As I walk around Shanghai, the scent of roasting chestnuts is always wafting through the air. There are small roadside stands where they roast the chestnuts and put a fan on top of them to entice buyers.

I had never eaten a chestnut before I moved to Shanghai, but they prove to be a great winter snack here. I can buy half a jin (250g) of roasted fragrant chestnuts for 4 kuai, or about 65 cents. I’ve been looking around for a way to start cooking with them, and I’d found mostly salad recipes, but this recipe from Smitten Kitchen inspired me to try something a little different.

Pumpkin, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Galette

At the market today, I couldn’t find any butternut squash, but there are tons of beautiful small pumpkins around. I figured, they were similar and a pumpkin surely would lend a nice flavor to a galette. I bought a small green pumpkin, and when I saw the goat cheese on special, I knew I wanted to add it into my dish too. Cheese here is always so expensive, even what Walker likes to call “school bus cheese,” or those processed individually wrapped American cheese singles.

For a while, expats would bring back nice cheeses from their time abroad. That is, until the Chinese government started employing small beagles to hunt out the cheese at the airports and confiscate it. My beagle wouldn’t so much as confiscate someone’s cheese as eat it forthright, but the result would have been the same. Though I never tried my hand at cheese smuggling, cheese prices have made me consider it once or twice.

Ingredients

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into
pieces
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:

1 small green pumpkin (about two pounds)
250g chestnuts, either raw or roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter (if you have only non-stick, the smaller amount will do)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1  teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Preparation

1. Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2. Prepare pumpkin (and chestnuts if using raw): Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel pumpkin, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast for 45 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven is awful like mine. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Caramelize onions: While the pumpkin is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.

4. Peel and quarter your chestnuts. Set aside.

5. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix pumpkins, chestnuts, and half the onions together in a bowl.

6. Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin to transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread cheese across the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. On top, add the pumpkin mixture, and then top with the remaining onions. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

7. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes (I baked for a little over an hour at 150C). Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate.Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 as a side or 4 as a main dish. I served it as a main dish over top a bed of arugula

Galette plated over a bed of arugula

Critic’s Comments

“It was like the best pumpkin chicken pot pie I had ever had, but then I realized it was vegetarian and it was still awesome.”

“The pumpkin was key. But I would have gone for more of a not-so-pungent cheese. Okay, but I probably would have kept the goat cheese too. Actually I’m not really sure how I would have changed it, but I’m excited about round two tomorrow.”

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