I am always fascinated by family dynamics and traditions that are passed down from one generation to another – particularly in the kitchen. It is probably one of the first things that I ask people as I get to know them. I ask for many details too.
“What are the smells that you remember from your childhood? And who was in charge of the menu planning?”
I am fascinated by it all.
Mostly because in my own life food memories are such a driving force and source of inspiration. My tie to my family far away and my grandparents who passed.
As you might imagine, I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, but it has now become one of my favorite holidays. The chance to gather with family and friends to be thankful for all the positive we have in our lives. Such a strong moment and with so much significance if we really stop and think about it.
Something we should actually do everyday, shouldn’t we?
Every now and then, I stop to think about what traditions C. and I are creating for our family now – a mixed bag of American classics with my Basque sensibility. “What will our family gatherings be in 20 years?” I ask him. It is fun to think like that sometimes – all of which is shaped by how we interact in this moment.
“I think we should go visit your family this year. I need some snow” I said to C a few weeks ago.
Shortly after, he booked tickets for us to travel to Montana. Did I say how much I love Montana? I do. Very much.
I am excited for Jon and Miren to play in the snow, for vast open spaces, to visit a farm or two, and to sit by a fire sharing old family stories. And although I probably won’t be in charge of the menu, I certainly plan to make a dish or two – and if they let me, dessert too.
I thought of the Thanksgiving inspiration board that I put together for Cooking Channel’s countdown to Thanksgiving. Always inspired by the season’s produce – winter squash, apples, pears, chestnuts, leeks, or fennel. All of them will be in our cooking.
“What will you be making this year?” my mom asked. “I don’t know” I said to her, “but I am beginning by testing this squash, Idiazabal, and herb soufflé”.
A bechamel-based soufflé with roasted kabocha squash, Idiazabal cheese, and lots of herbs and a touch of cumin – such a creamy interior. I think it will make a great side dish.
I also tried a dairy free version omitting the cheese and using substituting olive oil and coconut milk for the butter and whole milk. It worked great.
There will also be salad, soup, and a tart – I anticipate an apple tart. After all, C’s uncle Loren will be driving all the way from Wenatchee, Washington. There will be lots of apples.
And I could not be happier indeed.
And so tell me, if you celebrate Thanksgiving, when do you begin planning and where does your inspiration come from?
Kabocha squash, Idiazabal, and herb soufflé
1 small kabocha squash, halved, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch wedges
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins
1/3 cup (20 g) gluten-free breadcrumbs
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
3 tablespoons (45 g) sweet rice flour
3 ounces (90 g) Idiazabal, grated
3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (parsley, sage, thyme, chives)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 400F (200C).
In a baking pan, toss the squash wedges and garlic together with the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Bake for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft and slightly caramelized. Transfer the roasted squash to a food processor and puree. Measure 1 cup (225 g) of puree and set aside.
Brush the ramekins with soft butter. Coat the inside of the ramekins with the breadcrumbs. Set aside.
In a small pot, heat the milk over medium heat until it reaches a light simmer.
In a separate medium pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the sweet rice flour and whisk together for 1 minute. Add the warm milk and whisk until it comes together and thickens. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl. Add the pureed squash, Idiazabal and the herbs and whisk together until the cheese is melted. Add the egg yolks, cumin, black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and whisk quickly.
In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until foamy and soft peaks form. Fold a third of the whipped egg whites into the squash mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold to keep as much of the air in. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins. Fill 3/4 of the way up.
Bake for 12-14 minutes until they have risen and top turns golden brown. Serve immediately.