Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Root Pastries

Phew! The party is over, the Christmas decorations are coming down, and now I promise to get back to posting delicious, seasonal recipes for two. First, I must share with you the tastiest appetizer I have ever made. It's completely seasonal which makes me very happy! It came from Epicurious, which has never let me down (except for Indian Spiced Mustard Green Pizza... no beuno!). It's from a Bon Appetit Oscar Night Menu - circa 1995. They named the recipe "The Envelope Please", but I won't be calling them that at all. Winter Root Pastry is what I have dubbed them.

This is one of those recipes that is easy to make, but takes a long time. The plan was to roast the vegetables three days before the party, assemble the pastries the day before the party, and bake them as guests arrive. Well, I had a hectic week and the only thing I did before the party was roast the vegetables. Thank God! Because I spent about 2 and half hours assembling and baking these bad boys. I did double the recipe, which meant I had twice as many "envelopes" to make. I started before guests arrived and finished about halfway through the party. It took me longer because I had to stop to make the punch, greet some friends (aka James!), and then I talked to people the whole time while making them. I didn't mind it, but next time I will definitely make ahead of time. Perhaps even freeze them! We'll see.

Notes: I used molasses instead of maple syrup because it's cheaper. I wasn't sure if the vegetables were supposed to be roasted or not, but at 350F it was taking a long time for them to cook. I bumped it up to 400 halfway through to speed up the process. I did not have a pastry brush, and just spooned it onto the phyllo and spread it around.

Do you make recipes in advance? Or just stuff it all into one big cooking marathon?

Winter Root Pastries
(Makes 12)
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled turnips (about 1 pound)
4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled butternut squash
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried

2 large onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
12 sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss turnips with 2 tablespoons oil on large baking sheet to coat well. Bake 10 minutes. Add squash, sweet potatoes, garlic and thyme to turnips and toss to coat with oil. Season mixture with salt and pepper. Bake until vegetables are tender, turning occasionally with large spatula, about 25 minutes. Transfer vegetables to medium bowl.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions. Cover pan and cook until onions are golden brown, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add onions to vegetables. Mix in parsley, maple syrup and ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool completely.

3. Stir 1/2 cup oil and butter in small bowl to blend. Lightly brush 2 heavy large baking sheets with oil mixture. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface with 1 short end at bottom (keep remaining phyllo covered with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel). Lightly brush phyllo sheet with oil mixture; place generous 1/3 cup filling 1 inch from bottom in middle of sheet. Fold right long side over filling, then fold left long side over, forming rectangle about 4 inches wide by 18 inches long. Brush lightly with oil mixture. Using spatula as aid, lift section with filling and fold over snugly so that filling section lies atop next 4 inches of pastry strip. Brush lightly with oil mixture. Continue to fold filling section over until end of phyllo strip is reached, forming 4- to 5-inch square envelope. Brush lightly with oil mixture. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets and filling, forming 12 envelopes. Arrange 6 envelopes on each prepared baking sheet. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and chill.)

4. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake envelopes uncovered until golden crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer to platter.

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