my butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. The filling is a combination of red chard harvested from The Friends School (where Khristian works), mushrooms from Druid Hill Park just two miles away, and ricotta cheese. This is the kind of hyper-local food that is bound to taste good.

Hopefully dedicating a recipe to someone isn’t like getting their named tattooed on your body (as in, that it pretty much instantly dooms the relationship).

Khristian, my love, on my first day of gratitude in November, this is for you.

galette

Maitake Mushroom and Swiss Chard Galette

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (regular flour works, too)

pinch of salt

1 stick of very cold butter, cut into bits (or frozen and grated)

1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or regular yogurt)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup ice water (seriously. Ice water. Don’t skimp. Cold tap doesn’t work.)

1 cup ricotta cheese, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper

1 cup (ish) maitake mushrooms, torn, or crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 large bunch of red chard, cut into bite-sized pieces (I do not remove the ribs, but you can if you like)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup fresh mixed herbs (I used all parsley because that’s what was in the Friends’ School garden, but any combination of cilantro, chives, or dill would be lovely)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Method

Make pastry first, as it needs to chill. You can even make it the day before.

Method one: Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice. Add butter to flour and salt in food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add sour cream mixture and pulse to combine. Slowly add ice water until dough comes together.

Method two: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice. Using a pastry cutter or fingers, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add sour cream mixture and mix well. Add ice water and mix until dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press together into a ball. Wrap tightly and chill for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large pan to prevent overcrowding, heat oil and add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. If mushrooms are crowded in the pan, they will steam rather than crisp. If you only have a small pan, saute in batches. Crispy mushrooms take about five minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add garlic to the same pan and saute without burning, then add red chard. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until the chard begins to wilt. I like to keep mine slightly crispy, but it’s up to you. Four minutes and your chard will be completely wilted. I cook for about a minute less than that.

I use a piece of parchment paper to roll out my crust, as this makes for super easy transfer to a baking sheet.

Place chilled dough on parchment. Place plastic wrap on top of the dough (this keeps pastry from sticking to the rolling pin without adding extra flour, which can dry pastry out) and roll out into a circle roughly 12″ in diameter and no more than a 1/4″ thick.

Spread 3/4 cup of ricotta over the pastry, leaving about 1 1/2″ around the edge without filling. Top ricotta with chard, then pile mushrooms on top of that. Spoon remaining ricotta over vegetables. Season once more with salt and pepper.

Fold the edges of the pastry over and pinch to seal any gaps. I use a bench scraper to pick up the dough so that I am not warming it up by touching it more than I have to.

Brush edges of pastry with beaten egg.

Keeping galette on the parchment, transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes (check at 20) until the edges are golden brown.

Remove from oven and let stand for at least five minutes before serving. To serve, mix fresh herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and one tablespoon of olive oil together. Top galette with herb mixture and cut like a pizza.

Serves six.

Fall Food: Butternut Squash And Caramelized Onion Galette

That shit is so seasonal.

I am familiar with the phenomenon of not knowing what you have until it’s gone.

See also: sudden accidental death of husband.

But I am also familiar with another phenomenon that is a result of that first, very common phenomenon.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I know EXACTLY what I have, exactly when I have it.

Take, for example, my yoga community.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you may have gleaned that I am also a yoga teacher. I just earned my 500-hour yoga teacher training certificate, and after some delay at the end of the actual course in August, my cohort and teachers at Baltimore Yoga Village got together to discuss ethics, eat some food, and sit around a fire, looking up at the moon, this past Sunday night.

I have been on this journey to become a yoga teacher for two years; I got my first level of certification in 2015 and decided to dive deeper and keep going. Some of the people around the fire last night did the same.

I have shared my grief, openly, with these near strangers in the first year.

I have watched them change their lives – new job, lost loves, old job, sickness, new love.

I know what I have in these people. I appreciate and value them for their support, their beautiful spirits, and their vastly different paths. I realized from the very first weekend, two years ago, exactly what I have in this community, and I am very grateful to have it.

Spirituality is a tricky thing, though, and I won’t attempt to delve into it here. The language of it is mostly useless, and often it turns into so much chatter with no real meaning.

But suffice it to say, over the past two years, this group of people has helped turn in and tune in. To my vibration, if you want to use the vernacular (which I don’t, but #OM). And for that, I am deeply grateful. To a person, they are exceptional humans. and I am grateful to have spent such intense time with them.

But you can’t really talk about spirituality without a sense of humor. At least I can’t. If you get too serious then it gets a little douche-y and fundamentalist, which I cannot abide.

Thankfully, humor is abundant in this group also.

