Cheesy Kabocha Turnovers Make a Perfect Thanksgiving Appetizer

Danielle Oron is the force behind popular recipe blog I Will Not Eat Oysters and a former Yahoo Food Blogger of the Week. She’s also the chef and owner of Moo Milk Bar in Toronto, and, most recently, author of the cookbook Modern Israeli Cooking.


All photos by Danielle Oron

By Danielle Oron of I Will Not Eat Oysters

This is the perfect Thanksgiving appetizer. It can be made ahead of time, then frozen. Just toss the turnovers into the oven when you’re ready. Also, they can be eaten warm or at room temperature, which leaves you with the oven space you’ll desperately need when all of your guests bring over something that needs to be “thrown in the oven for 15 minutes.”

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Moreover, I find that it’s best to have a snack waiting for guests when they arrive. People are hungry. And if you don’t want them hovering over you and your kitchen, waiting for the opportunity to slip their dirty little hands into something, then have an appetizer ready for them.

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I first roast the kabocha squash. It comes out of the oven soft and oh-so-sweet. I combine the squash flesh with sautéed shallots and thyme, then brighten the mixture with a little Champagne vinegar. To make the pockets, I lay a good amount of havarti cheese onto the puff pastry squares before filling and sealing them.

Garnishing the tops of the pockets with Maldon salt not only beautifies them, it lends a saltiness that contrasts beautifully with the sweet kabocha. Did I mention that this is an excellent brunch food too? Well, there you go.

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Kabocha and Havarti Turnovers
Makes 12 large or 24 minis

1 medium kabocha squash, quartered and seeds/pulp removed
½ teaspoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 shallots, finely sliced
4 to 5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from stems
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 ½ teaspoon Champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed in fridge
225 grams or ½ pound sliced havarti cheese
1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk or water
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, to garnish
Thyme leaves, to garnish

Pre-heat oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and place the squash quarters on it with the skin side down. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the squash. Roast for 1 ½ hours. It will be extremely soft. Let cool to room temperature before working with it.

Heat ½ teaspoon of olive oil and the butter over medium-low heat in a sauté pan. Add the shallots, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally until the shallots are softened and the thyme is fragrant.

Scoop out the kabocha flesh into a large bowl and discard the skins. Transfer the shallot mixture into the bowl and add the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix together and taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary.

Prepare 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Unroll one of your puff pastry sheets. I leave it on the plastic or parchment it comes on to prevent it from sticking to the work surface. Cut the sheet into 6 squares for the large pockets or 12 for the mini pockets. Place pieces of the havarti onto the squares, leaving roughly a 1/3-inch border around the edge of the puff pastry. Spoon about 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of the squash mixture into the middle of each square. For the mini’s, use about 2 teaspoons of filling for each.

Brush the egg wash all around the edge of the puff pastry, fold them in half, and pinch closed. You can use a fork to really seal them. If a little is oozing out, no biggie. I actually like when that happens because it will caramelize in the oven. Brush the tops and the sides with the egg wash, sprinkle with thyme leaves and Maldon salt. Transfer them to the baking sheet. Do the same with the second sheet of puff pastry.

At this point, you can freeze them. Once they are rock hard you can transfer them to ziplock bags until your ready to bake them. No need to defrost, just give them an extra few minutes in the oven if necessary.

Pre-heat oven to 425˚F. Bake on the parchment lined baking sheets until golden brown and puffy. Between 18 to 20 minutes.

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