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Thursday, November 16, 2017


I suppose most families have their own quirky traditions and customs when preparing the food and gathering together for holiday meals. In my family, not only were the certain givens required for the traditional meal, but signature side dishes were must-haves for certain family members. Everyone had to  have their own go-to signature side dishes. Oh sure, we all shared everything, but a happy day might have gone up in smoke if something was missing from the table. Although I quietly felt that most everything on the table was for me , I knew the pecking order. The younger kids had to have fresh broccoli casserole. My father owned the fresh scalloped oysters. My brother had first dibs on the crispy turkey skin. Two versions of stuffing (cornbread and chestnut) were prepared for two separate aunts. Sweet potato pie had a namesake. As did the baked macaroni and cheese. On and on and on. I wanted to lay claim to the creamed pearl onions or liver-flecked giblet gravy, but the creamy pearls and gravy were granted family "favorite" status and off limits on dibs. Even though I was  an oyster loving-stuffing stalking-turkey skin junkie, my assigned must-have side dish was creamed summer squash. Yep. Creamed. Summer. Squash. I'm not really sure how that came about. I guess, because it was so unusual when it made its debut, I must have made a big fuss about it. And boom, just like that, it became my must-have go-to  can't-live-without signature side dish. Slap my name on it and call it mine forevermore. Don't get me wrong, it was a fine rendition of creamed summer squash. Steamed, smashed, and whipped with softened cream cheese, it stood out against the backdrop of brown food. I adored it. It's just that in the lore of family traditions, I didn't choose it. It chose me. Truth be told, I secretly wanted to stake my claim on the turkey butt. You know, that little gelatinous something something attached to the bottom of the turkey that roasts for hours in the pan juices until it caramelizes into a sticky unctuous flavor bomb? Yeah, that turkey butt. Dibs.

Nowadays, side dishes aren't attached to a beneficiary.  Michael and I each have our own holiday must-haves. We have what we want to have without a pecking order to weigh us down. And, when or if squash hits the holiday table, it's more than likely to be a variation of butternut squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash Tart With Sorghum Glaze and Fried Sage.
A different (and simple) take on a familiar flavor profile.

After slicing the bulbous end of a very fresh 2 pound Casey County butternut squash, I stashed the bulb away for a future soup and  peeled the neck of the squash with a vegetable peeler. Using a mandolin, I sliced the squash into flexible 1/8" slices, stacked them together, and squared them off into uniform 7"x 3/4" ribbons, allowing the size of the squash to dictate the length of the ribbons.

Basket weaving 101.
Lattice work.
I rolled 1 sheet of thawed store bought puff pastry into a 9"x 12" rectangle and placed it on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan before brushing the top with an egg wash.

Starting on the shorter end of the puff pastry, I lined 6 butternut squash ribbons down the length of the pastry, leaving a little wiggle room between slices before carefully weaving the remaining ribbons through the squash and trimming the ends to create a latticed blanket of butternut squash.

I slid the tart into the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes, pulled it from the fridge, and covered the tart with parchment paper. After topping it with an additional sheet pan to weigh it down, I slipped it into a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes before removing the top sheet pan and parchment paper, brushing the steamed squash with olive oil, and sliding it back into the oven to bake for about 30-35 minutes.

Sweet Tart.
For a hint of sweetness, I warmed 1/3 cup Oblerholzter's pure cane sorghum along with  2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar over a medium flame until combined and set it aside.

When the pastry turned golden brown and the squash started to caramelize, I pulled the tart from the oven, brushed it with the sorghum glaze, dusted it with flaked salt, sliced it into wedges, and finished with scattered flash fried sage.

Topped with translucent melted ribbons of squash, the tart was as light as a feather. The inherent sweetness of the squash balanced the subtle acidity and smoky undertones of the sorghum glaze. While the flaky pastry provided airy crispness, the fried sage added delicate pops of earthy crunch.

A different take on holiday squash.
Slap my name on it.

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