I met Elaine in 2015 when we started our second level of training. Like me, she is a writer and a teacher. She is a great lover of pie, the eating and the making, which one might think would translate for her into other forms of cooking.

Not so.

Around November of 2015, Elaine shared with me that she had in the trunk of her car a butternut squash that had been rolling around in there for several weeks.

She mentioned this squash again and posted the following picture on Facebook, FOUR MONTHS LATER.

Apparently, the squash is Jamaican.
Apparently, the squash is Jamaican.

She confessed that she had no idea what to do with a butternut squash. I urged her to bring it to teacher training the following month, and in April, she finally did. Minus the floppy hat.

We laughed, I told her I would make something, then I brought it to my house, stuck it in my kitchen, and mostly forgot about it. I said I would make something when teacher training ended, but then I missed the last weekend potluck. I thought the opportunity had passed.

Plus, at this point, the squash was over  a year old. It was covered with a thin white-ish film, like dust but not dust. Its smiling face was fading along with the color of the peel.

But then the hunter’s moon rose, a get-together was planned, and I had to figure out a dish to bring.

So this happened.

Murdilated.
Murdilated.

I am not a big pastry maker. Gluten-free crust should be easy, but it’s not. Straight-up pie crust doesn’t generally require regular flour, as gluten is more of a hindrance, but for some reason, up until about a month ago my crust was always pitiful. Dry without being flaky. Flavorless.

So I approached this galette in the way I approach every uncertain baking situation: I made a recipe for the first time to take to a gathering, which is dumb, but I also made a back-up yellow squash casserole, just in case (I also just sort of made that recipe up, too, having never made a squash casserole. Also dumb).

Turns out, all you need is a little Greek yogurt (or sour cream) to make a crust that will make you weep (okay, maybe not weeping). This galette was delicious and easy and fed many people I love.

Sadly, not Elaine, who was unable to make it. But Elaine, this recipe is for you, with so much love and so many blessings upon you.

Butternut Squash And Caramelized Onion Galette

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (regular flour works, too)

pinch of salt

1 stick of very cold butter, cut into bits (or frozen and grated)

1/4 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream, or regular yogurt)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup ice water (seriously. Ice water. Don’t skimp. Cold tap doesn’t work.)

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon of salt

pinch of sugar (OPTIONAL)

1 medium onion, sliced in half moons

cayenne to taste

2 cups butternut squash in 1/2″ dice (about one medium squash, peeled, seeded, and diced)

2 teaspoons dried sage

1 cup shredded provolone cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Make pastry first, as it needs to chill. You can even make it the day before.

Method one: Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice. Add butter to flour and salt in food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add sour cream mixture and pulse to combine. Slowly add ice water until dough comes together.

Method two: Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and lemon juice. Using a pastry cutter or fingers, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles cornmeal. Add sour cream mixture and mix well. Add ice water and mix until dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press together into a ball. Wrap tightly and chill for an hour.

Melt butter in a hot pan and add onions, salt, and sugar (if using). Turn heat down and slowly cook onions until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Once caramelized, sprinkle with cayenne and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil (for easier clean-up. #Trust).

Toss butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a  single layer on the baking sheet. Roast squash in oven until soft, stirring once. This will take about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine squash, onions, cheese, and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside while you roll out the crust.

I use a piece of parchment paper to roll out my crust, as this makes for super easy transfer to a baking sheet.

Place chilled dough on parchment. Place plastic wrap on top of the dough (this keeps pastry from sticking to the rolling pin without adding extra flour, which can dry pastry out) and roll out into a circle roughly 12″ in diameter and no more than a 1/4″ thick.

Pile butternut squash mixture in the center, leaving about 1 1/2″ around the edge without filling. Fold the edges of the pastry over and pinch to seal any gaps. I use a bench scraper to pick up the dough so that I am not warming it up by touching it more than I have to.

Keeping galette on the parchment, transfer to a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes (check at 20) until the edges are golden brown.

Remove from oven and let stand for at least five minutes before serving.

Recipe notes

  • This pastry works for sweet fillings as well. Apple galette is in our future. Sprinkle the crust with turbinado sugar before baking.
  • If your edges rip (as mine did), just make a patch with some of the other pastry.
  • If you happen to be in the grocery store and happen to buy those pre-cut butternut squash cubes and decide to use those instead of peeling and dicing a whole squash, consider that a win. Butternut squash can be a bitch.
  • An alternate method of roasting a squash is to cut it in half and remove the seeds. Brush flesh with oil and place flesh-side-down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in oven at 350 until skin is easily pierced with a fork. Scoop flesh out of the skin and proceed with onions and cheese.