Easier than pie

Try a galette, a pie without a pan

click to enlarge Root Vegetable Galette - PHOTO BY ANN SHAFFER GLATZ
Photo by ann shaffer glatz
Root Vegetable Galette
I've always thought that the phrase "as easy as pie" was confusing. Pie-crust phobia is an affliction that affects many otherwise high-functioning individuals. It is probably the fear of failure and public shaming that fuels this phobia. My late wife, Julianne, was a wonderful pie-maker who mastered her craft at an early age under her grandmother's and mother's tutelage. I, however, came from a culinarily deprived background and I deeply regret that I never paid attention when Julianne made pies. I eventually learned how to make a pie crust, but even now, I wouldn't want to post pictures of my pies on Instagram. However, pies have a French cousin known as the galette, and making a galette (in the idiomatic sense) is truly "a piece of cake."

A galette is essentially a pie made without a pie pan. The word galette is derived from the Norman word gale which means "flat cake." A galette is meant to be rustic-looking and imperfect. Galettes can be sweet or savory. They can be filled with fruit for a dessert or with cheese and vegetables for a main course or side dish. Galettes can be made ahead and served at room temperature or briefly warmed before serving.

Galettes start with a basic pie dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part liquid. My late wife was very dogmatic on her insistence on using lard as the fat in her pie dough and her crusts were indisputably superior. However, I prefer using butter for several reasons. I can't serve pies made with lard to my vegetarian, Jewish or Muslim guests. Most commercial lard has been hydrogenated, contains preservatives, and has a bit of a piggy flavor. Good-quality rendered leaf lard can be hard to come by. I really like the taste and extra-flaky texture of butter-based crusts. Butter contains about 15-20% water and it's the water in the little pieces of butter incorporated in the dough that evaporates during baking, causing the dough to puff up, forming the flaky layers.

Galettes lend themselves to improvisation. I often make savory galettes when I have excess veggies. Each galette needs about 1 ½ to 2 cups of filling, which usually takes about 2 pounds of raw vegetables. Any combination of root vegetables can be used, such as carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets, celery root or rutabagas.

Root Vegetable Galette

Serves 4

The dough can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months and thawed overnight in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups (150 g) All-Purpose Flour, plus more to flour the work surface

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen

cup (79 g) ice water

1 large egg yolk, beaten

For the filling:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup red onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 ounces of cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese, divided

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1 ½ - 2 cups root vegetables, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

For the vinaigrette:

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Preparation

For the crust:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.

Place the stick of frozen butter into the flour mixture and thoroughly coat with flour. Using the large holes of a box grater, quickly grate the frozen butter into the mixing bowl. With your hands, gently toss the butter in the flour to evenly distribute.

Sprinkle in the ice water and gently mix with your hands until the flour is evenly moistened and holds together in a ball. If it doesn't, add more cold water a teaspoon at a time. The dough should be slightly crumbly rather than wet. When the last floury bits at the bottom of the bowl have been incorporated, stop. Do not overwork the dough. You want the butter to remain in little pieces scattered throughout.

Working quickly, transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface, gather up any remaining crumbs and knead gently, just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick disc. Wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or preferably overnight.

For the filling:

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and add the dried thyme.

In a small bowl, mix the onion mixture with the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the blue cheese. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and parboil the root vegetable slices a few minutes until al dente. If using beets, parboil separately at the end to avoid coloring the other vegetables. Drain and spread out on a towel to cool and dry out.

In a medium bowl, toss the root vegetable slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

For the vinaigrette:

In a small jar, work the mustard into the vinegar with a fork.

Add the olive oil, cover the jar and shake vigorously to emulsify.

To assemble the galette:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator 10 minutes before you are ready to form the galette and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Spread the onion/cheese mixture on the dough, leaving an uncovered 2-inch border around the periphery. Arrange the root vegetable slices on top of the onion/cheese mixture. Top with the remaining crumbled blue cheese.

Fold the edge closest to you towards the center. Rotate sheet pan slightly and repeat, until all edges are folded in towards the filling, overlapping as you go around. Brush the folded edges of the dough with beaten egg yolk.

Place on a rack in the middle of the oven, and bake until the crust is golden and the vegetables are tender, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Drizzle the vinaigrette before serving.

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