Judi and Nicole tackle the book club and, as they do a series of posts on their blog, they’ll also talk food and books here on Eat Boutique. I love a good book club, especially one that involves wine. What’s your book club reading? – Maggie
The book club. If you’ve never been in one and your only acquaintance is through movies and television shows, then you might be inclined to believe that a book club consists of a group of women, and maybe some sensitive men, sitting around in a circle of chairs in the middle of a book store or a living room. They look like a motley crew of former English majors. There are a lot of sweaters and at least one of the men is wearing a jacket with elbow patches. They passionately argue over Joyce’s experimental intentions in Finnegan’s Wake as mugs of hot tea cool beside them. When I was younger, I was certain this was my future. Oh, the follies of youth. And Hollywood studio executives.
The first thing I learned, as an adult woman, was that finding a good book club is hard. Chemistry is key. If you’re going to find a way to maneuver around people’s schedules and obligations, and assign homework on top of it, and then go through the trouble of cleaning your house before everyone comes over, you need to start by liking the people in the room.
Once that group is assembled, there needs to be order and structure to the process. Who picks the book? What kinds of books will you read? What’s off limits? You can’t give people too much time to read the book and you can’t rush it either. How long do people need; a month? Two months? Whose house will it be next? How rowdy can you get? Will the kids be in bed?
And during the meeting, how long do you actually talk about the book before it’s safe to dump it completely, pour the rest of the wine and talk about the rest of your lives and everything in it? And who is bringing what? Because food is key. Food and wine is essential to your meeting’s success. You cannot wildly gesticulate about your boss or that boss character from the book without a double chocolate chunk cookie in one hand and half a bottle of red in the other. Or you can, I suppose, but it’s not nearly as fun. Book clubs can be really, really fun.
They’re so fun that we decided, this year, to dedicate a whole new feature on our blog to book clubs. Specifically, we would review books (that are fiction and about food) and share recipes designed to please your next book club gathering. Our first book club post is coming next week and we’re very excited about it. You know what else is a fun idea? A cookbook club.
Imagine this: a group of your best, most fun friends who love to cook and to eat, gathered around one delicious new cookbook, discussing the stories within and the asides. And, the best part, each person has cooked a recipe from the book and brought it to the party for all to try and enjoy. A cookbook brought to life.
We loved the idea so much that we wanted to bring it here, to our Eat Boutique family. And we couldn’t think of a better place to start than Deb Perelman’s bestseller The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We’ve been fans of Smitten Kitchen for a long, long time. Her recipes, so thoroughly tested and thoughtfully rendered, are, quite simply, a gift to the well-intentioned home cook. And reading about that process (awe-inspiring, slightly frightening) and what constitutes the driving force behind her food (accessibility, ease and assurance) in her cookbook felt like a treasured peek behind Oz’s curtain.
We are so deliriously happy for her, this person we have not met but feel like we know so well. And we are not surprised to hear of this book’s success, not in the least. There are so many ideal Cook/Book Club recipes in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook but for these cold, blustery nights, we had to go for the galette. It’s both elegant and rustic. Simple enough to put together but substantial enough to make you feel accomplished and proud. It’s incredibly delicious and a small slice would look perfect on a square napkin, beside that glass of wine or a cooling mug of tea, whichever you’d prefer.
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Makes: 1 hearty 12-inch galette
Ingredients:For the Pastry
- 2 and 1/2 cups (315 grams) of all-purpose flour (including 1/2 cup of whole-wheat flour, if you like), plus more for work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon of table salt
- 16 tablespoons (225 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt (ie a strained yogurt)
- 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup (80 ml) of ice water
- 2 small or 1 large butternut squash (about 2 and 1/2 pounds or 1 and 1/8 kilo)
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of table salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 large sweet onions, such as Spanish or Vidalia, halved, thinly sliced in half-moons
- 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)
- 2 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (6 and 1/2 ounces or 185 grams)
- 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh sage
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water, for glaze (optional, but makes for a croissant-looking finish
Directions:Making the Pastry
- In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add both sticks of butter and, using a pastry blender, break up the bits of butter until the texture is like cornmeal, with the biggest bits the size of pebbles.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vinegar, and water, and pour this over the butter-flour mixture. Stir with a spoon or a rubber spatula until a dough forms, kneading it once or twice on the counter if needed to bring it together.
- Pat the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill it in the refrigerator for 1 hour or up to 2 days.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash, then halve and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2-to-3/4 inch chunks.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into one large or two smaller baking sheets, spreaking it to an even slick. Lay the squash chunks on the baking sheet in one layer, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and freshly ground black pepper, and roast for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender, turning the pieces occasionally so that they brown evenly.
- Set aside to cool slightly. Leave the oven on.
- While the squash is roasting melt the butter and the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet, and cook the onions over medium-low heat with the sugar and the remaining teaspoon of salt, stirring occasionally, until soft and tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in the cayenne pepper, if you are using it.
- Mix the squash, onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a 16-to-17 inch round. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Spread the squash and cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a 2-to-2 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash and cheese, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.
- Brush the outside of crust with the egg-yolk wash, if using.
- Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the galette from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide it onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
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