Pumpkin Satchels

Chaussons au Potiron

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Servings:

    6

    —about 36 satchels

Appears in

Simple French Food

By Richard Olney

Published 1974

  • About

Called, in Niçois dialect, Barba Jouan (“Uncle John”), these little pastry purses, served hot from the oven as an hors d’oeuvre and washed down with a well-chilled white wine redolent of the fruit of tender youth—Muscadet, Pouilly-fumé, Sancerre, for instance—are a joy and a perfect example of that which the meridional French like to describe affectionately as their cuisine spirituelle. They may also be served, apart, as an accompaniment to a bouillon or other relatively light soup to the advantage of both.

Sharp, powerful sheep’s milk cheese—a local and noncommercialized peasant production—goes into the making of an authentic Uncle John. Roquefort provides an honorable substitute.

The pastry should be rolled out as thinly as possible and, to this end, a pasta machine is a great help; the dough should be kneaded, in this case, no more than absolutely necessary to render it manageable before being rolled out (I use the next to last notch on a machine whose rollers may be set at eight different thicknesses). Treated in this way, the pastry becomes more shell-like—much firmer and less tender—when cooked. To best make the comparison between this and tender olive oil pastry, it may be useful to prepare Barba Jouan with half of the following recipe and to transform the remainder into a tourte, following, except for the filling, the directions given for zucchini pie (the resultant pumpkin pie may surprise many a compatriot).

Once having had some 2 cups of this leftover filling and a couple of lambs’ brains (poached in court bouillon, sliced, breaded, and cooked in butter) remaining from the previous day, I distributed the brains, in a buttered gratin dish, beat 2 eggs, salt, pepper, and cup of cream into the filling, poured it over the brains, sprinkled the top with Parmesan, and baked it in a hot oven for 25 minutes—until swelled and browned. So taken were friends and I with the result that I have often prepared it since. It may also be transformed, with or without brains, into an open tourte using either a half-baked butter pastry as for the sorrel tart or a half-baked olive oil pastry single shell. In subsequent preparations when the brains were used, they have only been cooked in court bouillon and sliced.

Ingredients

  • A 2½- to 3-pound slice of pumpkin or other red-fleshed squash ( cups baked and drained pulp), seeds and stringy material removed
  • Salt
  • 1 medium (2-ounce) onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces Roquefort
  • ¼ cup garlic purée
  • 1 slight teaspoon fresh marjoram, chopped powder-fine (or, lacking that, a healthy pinch of finely crumbled oregano)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan
  • Pepper
  • cup long-grain rice, parboiled for 10 minutes, rinsed, thoroughly drained
  • Provençal pastry
  • Olive oil (to oil baking sheet and pastry surfaces)

Method

Wrap the squash in aluminum foil and bake, skin side down, in a 375° to 400° oven for about 2 hours or until the flesh is purée tender. Leave to cool. Line a colander with a towel, empty out the squash shell with a spoon, placing the spoonsful in the towel and salting each layer, fold the towel edges over the surface, place a small plate upside down on top and, on it, a weight of some 10 pounds. Leave to drain for at least 3 or 4 hours.

Cook the onion in the oil in a tiny, heavy saucepan, over very low heat, for about ½ hour, stirring occasionally, without letting it color.

Mash the Roquefort to a paste in a mixing bowl, mash a bit of the squash with it, then stir in the lot, adding the onion, the garlic purée, the marjoram, and the egg, and beating well with the fork. Stir in the Parmesan, grind in pepper to taste, and, finally, add the rice. Taste before adding more salt (the pumpkin has already been salted as well as the garlic purée, Roquefort is often oversalted, and Parmesan sufficiently so . . .).

Using a cookie cutter, an empty tin can, a large highball glass, etc., cut rounds approximately 4 inches in diameter from the rolled-out pastry, stacking them as they are cut and filling them and sealing them immediately afterward to prevent their drying out and becoming unmanageable: Hold a round in the flat of your hand, place a heaping teaspoonful of filling in the center (the amount should not be forced or the pastry walls will split during the baking), dip fingers of the other hand in a bowl of water, smearing it around the edges of the pastry round and fold gently closed, pinching the edges well together. As each is prepared, place it on an oil-filmed baking sheet and lightly crinkle the sealed edges, forming a ruffled crest. Place them an inch apart, one from the other, to permit even baking, brush the surface of each (or smear with your fingers) with olive oil, and bake for from 25 to 30 minutes in a hot oven (about 425°) or until the body of the pastry is lightly golden and the lacy edges of the crests are prettily browned, but not blackened.