Batter Licker

November 17, 2011

roasted butternut squash, caramelized onion and goat cheese tart

Hi, my name is Kristen, and I’m a butternut squashaholic. When those beautiful, light orange gourds start showing up at the market, I can’t help myself. I pile them into my shopping bag, week after week. And when Trader Joe’s offers up pre-cut squash, I stock up, knowing that makings for a quick, satisfying soup will be waiting in my fridge.

Sometimes, I just roast cubes of squash and pop them into my mouth straight out of the oven. Other times, I turn them into soup, lasagna, pizza, and gnocchi. I’ve even taken to converting my pumpkin curry to a squash curry. As if that weren’t enough, for this coming weekend’s Friendsgiving dinner, I’ll be bringing not one but two squash dishes: a poblano pepper and butternut squash soup, and butternut squash cupcakes with goat cheese frosting.

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But what I really want to share right now is a tart so good that I actually made it twice last week. The tart made its debut at girls’ night last Thursday. Although it emerged a success, I had admittedly rigged the game by serving it to two goat cheese- and caramelized onion-loving friends. Two nights later, a couple law school friends, their husbands and Jay all sang the tart’s praises, so I knew it was for real.

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The nice thing about this tart is that it’s easy and everything can be prepared in advance. The crust comes together in a few minutes and doesn’t require pre-baking in order to avoid sogginess. It just stays crisp on its own. While the rolled-out, smashed-into-a-pan crust chilled for 30 minutes in the fridge, I roasted the butternut squash and caramelized the onions. Then I stored it all in the refrigerator for a couple days.

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Come Thursday night (and then Saturday – I had doubled the onions and squash when I prepped them originally), all I had to do was load the already-prepared filling into the tart pan and shove it in the oven for just over half an hour while I enjoyed a glass of wine with friends.

Side note: if your friends are anywhere near as fun to be around as mine are, I highly recommend setting a timer. I almost botched that, and if I had, well … they say not to cry over spilt milk, but wasted butternut squash and goat cheese? Those might be worthy of tears.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart

1 1/2 lb. butternut squash
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 1/2 yellow onions
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 c. milk (may substitute cream)
1/2 c. goat cheese (about 2 oz.)
1/2 c. Fontina cheese (about 2 oz.)
1/3 c. Parmesan, grated
3/4 tsp. thyme
3/4 tsp. sage

Preheat oven to 400F.

If using a whole squash, rather than the pre-cut cheater method I used this time around: Cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Brush all sides of squash with 1 Tbsp. oil, and sprinkle cut side with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper. Place squash on baking sheet, cut side down, and roast until soft, about 40 minutes. Let squash cool a bit, and scoop out flesh.
If using pre-cut cheater squash like me: Toss cubed squash with 1 Tbsp. oil, 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper, and pour onto baking sheet. Roast until squash is tender, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from oven.

While squash is roasting, halve and thinly slice onion. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, saute onions in remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 20 minutes.

Transfer roasted squash to food processor. Blend until mostly smooth. Add whole egg, egg yolk, and milk, and blend until completely smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in fontina cheese, goat cheese (I prefer to keep it a bit chunky), thyme, sage, remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, and remaining 1/2 tsp. pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Scatter caramelized onions as evenly as possible across the bottom of the tart crust. Pour cheesy squash filling into shell, smoothing the top. Sprinkle grated Parmesan evenly across the top.

Bake tart in middle of oven until filling is set, about 40 minutes. Cool tart in pan on a rack for 10 minutes.

Do ahead: Onions can be caramelized, dough can be parbaked (or rolled and pressed into pan, if using the homemade recipe below) and butternut squash can be roasted and pureed a day before. Store parbaked crust at room temperature. A rolled-out unbaked homemade crust, roasted cauliflower puree, and caramelized onions can be stored in airtight (or plastic-wrapped), refrigerated containers; squash and onions should be kept separate. Entire tart can be baked a day in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and reheated in a low-heat oven before serving.

Savory Tart Shell (from Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Le Pain Quotidien)

I’ve tested this tart crust a few times, and it’s magical. No par-baking required; barely shrinks at all in the oven; and doesn’t become soggy, but stays incredibly crisp.

1 1/4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, diced
1 egg

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork (basically, smash it up a bunch) until butter is in very tiny bits. Add egg, and mix with hands or a fork until dough starts to come together. Toss dough onto a counter, and knead it. The dough will be fairly tough. (Dough can also be made in a food processor.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place rolled out dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Press it down along the bottom and the edges to remove any air bubbles. Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with making the filling of your choice; no par-baking required.

Do ahead: dough can be prepared and pressed into tart pan a day in advance; just cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use.

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