Are you hosting Thanksgiving? I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. I may, in fact, not host Thanksgiving ever again. Except for the imaginary Thanksgivings of the future where my grown children come and bring everyone important in their lives to eat & give thanks. I’m not usually one to wish away time, but I dream of that. In these dreams, I look like either Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton and am dressed like Annie Hall. Every Fall, I dream about dressing like Annie Hall. And then I do something stupid like break my ankle and can only wear one shoe for a month. There goes my dream, right out the window.
I have hosted Thanksgiving in the past, and sometimes it went well, and sometimes it really really didn’t go well. Actually the food went well (I’ll give thanks for that), but the rest didn’t exactly. So I said, I’m just not going to do that again. Except my language may or may not have been more colorful. Since we’re the only ones gluten-free, at one point in time, it seemed like it would be easier to host than to cater an entire Thanksgiving meal for just my son and me and haul it in the car for 2 hours. We’re talking a cooler on wheels sort of situation. Well, it wasn’t easier or better. For so very many reasons. So I’m back to the cooler on wheels. Because I won’t have my son not have a proper Thanksgiving meal. No ma’am.
All of that kind of got me wondering what it’s like when you’re the grown-up and it’s you who are gluten-free, and not your child. Would you bring the cooler on wheels just for yourself? Probably not. I bet I wouldn’t. And then I have to wonder why. I have met so many women who are the only gluten-free member of their families, and they don’t bake for themselves. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about that. Why don’t we take better care of ourselves? We should care for ourselves as ferociously as we care for our children. Not because we need to be there for them, but because we need to be there for ourselves. And enjoy food like these amazingly flaky savory mini pies.
So much of the talk out there about gluten-free Thanksgiving is how to take care of others, like your children and your gluten-free guests. I wish I could take care of you. (Yes, there is a bit of irony in that, I know, but I also do take care of myself I really do.)
These mini handheld savory pies are made with what I can say, without reservation, is the Very Best Gluten-Free Pie Crust I have ever had the great good fortune to eat. It’s kind of your basic foundation recipe for gluten-free pie crust, but. But.
But there is finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese mixed right into the pie crust. This Cadillac of cheese blends right into the dough, but makes the dough itself smoother and the crust even flakier and more wonderfully fragrant than a traditional pie crust. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, oh how it browns.
You don’t have to fill these with cauliflower if that’s not your thing (except if you haven’t had roasted cauliflower, I am here to suggest that you really haven’t had cauliflower the way nature intended). Try just the Asiago-rosemary-thyme cheese sauce. Or maybe roasted kale and cheese instead. But this is how you serve a Thanksgiving side. And if you’re worried that it might be too much work for Thanksgiving Day, go ahead and make it now and freeze the unbaked pies. Bake them right from frozen, and if anything they’ll be flakier and more gorgeous. Pie crust loves to be frozen. Whatever you do, take good care of you. And cheers to that.
Thanksgiving Sides: Cauliflower & Cheese Mini Pies, in Parmigiano pie crust
For the Crust
4 1/2 cups (630 g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour
4 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
20 tablespoons (280 g) unsalted butter, roughly chopped and kept cold
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 cup to 1 1/4 cups cold water, iced (ice cubes do not count in volume measurement)
Egg wash (1 egg yolk + 2 tablespoons cream, whisked to combine)
For the Filling
1 large head of fresh cauliflower
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces Asiago cheese, cut into a large dice
6 fl. oz. evaporated milk
1 tablespoon (9 g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
The entire recipe can be halved easily to make 8 mini hand pies.
Once the pies are assembled and before they are baked, they may be wrapped tightly and frozen. When you are ready to bake them, bake them right from frozen. You may need to increase the baking time by a few minutes.
The pie crust can be made and refrigerated up to a week ahead of time.
The entire recipe can be made into 1 large slab pie or 2 9-inch double-crusted pies.
The cauliflower can be replaced with any other roasted vegetable, cut into chunks similar in size to cauliflower florets.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with oil or gluten-free nonstick cooking spray. Set the baking sheet aside.
First, make the crust. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine well. Add the chopped butter, and toss to coat the butter with the dry ingredients. With well-floured hands, flatten each chunk of butter in between your thumb and forefinger, handling the butter as little as possible. Add the grated cheese, and mix to combine. Create a well in the center of the bowl, and add 1 cup of the iced water (without the ice). Mix to combine. The dough should begin to come together. If it is still very crumbly and dry, add more water by the tablespoon, mixing to combine after each addition, until the dough mostly holds together (better too dry than too wet). Divide the pie dough into two halves, and turn each half out onto a separate, large piece of plastic wrap. Press each into a disk, wrap tightly and place in the refrigerator to chill until firm.
Next, make the filling while the dough is chilling. With a sharp knife, slice the florets from the head of cauliflower (leaving the stems behind). Rinse them and dry them very well. Place the florets on the prepared baking sheet, along with the garlic cloves. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat the florets and garlic well. Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the florets and garlic are lightly golden brown around the edges, and soft (about 20 minutes).
Make the cheese sauce while the cauliflower is roasting. In a medium-sized, heavy-bottom saucepan, place the Asiago cheese and evaporated milk. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until all of the cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth (about 6 minutes). Add the flour, stir to combine and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and stir until the butter is melted. Add the herbs, and mix to combine. Allow the cheese sauce to cool slightly. It will thicken as it cools. Once the cauliflower is finished roasting, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on the baking sheet. Lower the oven to 350°F.
Roll out the pie crust while the cheese sauce and cauliflower are cooling. Remove one of the chilled pie crusts from the refrigerator. Place on a lightly floured sheet of unbleached parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with flour and cover with another sheet of unbleached parchment paper. Roll out the dough between the two sheets of parchment paper into a rectangle a bit more than 1/8-inch thick, dusting lightly with flour as the dough gets sticky. Place the rolled-out dough on a large cutting board and place it in the refrigerator to chill. Remove the second pie crust from the refrigerator and roll it out in the same manner, and then place it in the refrigerator to chill. Remove the first piece of rolled-out dough from the refrigerator and, with a floured 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 16 rounds. If necessary, gather and reroll scraps. Place those rounds in the refrigerator, and repeat the process with the second piece of rolled-out dough.
Assemble the pies. Place the first set of 16 rounds of dough on a clean sheet of parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place about 2 tablespoons of roasted cauliflower florets in the center of each round, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edge. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of cheese sauce on top of the cauliflower on top of each round. Brush the bare edges of the rounds with water to moisten them. Remove the second piece of rolled-out dough from the refrigerator and cut out 16 more rounds with the floured 4-inch cutter. Place one clean round of dough on top of each of the original 16 rounds, and, with wet fingers, press and rub the edges of the pies together to fuse the edges. With a sharp knife, score an “X” in the center of each pie. Brush the tops liberally with the egg wash. Place the pies in the center of the preheated oven and bake until golden brown all over, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve warm.