I love fall. I mean, I know how decidedly unoriginal that is to say, but I can’t help it. I just want to inhale it, take a picture of every flame-thrown tree, mull over all of its cider and crunch through all of its dried leaves. I have been fortunate enough to marry someone who feels exactly the same way, but the only problem is figuring out how to make fall longer than it is and that solution, my friends, is to drive north to catch the early show.
We headed upstate last year for the weekend and stayed at the most sigh-worthy B&B–where every window is ringed with tiles of stained glass and a man named Richard makes you amaretto-brushed French toast on Sundays–and made a point to get back there this year. Of course, its hard to predetermine when fall will peak; last year, we felt that we were a week too late, this year, we went a week earlier and felt that we were two weeks early. I hear an 80-degree October will do that.
Nonetheless, I have a whole new appreciation for early fall. I used to eschew its predominantly green cast and lack of ta-da shrubbery, but now I really get its charm: how else will a few superstars stand out?
I think I spent a good half of the weekend coming up with new recipes, to the point that I’d start with a “what do you think of a blahblahingredientblah?” and Alex would say “write that down, too!” until the list was long and I simply couldn’t wait to get home, which actually brings us to 3:30 a.m. Wednesday when my flight from the business trip I squeeeezed in touched down.
Ever since I posted about the wild mushroom and stilton galette last year, I have been angling to come up with a new filling for it. I wish I could tell you how many hours I have pondered alternative fillings, but then you would know what a hapless nerd I am and I try to pipe down about that. But I can stop contemplating it because this is it– caramelized onion, sage and butternut squash with “stinky cheese” (according to my original note). This free-form tart is just the embodiment of fall to me: weightier than a tomato tart, lighter than a thousand mushroom quiche and absolutely glorious with a good, rich stout.
Now, I wasn’t trying to recreate the filling because I disliked the old one–oh, heck no–it was because I am obsessed with the galette dough. It’s just one of those doughs that comes together so perfectly every single time–stretchy and smooth, dense and cold but never brittle–it begs to be used again and again. I want to stud it with coarse sugar and fill it with sweetened apples and whole cranberries. I want to fold it into half a dozen empanadas. But mostly, I just want you to make one of these and one of the wild mushroom stilton variety and bring them to your next dinner party, reveling in all of the delicious things that have brought you back indoors again.
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
1 small butternut squash (about one pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter (if you have only non-stick, the smaller amount will do)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
3/4 cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1. Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Prepare squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Caramelize onions: While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.
4. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.
5. Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.
6. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.