Deanna Fox's Dinner Party Favorites
Savory Apple Tart
Makes one large tart or two smaller tarts, enough to serve 18
- Recipe for Perfect Pie Crust (below)
- 3-4 baking apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
- 3 Vidalia onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Fresh black pepper, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons vermouth
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded*
- 1 egg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Begin by making the caramelized onions: In a large cast iron pan, add the onions, butter, baking powder, and salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat to brown the onions, then turn the heat to medium/medium low and continue to cook the onions for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion have reduced and caramelized. Turn off heat and add the black pepper, vermouth and sage. Stir to incorporate. Allow to rest for a few minutes.
While the onions are cooking, grate the cheese and core, peel, and slice theapples. Toss the apples into the finished onions and set aside.
Roll out the dough into a large rectangle 1/8-inch thick.** Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet/jelly roll pan. Spread the apple and onion mixture on the crust, leaving an inch border, and sprinkle with the shredded Gruyere. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling to create a "rim," and crimp decoratively if desired.
Combine the egg with one tablespoon of milk or water, then brush lightly over the edges of the exposed dough. Bake the tart for approximately 45 minutes or until pastry is golden and the cheese is melty. Allow to rest for a few minutes, the cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
* used blue cheese for a tangier kick, if desired. Just place crumbled on the tart instead of shredded Gruyere. A nice aged cheddar is a classic pairing, as well! use the same amount of cheese as listed in the recipe.
** For easier hand-to-mouth eating, make two smaller tarts in the form of two rectangles or two circles. Be fancy and call it a "galette" which is a free-form pie, if you'd like.
Perfect Pie Crust
Makes enough for a 9-inch double crust pie
Can be made a day in advance
- 2 ¼ cup pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
- 6-8 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, combine dry ingredients with butter and shortening. Pulse to incorporate butter and shortening until the dough resembles sand and peas. Slowly add water, one tablespoon at a time (do not add ice!), and pulse until the dough just comes together (this might take less than five tablespoons, or more than seven… many factors come into play here. Be sure to add water until just combined). Divide dough into two balls, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry cutter until the dough resembles sand and peas. Slowly add water (do not add ice!), one tablespoon at a time, and blend together until the dough just forms a ball (this might take less than five tablespoons, or more than seven… many factors come into play here. Be sure to add water until just combined). Divide dough into two balls, wrap each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Butternut Squash Manicotti
For pasta and filling
- 1 box manicotti shells, cooked until al dente in salted boiling water
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups of cubes)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese at room temperature
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
For bechamel sauce and topping
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 large sage leaves
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese
- Breadcrumbs, toasted walnuts, or roasted pepitas, optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the manicotti shells until just slightly tender, drain, and set aside.
On a baking sheet or pan, toss the squash cubes with the olive oil and about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Roast until the squash is fork-tender (about 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Puree the squash with the other filling ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Spoon or pipe the filling into each manicotti shell and nestle the filled shells into a baking dish. Set aside.
To make the bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour and whisk, cooking over medium-low heat, until the mixture (called a roux) starts to turn a golden brown color and begins to smell slightly nutty, about 5-7 minutes. Slowly add the milk a quarter-cup at a time, whisking vigorously over medium-low heat to work out any lumps. Continue to add the milk this way until all milk is used. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sage and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove the sage leaves and discard, then add half of the Parmesan cheese and whisk to combine. Pour the sauce over the filled pasta shells. Tear or slice pieces of the mozzarella or burrata and place it evenly over the top of the sauce and pasta shells. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan over the top, and if using, add a light layer of breadcrumbs, chopped walnuts, or pepitas over the top.
Bake the pasta at 400 degrees until golden and bubbling on top. (About 30 minutes.) Tent with foil if the top begins to brown before the pasta and filling is thoroughly heated. This dish can be made a day ahead and stored, covered with foil, in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Keep covered with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then remove the foil and allow to bake until golden and bubbling. Serve.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whipped cream, if desired
Combine 1/2 cup of the milk with the sugars, cocoa, cornstarch and kosher salt in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine (a few lumps are ok).
Heat the remaining milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When small bubbles appear on the side of the pan, pour the cocoa mixture into the saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook, whisking, until the pudding thickens, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla.
Pour into 4 heat-proof dessert cups. Serve hot, warm, or chilled with a dollop of whipped cream on each.