A few mornings ago I woke up and walked into my kitchen to an all too familiar and abhorrent smell. I’d forgotten to take the previous night’s trash out, likely because I’d finished off my evening in an energy-deprived cooking stupor, and the stench of chicken carcass was radiating from my trashcan. The smell reminded me a lot of the summers I spent growing up near the Susquehanna River. Have you ever been hear the Susquehanna during the hot months? It’s as though you’re hugged daily by a hobo that’s gone four years without a shower, and whose breath smells like wilted cabbage and bourbon. It’s horrible and the smell lingers. The cats were going crazy over the trash smell, and so was I, but for an entirely different reason altogether
I grumbly pulled my super hefty Hefty trashbag from the can and dragged it outside to give it the old heave-ho when my bare legs were wrapped in an unexpected chill and I stopped. Excitement took over my initial annoyance, because when I looked outward toward the lake my apartment sits on, I noticed that the temperature wasn’t the only oddity; the light was completely different, too. IT’S FALL, Y’ALL!
However in Florida, Fall is more of a tease than an actual season. The mornings are clear, breezy, and at a cool 70 degrees, life is beautiful. Then by 11AM your underwear is sticking to your butt, you’ve developed pit stains the size of papayas and you start seriously considering relocating your shit north of the Mason-Dixon line. It’s as though Mother Nature lifts her conservative petticoat up on one side to give you a peak at the lace-lined garter wrapped around her milky white thigh — teasing you, tantalizing you, daring you to enjoy the view. When you reach out to touch it, foolishly thinking it’s finally yours, she shoves her skirt down angrily and glares at you with slitted eyes and an arched eyebrow, shaming you. It’s Fall in Florida, y’all.
Even so, I was more excited than a nerdy, rhythmic white girl being inducted into an inner-city high school step squad. Fall means gourds. Like, tons of gourds! Fall means pleasantly blustery mornings, Halloween, and gourds, all of which I emphatically support.
Fully planning on enjoying this fleeting preview of Florida post-Summer, I put on my jeans and flip flops (because regardless of what the temperature or date is, you always wear flip flops in Florida) and dashed out the door to pick up something Autumn-y and edible. The best part of the beginning of Fall is not the anticipation of what Fall is to bring, but the lack of those cinnamon brooms that inevitably show up in every tacky art store and grocery store around the continent. Do you know what I’m talking about? They’re these small brooms that the knick-knack loving elderly go ape shit over every year. And they don’t just give off a slight, sweet, welcoming smell of cinnamon. No, the smell permeates everything and sends a closed-fisted, forceful punch of concentrated cinnamon straight up your nostrils and emblazons that stench into your cerebral cortex ensuring you never forget that detestable smell, ever. In fact, you learn to fear it.
Digression aside, I’d planned for weeks to make a filled puff pastry of some sort, but couldn’t decide on something interesting enough to go through with making the puff pastry. Call me something unpleasant, but I don’t think I really care for puff pastry. It has this unctuousness that doesn’t evoke the adjective “buttery” as much as it does the phrase “give me a glass of milk, now.” However, leave it to Fall to inspire some kitchen creativity. I made my way to the most un-cinnamon smelling grocery store to pick up a few acorn squashes to make acorn squash and chorizo turnovers.
The idea to make acorn squash and chorizo turnovers came to me almost out of nowhere, as though an ethereal messenger delivered it straight to my brain saying, “take this thought, and make it your own.” But if we’re being completely honest, I had leftover chorizo that I HAD to use up, and acorn squash is one of my favorites, so I suppose it’s only natural that I’d gravitate towards marrying those two in some form of delicious matrimony.
The flavor of the two is interesting, as you get the creamy, buttery and slightly sweetened consistency of the squash mixed with the fiery umami brought on by the chorizo, and you have yourself one bomb ass turnover. However, my first batch was missing something critical, which at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The consistency was off, as was the flavor, and there was a vacancy in the turnover left unfilled until days later when I determined that it was cheese I was missing. Port is the perfect choice, but on hand all I had was mozzarella which was a tolerable substitute in a pinch. I wanted a cheese that was not too overpowering to demand attention away from the happy couple performing the Jarabe Tapatio on my tongue.
Standing in my kitchen the following night I watched westward as the sun slowly crossed the horizon drawn by a thick, lush layer of oak trees. The first of many early descents to come within the following months. I thoughtfully chewed on my savory turnover, admiring its crispy exterior and satisfyingly smooth innards. When the sun finally set for good at 8:15 PM, I took a final look outside my window at the world immediately surrounding my neighborhood — the world that was changing before me — and smiled as I thought while lowering my blinds, “fuck those cinnamon brooms.”
ACORN SQUASH AND CHORIZO TURNOVERS
Note: I made my own puff pastry for this, but the recipe is far from perfect so I’m not going to lead anyone astray by providing it yet.
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Pre-made puff pastry dough
- 1/2 large chorizo link, or 1 small chorizo link
- 1 small acorn squash
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1/2 cup of port, mozzarella or other mild cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or melted butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of cinnamon
- chopped almonds (optional)
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees
- Cut acorn squash in half, rub cut with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place cut side down onto a baking sheet. Place in oven for 35-40 minutes or until soft.
- Turn both slices cut side up, sprinkle with cinnamon, and place butter in the center of one side and place the other side of squash on top of it, cut sides together. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.
- In a medium saucepan, heat a very small amount of olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Sauté for 5 to 10 minutes until soft and then add the garlic. Continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add chorizo to the pan and cook until cooked completely through. Remove from heat and drain excess grease.
- Scoop out insides of acorn squash and add to the chorizo mixture, mixing thoroughly.
- Roll out dough until 1/8 inch thick and cut into circles or squares. Fill each square with a layer of cheese, a tablespoon of the filling and some chopped almonds (if using) and fold over, pinching the ends closed. Note: the amount of filling will differ depending on the size of dough cut out.
- Brush the tops of the dough with heavy cream or melted butter and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.