French pastry is as easy as apple pie. In fact, the French version of American pie is easier and tastier than the original. It is easier because there’s only one pastry layer and no constricting pie pan. Tastier because French pie pastry is made with butter rather than shortening. This French take on an American classic, called a galette, provides a delicious way to showcase your favorite summer fruits.
The term galette is a good example of the many references a French word can possess (much to the frustration of language students). The unappetizing dictionary definition for it is: a flat, round cake. In real life, a galette can be anything from a Breton buckwheat crepe to a yeast-risen Mardi Gras King cake. To ask the meaning of a food word in French is like asking an Eskimo to define snow.
The galette has found its way onto menus in the past two decades with the rise of casual dining. Its rustic, you might say, slightly unkempt look is part of its appeal. If some juices are seeping out and the crust is uneven, so much the better.
The recipe below comes from Jacques Pepin Celebrates (2001). Jacques Pepin has lived in the States for sixty years, first as a super-star French chef, then as an exacting teacher to home cooks. I admire the ways in which, over the years, he has adapted his formidable technique to the modern American taste for simplicity.
One note of caution when you make this galette: The all-butter crust will soften rapidly even in an air-conditioned kitchen. Work quickly, and place the filled galette in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking to insure that the pastry rim stays folded in place. For easier handling, use the crust ingredients for the Turkey Pot Pie in which some of the butter is replaced by shortening. Either crust will complement the fruit filling beautifully.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB GALETTE
Ingredients for 8 servings
Pâte Brisée Dough:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/3 cup ice cold water
1 pound rhubarb, rinsed, ends trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons ground almonds or almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
Glaze: 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam or red currant jam, melted
Dough: Pulse the flour salt and butter pieces in with work bowl of a food processor for 5 seconds or work by hand with a pastry blender until the butter is coated with flour and the consistency of coarse sand. Add 3 tablespoons of the water and process another 5 seconds until the dough is just coming together and pieces of butter are still visible. Do the same if working by hand. Add more water by the tablespoon until the begins to form. Remove the dough from the bowl, Quickly flatten the dough, dust with flour on both sides and roll it out between layers of parchment to a 8" x12" rectangle. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes while preparing the filling.
Filling and Baking: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Assemble the dry ingredients. Toss the strawberry and rhubarb pieces with 1/3 cup sugar in a mixing bowl. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll it out into an oval 16" long, 14" wide and 1/8" thick. Spread the dry mix over the rolled dough to within 2" of the edge. Pile the strawberry rhubarb mixture on top. Draw up the sides of the dough around the fruit pieces holding them in place until they soften enough to form a crust. Slide the galette onto a bake sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the crust browns. Loosen the galette on the bake sheet if juices have escaped during baking so it won't stick when cooled.
Spread on the glaze over the galette while it is still warm. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.
Restaurants are desperate to find a way to reopen this summer and maintain social distancing guidelines. Cafes and bars are unlikely to make a profit with only 25% of their normal seating capacity. How will they overcome the ghastly cost-benefit ratio created by these restrictions? As usual, the dining-savvy French have a solution.
Televised footage on France 2 recently showed proposed curbside dining in Paris. That’s right, a small table and two chairs were set up on the street side of the curb. In the spirit of full disclosure, it 'was in a no-parking space. In this city of charming narrow streets visitors soon learn to share the sidewalk with the outdoor cafe seating. If it’s allowed, car passengers may soon be able to eye diners with their plate of steak frites at arm's length.
No one seems to care in France; they know how to adapt. When smoking indoors was banned in
2006, Paris restaurants quickly expanded and weatherproofed their outdoor terraces to accommodate smokers. On the other hand, the ability to sit in an outdoor cafe and nurse an espresso or glass of wine for an hour takes years of practice to master.
It’s unlikely that American cities will embrace France’s cultural norms, but economic hardship is bound to force changes to the outdoor dining scene this summer. Stay-at-homers need not worry. The pleasant ritual of a cocktail with a tasty homemade spread on crackers requires little more than a little forethought and the desire to enjoy life at the table.
This post was inspired by recipes sent by Elizabeth Dill and Chris Rowbottom who have traveled with me to Paris and Provence. The Beet Tzatziki is a great stand-alone starter or side-dish. Ruth Reichel’s Liver Pate recipe is an easy riff on an classic starter that pairs well with any cocktail.
My addition to the cocktail hour is mellow Ramp Butter. Ramps are wild miniature leeks which the Menonimee Indians called 'shikaakwa' and French explorer LaSalle translated to 'Checagou' when describing the area we now call Chicago. In the past, ramps appeared in early spring exclusively on menus of high-end restaurants. This year 4 ounce bundles of ramps have been available at Whole Foods in the Chicagoland area.
1 pound chicken livers, cleaned
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 small apple, peeled, cored and chopped
3 tablespoons Cognac or Calvados
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt; 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
Remove the veins from the livers. Hold filament between the two lobes and scrape out the thin veins on both sides. Pat dry and set aside.
Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons butter until soft, about 3 minutes. Add apple and cook another 3 minutes. Put into a food processor.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter, lightly season the chicken livers and add to the pan, sauteing over high heat for 4 minutes (2 minutes on each side). They should be brown on the outside and still pink within. Remove from the heat, take away from the stove and add the Cognac. Return to the heat and carefully put a lighted match into the pan, swirling until all the flames die down and all the alcohol has burned off. Add livers to the food processor.
Pour in the cream and puree until smooth. Add the remaining butter, bit by bit until smooth. Season to taste, then pour into little bowls or crocks and chill for at least 3 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Recipe from Ruth Reichl My Kitchen Year
SOFRA’S BEET TZATZIKI
Ingredients for 2 1/2 cups:
1 cup cooked, shredded beets (any color)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (one clove)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole-milk plain or sheep’s milk yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the root end of the beets, coat them lightly with vegetable oil and wrap tightly in foil. Roast them in a skillet with 1/2 cup water until they can be pierced easily, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, remove foil and rub off the skin with a paper towel. Grate the beets on the largest hole of a box grater.
Combine the garlic, lemon juice and salt in a mixing bowl. Allow this mixture to sit for 10 minutes to mellow the garlic. Stir in yogurt olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Fold in the beets, fresh dill and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Recipe from Spice by Ana Sortun
Ingredients for 1 1/2 cups
1 bunch ramps (4 oz)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Trim off root end of the ramps, rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. Cut the entire ramp into 1” pieces. Saute pieces in 1 tablespoon butter for 5 minutes, or until they are completely wilted. Puree ramps with remaining butter, cut in 1/2” pieces, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and allow to come to room temperature before spreading on crackers or sliced baguette.
Recipe adapted from Shelly Westerhausen, Vegetarian Ventures