Saturday, October 06, 2018

Fall Flavors in a Crust

Recently I came across a recipe online that looked really perfect for fall. It was for a crostata filled with Italian sausage, fresh oregano, ricotta, honey and delicata squash. Although the recipe called for making your own buckwheat pie crust, I went with super easy but still tasty ReadyCrust by Pillsbury. I used almond milk ricotta by Kite Hill instead of regular dairy ricotta, but otherwise pretty much followed the recipe. Delicata squash is a great winter squash with a mild flavor and you don't need to peel it, which eases prep time, plus it bakes up tender and moister than acorn squash, which is also a short-time keeper squash.

Well, other than the fact that I only filled half of the crostata with the sausage/squash mixture. The other half had a filling I made up, inspired by the fresh figs that I received from a friend. The second filling included bacon, red onions cooked in the bacon fat, chicken, the fresh figs, chopped walnuts and reduced balsamic vinegar. Those ingredients went on the ricotta filling from the other recipe. After baking, the sausage half was drizzled with honey and the chicken half with the balsamic vinegar syrup. Do find ripe fresh figs for this filling...they make all the difference and are such a wonderful fall fruit.

I have to say that I liked the chicken version better, mostly because the flavors were intense and more layered, but the sausage side was delicious, too. Sweetie and I each had a small wedge of each kind plus a huge green salad for dinner and saved the rest for the weekend.

You could choose one filling or the other and make a whole free form pie with it, or do as I did and make half and half. If you have a crowd to feed, make a whole pie of one filling and a whole pie with the other. If you make this could you let me know what you think? If you create your own filling, could you tell me about it in the comments? Part of the fun of doing posts is getting the feedback. Even if you don't comment, I hope you make one or both fillings and enjoy these rich and delightful flavors of fall.

Two Fillings Fall Crostata
Inspired by a recipe by Dana Frand and Andrea Slowecker of Food and Wine

1/2 package pie crusts like Pillsbury ReadyCrust (or make your own favorite pie crust recipe)
Sausage Filling -Note: The following makes enough sausage filling for a whole pie. If using for half a pie cut ingredients in half or save second half for another use.
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz. mild Italian sausage bulk (or remove from casings)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 delicata squash, halved, seeded and sliced very thinly (you may only need half the squash)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
honey to drizzle

Chicken Filling - Note:Chicken filling is enough for half a pie. If using for a whole pie, double the amounts.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup chopped, cooked chicken
1-2 fresh figs, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped

For both
2 cups ricotta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
Flaky sea salt like Maldon

Roll out one of the pie crusts on a lightly flour work surface to 15 inches in diameter. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover with plastic wrap and chill while you make the fillings.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sausage Filling- In a large frying pan heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage in the olive oil, stirring in the fennel right away so that it gets browned, too, about 15 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces.Remove from heat and add the squash slices, black pepper and salt. Stir to combine, then set aside.

Chicken Filling - In a small, wide pan or skillet heat the balsamic over very low heat, stirring every two to three minutes if needed, until reduced and syrupy. Set aside.
In a large skillet brown the bacon, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate. Cook the red onions in the bacon fat until browned, then use slotted spoon to remove them to the same plate as the bacon. Reserve bacon fat for another use or discard.

Ricotta Filling - In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, oregano, honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Remove chilled dough from fridge and spread with the ricotta filling, leaving a 2-3-inch border.
Scatter squash filling over half and on the other half evenly place or spread the bacon, onion, chicken and figs, then scatter walnuts even over that half. Drizzle lightly with the balsamic syrup.

Fold the border without filling up and over the filling, pleating as necessary so that it encloses the filling. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with the sea salt.

Bake in the preheated oven until browned and crisp. Check at 30 minutes but it may take up to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle the squash half with honey and the chicken half with the balsamic syrup. Scatter fresh oregano leaves over all and serve at once.

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