RECIPES: Unlock the genius of the odds and ends galette

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

“Easy as pie” is an expression that has always puzzled me. I’ve never found pie to be particularly easy. Despite many years of making pie crusts, mine are never consistent. Perfectly flaky one time. Tough the next.

All the gorgeous pictures of fancy crimped crusts and elaborate pastry decorations in magazines and on social media just make me scroll on past. Rolling out crusts might be my least favorite kitchen chore. When someone says, “Bring a pie,” I start looking for recipes for cakes and lemon bars.

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So when I was introduced to Shain Wancio, executive chef for Two Urban Licks, and his suggestion for making galettes — essentially open-faced pastries with the edges roughly folded in to contain a sweet or savory filling — I was intrigued. The fact that he recommended starting with a store-bought pie crust or puff pastry was what reeled me in. A professional chef giving me permission to go store bought? This was worth follow-up.

“The only key ingredient for a galette is pie crust, and you can substitute puff pastry and still have great success,” he said. “My wife and I always keep boxes of pie crusts and puff pastry in the freezer, and we often make galettes as a quick and easy dinner that we don’t need to go shopping for.”

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Wancio says he came to be a fan of galettes in the early 2000s when he was working at Le Pommier, a French bistro in Pittsburgh, at a time when the idea of cooking locally was catching fire. “We were struggling to incorporate the exciting, new and constantly changing produce being offered to us in a comfortable yet focused and composed way. That’s when we unlocked the genius of the galette.”

He remembers what he calls the “humble galette” as the vessel by which they were able to introduce guests to turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, exotic mushrooms, kale and interesting, stinky, runny cheeses like Epoisses and Delice de Bourgogne. “When things got a little too out there, we pulled everyone back in with high-end versions of old classics like cheddar, smoked mozzarella and aged Gouda.”

You may not have farmers delivering boxes of produce to your kitchen door, but you are likely to have a few vegetables in the crisper, some cheese in the dairy drawer, or a bowl of fruit on the counter that can serve as inspiration for your own creations.

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

To get you started, Wancio offers these suggestions for how to prepare vegetables and other odds and ends for your galette:

Ingredient selection: Start with classic combos you’re familiar with: bacon, Gruyere and mushrooms, for example. “As you become more adept and aware of the way flavors interact, you can start coming up with fun ideas of your own.”

Leafy greens and mushrooms: “Before incorporating these ingredients into your galette, you’re going to need to get the excess moisture out. Saute them with shallots, garlic, butter and your choice of seasoning until the greens have wilted or the mushrooms have browned, then drain the excess moisture with a paper towel. Once they are room temperature, you’re good to go.”

Root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips: “These bad boys take a little more commitment. Roast or braise and then drain the excess moisture on a paper towel. You can cut baby versions into wedges, but I would dice any larger root before roasting simply with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and herbs/seasoning of your choice.”

To cheese or not to cheese: “Cheese isn’t a necessary ingredient, but then again, neither is sunshine for a beach day. A galette is just sort of soulless and depressing without it. If you’re vegan, there are plenty of meltable vegan cheeses out there and I would go with your favorite. Cheddar, Gouda, goat cheese, mozzarella and any other cheese that melts well are your powerhouses here.”

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

When to cheese: “I recommend you add your melty cheese to the galette before baking. But stinky runny cheeses such as Epoisses and Delice de Bourgogne are best used for finishing. We would top a hot galette with a small wedge or quenelle of one of these cheeses, and the way it would coat the cracks and crevices of oyster mushrooms was heavenly.”

Meats: Wancio says meat is not necessary in your galette, but braised meats left over from previous meals are always a winner. “Coq au vin, braised short ribs and oxtail from earlier in the week often find their final home in a galette as an exciting way to eat leftovers.” If you want to include something like bacon, Wancio suggests you crisp it to render the fat before incorporating.

Dessert galettes: “It’s a piece of pie crust. Any pie filling of your choice will work. A scoop of great ice cream on top at the end and a dusting of powder sugar — what else do you really need in your life?”

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

RECIPES

Shain Wancio, executive chef for Two Urban Licks, presents two master recipes for galettes.

Shain Wancio’s basic instructions for galettes:

1. Plan ahead. Take the pie crust or puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to defrost according to directions on the package.

2. When ready to bake, heat the oven to 425 degrees for puff pastry, 350 degrees for pie crust.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the crust on top. Unroll and fill center with fillings.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

4. Fold crust dough over the edge, taking care to overlap the dough as little as possible for even cooking, and leaving most of the filling uncovered in the center.

