For the past two years, we have been lucky enough to win a seat at the Thanksgiving table of our fantastic American foodie friends, Amanda and Steve. They are extremely generous - and talented - hosts, and it is a meal that has me drooling with anticipation (and checking my email for an invite) long before November. Is my bid for an invitation this year too transparent?
Steve is a fishmonger, so the pre-dinner cocktails are always accompanied by an amazing array of seafood that is, literally, fresh off the boat. The last, best oysters of the season and prawns as big as lobsters set the tone for the rest of the meal. The pilgrims would have blushed at such abundance.
Last year, the pre-dinner surf spread was accompanied by delectable Pumpkin Tartlettes.
I immediately requested the recipe, which Amanda kindly photocopied for me and hand delivered. After the trouble she'd taken, I didn't have the heart to tell her that the book had not laid flat on the screen, rendering all the ingredient quantities illegible.
For that reason, along with the fact that I swapped marinated goat's cheese for the feta the recipe originally called for, this is a loose interpretation of the recipe from lilla's cafe in Yankalilla, South Australia.
Served hot out of the oven, these little morsels can be popped whole in one's mouth - no struggling with messy bites while you juggle a wine glass and napkin. And oh, my - the taste.
An important note: I do not make my own puff pastry. Not in this lifetime, anyway. I do not have the time, and Careme does a far better job than I ever could. It is perfect. Every. Single. Time. I try and have a box on hand, as well as jar of either Meridith Farms or Udder Delights marinated chevre, at all times.
Pumpkin & Goat's Cheese Tartlettes
1 Tbs butter, melted
1 package Careme puff pastry
1 jar marinated goat's cheese
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 brown onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup double cream
3 tbs thinly sliced chives
Note: the pumpkin and onion can be prepared a day ahead.
Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F. Place the pumpkin and onion in a large bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Add cumin and thyme and toss until the pumpkin and onion are evenly coated. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or so, until golden and tender. Allow to cool. Season with sea salt and mash roughly with the back of a fork or potato masher.
Turn down the oven to 180 C/350 F.
Prepare either tiny tart moulds or mini-muffin tins by brushing them with melted butter. If you are using muffin tins, take care to brush the surface area between the moulds to avoid tricky removal and messy clean-up from overspill. Place prepared moulds/tins on baking sheets.
Roll the pastry out until it is quite thin and cut into appropriately sized circles. Press lightly into moulds and prick with a fork. Pre-bake for 10 minutes - or until lightly golden - pressing the pastry gently back into the moulds if they are puffing up like pillows.
Combine eggs, cream, 2/3 of the goat's cheese (crumbled), and 2 Tbs of the chives. Season with sea salt.
Divide the pumpkin and egg mixture among the tartlettes (there should be enough for several batches). Crumble the remaining goat's cheese and sprinkle on top, reserving some for subsequent batches. Bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with a sprinkling of chives and pass while they are still warm.
And don't forget to nab one for yourself - they'll go fast.