Radical Hospitality

“Domestic culture in the city is dead,” my high school English teacher informed me this summer. We were standing under an arbor at the vineyard in the town where I grew up, sipping wine in the summer dusk and waiting for an al fresco presentation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline to start (“One of his worst”). “No one cooks or cleans or dines-in in Seattle any more,” she continued. “It’s all about the hottest restaurant and outsourcing domestic duties to paid help.” It felt like she was undermining everything that mattered to me. Like when she informed me that no one would want to read my senior project on how technology was changing the way people communicated in the late 90s. Or how asking if I could raise my grade to an A was a surefire way to ensure it never got there. 

Like those times long ago, for whatever reason, I believed her. “I’m doomed,” I thought. “My interests will never fly in a metropolis.” The hardest part for me about living in a city is the lack of domesticity. There’s just too much Little House on the Prairie in me. Am I fated to live as a granola-baking island in a sea of restaurant-goers and personal assistants? Must I either join the old ladies knitting circle at the yarn shop or binge watch Netflix on my couch with my hat pattern? Are communal meals destined to occur only at a bar (with trendy subway tile and exposed brick)?

But wait just a hot second. There’s something about wanting to be close to food that everyone and their mom is trying to grasp hold of these days. Farm to table. Farmers’ markets. The Great Canning Revival. Yet in the fast paced weeks that fly by in Seattle, it’s hard to imagine where all those people are and if they might stop by with a bag of gleaned plums or invite me over for an impromptu potluck dinner. Being domestic requires time that just doesn’t exist for many people working at today’s pace. 

Whatever happened to hospitality?

Last fall I spent a week at a retreat center not far from Seattle. Julie, one of the in-house chefs, spent the day making these cauliflower hand pies while I perched in my window seat in the farmhouse living room and furiously tried to come up with an inspired way to describe a potluck. Radical hospitality, they call it there. Cooking and cleaning and care taking serve as the focal point of making guests feel at home and relaxed. The freezer is stocked with the harvest from the summer garden - bags of berries, blanched veggies, frozen chocolate chip cookies from the batch where Kathy accidentally melted the butter and they spread out as thin and light as crisps. Absent the noise brought on hustle and bustle of the city, it didn’t seem like anything else much mattered.

To bring a bit of that radical hospitality back to the city, I started by making these pies. Try them yourself and I promise you’ll thank me. They’ll take way more time than you have, but that’s ok. They’re worth slowing down for. The flaky cheese crust is a decadent balance to the creamy cauliflower and hazelnut filling. Six months later and I’m still thinking about how I warmed one in the toaster oven in my little cottage and settled in for a few more hours in the window seat.

So, go on! Who says domesticity is dead? Make Martha proud.

Cauliflower Manchego Handpies
Adapted from Martha Stewart via Hedgebrook

These pies are fussy and require many steps. But oh, my are they worth it. Very rarely do I follow a recipe without cutting any corners, but after I first had these pies hot out of the Hedgebrook kitchen, I wanted to do everything in my power to recreate the magic. Make them on a lazy Sunday and take leftovers for lunch during the week. You won't regret it. 

Ingredients:
1 small head cauliflower, sliced into steaks
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
5 ounces Manchego cheese, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
(All-purpose flour, for work surface)

For the Cheese Short Crust:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Manchego (since you bought some already) or Parmesan cheese
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
1 egg yolk
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Make the crust first (even the day ahead of time):
Pulse flour, cheese, sugar, salt, and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. 
Add egg yolk; pulse to combine. 
With processor running, drizzle in 1/4 cup water until dough just comes together. (If dough is still crumbly, add up to 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.) 
Do not process for more than 20 seconds. (Yes, it’s fussy. But it’s the best way to get a flaky crust)
Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes or even overnight. 

Then make the pies:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (For a more detailed primer on roasting cauliflower, check out this post.)
Spread cauliflower steaks on a sheet pan and cover in olive oil. Flip and stir them around to coat both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
Roast in oven until undersides begin to brown (10-15 minutes). Flip steaks over and continue roasting until both sides are browned (about 10 more). I usually have to rotate the pieces around the pan as my oven doesn’t heat evenly. 
Remove from oven and let cool on the pan.
Reduce oven to 375 degrees.
Combine toasted hazelnuts and garlic in a food processor. 
With processor running, slowly add 4 tablespoons oil until mixture is finely chopped. 
Add lemon zest and 1 teaspoon rosemary; season with salt and pepper. 
Process until combined.

Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. 
Cut out eight rounds that are each 4 inches across. (I used an upside down bowl as I didn't have a large enough cookie cutter)
Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Spread 2 teaspoons hazelnut mixture onto each round, leaving a 1/2-inch border. 
Divide cauliflower among rounds. 
Top with cheese and remaining teaspoon rosemary, dividing evenly; sprinkle with pepper. 
Whisk cream and egg yolk in a small bowl. 
Brush edges of dough with egg wash. Set aside.

Roll out remaining dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness. 
Cut out 8 rounds, 5 inches each. (I found it helps if the tops are slightly larger)
Place a dough round on top of each pie; gently press edges with a fork to seal. 
Brush crusts with egg wash
Refrigerate until cold, about 20 minutes. 
Bake until crust is golden brown, 30 to 32 minutes. 
Serve warm or at room temperature.