Hard Questions + RECIPE: Cheesy Butternut Squash & Caramelized Shallot Biscuits

I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. Ever since my Carrot and I returned from our little farm retreat a couple weeks ago, my steps have been so much lighter.

It turns out I haven’t really been sharing all that’s been on my mind over these past 7 or 8 months with you: mostly because I wanted to draw some better conclusions before I went babbling out into the interwebs (I know, so unlike me), but I also didn’t share my deeper struggles because I always seemed to have something better to talk about. Around every corner there was some awesome farm event, new vacation, beautiful CSA moment, or exciting article I was writing. Well, it turns out I was burying my feelings in a truly amazing year.

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The things on my mind were big. Things like: can I be happy farming with my life partner or will it pull us apart, do I want to farm on my family’s land forever, can I continue down a professional path where I don’t always feel respected or understood, and is this life going to take too much from me without giving enough back?

Yeah. Not easy questions. And in between all the field work and vacations, between the CSA deliveries and happy hours, between the writing assignments and dog walks, some deep shit was being mulled over in the back of my mind. And I wasn’t allowing enough space into my life to deal with it. My Carrot and I were talking about things, but never reaching any conclusions. I always had some new fabulous adventure to run to and the hard questions just kept getting pushed to the side.

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But then two weekends ago my darling Carrot and I gave ourselves 48 hours to allow some serious space for these things. We went away as a couple with only one mission:  talk about the hard stuff. There were deep questions, no wrong answers, a lot of hiking and even more coffee.

I adorably named our small getaway a Farm Founders’ Retreat to try and ignore the depth of these conversations, but truly I expected these 48 hours to be really difficult. I was ready to face these things head on, but nervous about the conclusions we would draw. In the end, I was surprised by the ease of our conversations. How simple it was to design a life with this man who stands beside me. Turns out by not really making the time to talk to my partner, I was ignoring one of my biggest assets: the person who always balances me.

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We didn’t find all the answers. And it’s a big long life, and the answers we’ve found will surely continue to change. But we have a plan of attack for our future (that involves a building, a tractor, no more work on Sundays, a hunt for our own land way into the future, and a myriad of other truly exciting things). We’ve developed tools and strategies to check in more regularly, we’ve shared ideas and found acceptance in our journey. It won’t be perfect. It surely won’t always be easy. Everything will change and then most certainly change again. But it will all be ours. In other words, I have a way to move forward that looks lovely to me.

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So what does this all have to do with biscuits? Or Christmas? Really nothing at all I suppose. Except that I find myself immensely grateful for this time of year. To be able to slow down, spend languid time in the kitchen with everyone I love, thinking big thoughts and taking time to ask myself hard questions instead of continuing to run from them.

But just in case this isn’t your happy time of year, in case this is your crazy time when you just can’t believe how much there is to fit into every day, and you push all the hard stuff to the side for later, I wish you strength and grace and joy and love. I hope your holidays are magical even if you’re burying things you know you need to face head on one day.

And so, in hopes of helping you also find more holiday peace, I offer you a recipe that hopefully makes your life a little easier. It’s the perfect gift for anyone left on your list: a care package of frozen biscuits ready to be thrown in the oven on a chilly winter day. It’s a present, a dish to pass, or a hostess gift (and possibly all three).

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Frozen biscuits have been the fall experiment I just can’t quit. I make a batch. I bake a few and freeze the rest. I always have a bag on hand to grab for holiday dinners or impromptu brunches with friends (or to bring as a gift for the sweet old man who let us dig through his dairy barn for farming treasures). I’ve been experimenting endlessly with flavors (Persimmon Brown Sugar, Lemon Poppyseed, and Blueberry Pear Chocolate are among the ranks). But these elegant squash, shallot and mozzarella delights continue to rise to the top. They’re equal parts savory and sweet. Their cheese bubbles and browns as they bake. They’re complex and they’re simple. They’re perfect.

I hope you enjoy them and I hope your transition into the cold winter months is filled with cheer.

Infinite love to you from beside my Christmas tree,
Leek

P.S. If you are in need of a retreat yourself to explore some of life’s harder questions with your significant other, send me a message and I’d be happy to share my framework with you ❤

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CHEESY BUTTERNUT SQUASH & CARAMELIZED SHALLOT BISCUITS
/Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
I tried these with a lot of different cheeses, but surprised myself by loving the plain old mozzarella the most. There is so much flavor from the shallots and squash, I really felt like every other cheese took away from the final product, but if you have a favorite cheese to pair with these flavors, by all means go for it!

Makes 18-20 large biscuits
Takes 45 minutes (plus more if baking some for yourself right away)

17 tablespoons butter, divided
4 cups butternut squash cut into 1/2-inch cubes (from 1 large squash)
1 tablespoons olive oil
6 large shallots, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon sugar, divided
5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk

  1. Remove 1 tablespoon butter and set it to the side for caramelizing your shallots. Cube the remaining butter and pop it into the fridge until ready to use.
  2. Put cubed squash into a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat and boil for 15 minutes until squash is soft but not falling apart. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  3. While your squash cooks, begin your caramelized shallots. Combine remaining tablespoon butter and olive oil in a large sauce pan. Heat over medium high heat until butter is completely melted. Reduce heat to medium and add your shallots along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Saute for 15-18 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar and continue caramelizing for 5 minutes until golden brown throughout. Pour into a small bowl and pop into the freezer.
  4. Now begin your biscuits! Combine flour, remaining salt, remaining sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Add cold cubed butter from the fridge. Cut it in with a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers. You want uneven pieces of butter throughout flour mixture. Just keep breaking up any pieces of butter any bigger than a pea, but being careful not to let the butter warm too much. If using your fingers, work very quickly.
  5. Add cooled squash and cubed mozzarella to the flour butter mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Remove shallots from the freezer and add buttermilk. Stir until combined. Pour over biscuit mixture. Stir to combine as best you can. Yes, it will seem dry. Yes, it will get sticky. Once you have incorporated as much as you can with a spoon, turn onto the counter and knead gently to get it all to come together. It’s okay if there are some dry areas throughout.
  7. Once the dough has come together, lightly flour the counter then roll out biscuit batter to an inch thick. Cut out biscuits and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet with a little space in between. Pop in the freezer until solid (likely overnight) and then pop into Ziploc (gift)bags the next morning. Label and include instructions for baking (↓)
  8. Frozen biscuits take 18-20 minutes at 400 degrees to bake (or until deeply golden brown). Non-frozen biscuits (you know for snacking the day you make these goodies) bake a bit faster; it will be closer to 15-18 minutes.

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