If you’re looking for an unexpected holiday appetizer, consider this Maple-Glazed Goat’s Cheese, Caramelized Squash, Toasted Pepitas. The slightly warmed cheese with its light gloss of maple syrup pairs well with the sweet flavors in the squash. See the recipe here or continue reading.

In November, Jason Sobocinski introduced a group of us to some newer ways to entertain with French goat’s cheese. Jason, the owner of Caseus in New Haven, created a lovely spread at the French Cheese Board in Soho. Creamy fresh goat’s cheese on toasts, slices of washed-rind goats’ cheese drizzled with honey and a craveable take on sour cream and onion dip made with Montrachet cheese.

His refresh on the classic goats’ cheese salad that was a staple at restaurants in the 1980’s particularly struck me.  Jason paired crottin de Chavignol cheese with caramelized delicata squash in an hors d’oeuvre salad meant for sharing. Before warming the small whole cheeses, he lightly glazed them with maple syrup. Then he used a hand-held blow torch, the kind used for making crème brûlée, to give the surface of the cheese a light browning.

I was skeptical about the added maple syrup but loved the result.  Because a good ripe crottin is both rich and tangy, the small amount of maple syrup enhances flavor without masking it.  And the natural sweetness of the squash was a perfect pairing. You just slather a good slice of toasted bread with some of the cheese and a slice of the squash.

Here is my interpretation of the dish Jason served. I loved an excuse to make toasted pepitas, squash seeds. Simmering them in salty water helps soften them while giving them a brittle salty coating after frying. I served these with raisin rosemary crisps from Trader Joes. Toasted thin sliced light rye or wheat bread would work too.

Kitchen Notebook:

The French Cheese Board in Manhattan, tucked a few blocks from the Spring Street station, hosts classes and tastings of French cheese.  It sells a small assortment of classic French cheeses as well as fun gifts. (They are selling this cheese aging cage, which would make someone like moi a memorable holiday gift.)

The French Cheese Board is an initiative of a group of French dairy organizations to educate and promote their products in a new and engaging way. They provided me with Say Chevre. Its French for goat cheese, an informative primer.   You’ll never embarrass yourself if you pay attention to the golden rules of cheese-cutting on page 7.

Maple-Glazed Goat’s Cheese, Caramelized Squash, Toasted Pepitas

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Maple-Glazed Goat’s Cheese, Caramelized Squash, Toasted Pepitas

If you’re looking for an unexpected holiday appetizer, consider this Maple-Glazed Goat’s Cheese, Caramelized Squash, Toasted Pepitas. The slightly warmed cheese with its light gloss of maple syrup pairs well with the sweet flavors in the squash.

Here I used President brand crottin, which I was given by the French trade promotion association that hosted the tasting.

Ingredients

1 delicata squash, about 12 ounces*
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 crottin de Chavignol chèvre, French goat’s cheese, about 2 ounces each
2 teaspoons maple syrup
Mixed greens, arugula, fresh spinach or any combination, as needed
Slices of toasted French bread or crackers, as needed
* You’ll need only about half of the squash for this recipe. Use what’s left for another meal.

Directions

  1. Cut the squash in two pieces then cut each piece vertically in half. Using a grapefruit spoon, scrape out the seeds.
  2. Place the seeds in a small saucepan. Cover them with 2 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil and simmer the seeds for 8 – 10 minutes. Scoop out the seeds and spread them out on a clean paper towel to drain.
  3. Cut the squash pieces into ¼-inch thick slices. (Set aside half of the slices for another meal.)
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan. Cook half of the squash slices in the oil for 3-4 minutes on each side until the squash is cooked through and browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan. Place it over medium low heat. Add the drained squash seeds to the pan taking care to leave any squash threads on the towel. Fry the seeds in the oil, stirring and shaking the pan for 4-5 minutes. The seeds will pop as they cook. Set them aside.
  6. To serve, arrange salad greens on one large or two smaller platters. Scatter the browned squash slices and some of the fried seeds on top of the greens. Brush the cheese with the maple syrup. Using a hand-held browning torch, brown the surface of the cheese and the maple-syrup-coated tops. Place the cheese on top of the greens. Garnish the plate with toasted French bread or crackers.
  7. Place the platter(s) of cheese on the table and have guests serve themselves some of the warm cheese, squash and greens of toasted bread or crackers.