5. Make an egg wash and brush it over the crust or puff pastry that is mounded around the sides. Sprinkle with sea salt or Sugar in the Raw, if you like.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

6. Bake until crust or puff pastry is golden brown. Avoid overbaking as “the crust or puff pastry often tastes more done than it may look.”

7. Especially for galettes with cheese in the filling, allow the galette to cool for at least five minutes before serving. If using, now is the time to add a finishing cheese or fresh herbs.

8. A galette is really at its best right after it’s baked. The crust — whether pie crust or puff pastry — will start to get soggy as it sits.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

A Sweet Galette: Strawberry

This recipe calls for a sweetened cream cheese filling topped with fruit. You can substitute other berries or if you’d like to use firmer fruit like apples, saute it in a little butter until softened before adding to the galette.

If you like, you can use the full recipe for Sweetened Cream Cheese (1 1/4 cups) for this filling. However, this recipe’s nutritional information per serving is based on using 1 cup of it.

A Sweet Galette: Strawberry
  • 1 prepared pie crust (1 crust from a 14.1-ounce 2-crust package)
  • 1 cup Sweetened Cream Cheese (see recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 egg
  • Sugar in the Raw, for sprinkling, if desired
  • Zest of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon mint leaves, for garnish
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a rack in the lowest position. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Center pie crust on prepared baking sheet. Mound cream cheese in center of crust, then spread on crust leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Arrange strawberries over cream cheese. Fold edges of crust over filling.
  • In a small bowl, make egg wash by whisking egg until frothy. Brush egg wash on folded edges of crust. Discard any remaining egg wash. Sprinkle egg-washed edges with Sugar in the Raw, if desired. Put galette on lower rack in oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown, but not too dark, and cream cheese filling has bubbled up between slices of fruit. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon zest and mint. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 456 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 6 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 28 grams total fat (13 grams saturated), 81 milligrams cholesterol, 533 milligrams sodium.

Sweetened Cream Cheese

You can use all this cream cheese in the galette, save some for another galette, or serve it with sliced berries as you would whipped cream.

Sweetened Cream Cheese
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Beans from 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla beans and salt. Process until smooth. Put in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 60 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 1 gram protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 4 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 11 milligrams cholesterol, 94 milligrams sodium.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

A Savory Galette: Potato and Brussels Sprouts

This recipe for a savory galette calls for a melty cheese topped with already cooked vegetables. For this combination of potatoes and Brussels sprouts, Wancio recommends Thomasville Tomme, a raw cow’s milk from Thomasville’s Sweet Grass Dairy. Substitute with a semisoft cheese such as Gouda or Gruyere.

Make the galette your own by topping it with any combination of 2 cups cooked vegetables. If you like, add a bit of leftover meat.

Wancio likes the addition of pickled peppers to add a bit of heat and acid. It’s fine to leave them off, or add some other pickled vegetable, even thin slices of pickled okra.

A Savory Galette: Potato and Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 sheet prepared puff pastry (1 sheet from a 17.3-ounce 2-sheet package)
  • 6 ounces cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 5 roasted, seasoned fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 7 roasted, seasoned Brussels sprouts, cut in half
  • 1 egg
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon sliced Pickled Fresno Peppers, for garnish (see recipe)
  • Dill sprigs and chopped chives, for garnish
  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Center puff pastry on a prepared baking sheet. Arrange cheese in shingle fashion in the middle of the puff pastry, making sure to leave a 2-inch border free all the way around. Top with a layer of sliced potatoes and then sprouts. Fold crust over filling, leaving center open.
  • In a small bowl, make egg wash by whisking egg until frothy. Brush egg wash on folded edges of crust. Discard any remaining egg wash. Sprinkle edges with sea salt, if desired. Put baking sheet on lower rack in oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden brown, but not too dark. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with peppers and garnish with dill sprigs and chopped chives. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 587 calories (percent of calories from fat, 59), 18 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 39 grams total fat (12 grams saturated), 89 milligrams cholesterol, 531 milligrams sodium.

Pickled Fresno Peppers

These pickles need to sit at least overnight before using, and are best if they have been in the brine for a week. Once made, they will keep for months in the refrigerator.

Pickled Fresno Peppers
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 ounces granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 Fresno peppers
  • Make brine: In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Remove stems from peppers and remove seeds if you wish to cut down on the heat. Thinly slice peppers and submerge in brine. Cover and let stand at room temperature. Allow peppers to pickle at least overnight before using. If not using right away, refrigerate the pickles. Makes 1 cup.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 19 calories (percent of calories from fat, 2), trace protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace total fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 290 milligrams sodium.
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