Monday, January 16, 2012

Fancy pants humble pie.

Galette with carrots, potatoes and spinach. © Ryan Schierling
This one time, I got an idea for a recipe... Yeah, sometimes talking about it feels a little less exciting after you've had a couple days of space from the process. But when you are in the midst of innovation, immersed in an idea and its possible variants and unable to shut off the running dialogue as you craft your dish, every little choice is a small thrill on top of the rush of simply making something new.

So, what's the story? I was possessed by the desire to make something kinda post-holidays thrifty, beautiful, vegetarian and main-dish worthy. Those poor veggies; they really do get short shrift sometimes when it comes to prime time on the plate. A true "entree" featuring vegetables is a tricky one to pull off without resorting to some form of a casserole. One elegant attempt that comes to mind all too clearly was a mixed vegetable pave I was once served for dinner on a wine train excursion. It was over a decade ago, but I remember it well because as lovely an idea as it was, it tasted terrible. I'm not sure exactly what was in it, but there were suspicions that it included some poorly-seasoned okra. The idea, however, was interesting to me.

Last year Ryan pulled out the mandolin and made a wonderful potato pave. I loved the structure of the layered potatoes, but I was thinking of something a little more rustic that incorporated more colorful vegetables – carrots and spinach – and that wasn't quite so time intensive.

Elements. © Ryan Schierling
The recipe below will flush out the technical details, but I want to note a few things that were important to me in the making of this galette. I could have used any kind of dough, but I wanted it to be distinctly savory, so I made it with 1/4 dark rye flour. It was actually the rye flour that inspired the cream cheese on top. (That and the fact that we had a copious quantity of it still in the fridge left over from the holidays.) Cream cheese and rye are a brilliant flavor combination. The tang of cream cheese also turns out to be a nice complement to the sweetness of the vegetables, and we found ourselves realizing more, not less, was the way to go.

The quality of the carrots makes a huge difference in a dish like this, so the best organic specimens you can find will be well worth it.

I've made this twice, now. The first time I used a recipe from our 1961 copy of Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook as a guide on the pie dough recipe.The second time I was considering using a pastry recipe intended for galettes that includes eggs, but I was so happy with how the first one turned out, I stuck with it. (One of these days I'll try it that way, though.) This is a relatively tall galette, however, and when you fold pastry dough full of butter like this over those high edges, it has a tendency to melt and slide down the sides a little before firming up. The second time I made it I wanted to go even taller, so I used the ring portion of a spring-form pan to support the sides through the first half of baking time. It was a little tricky, but worked out pretty nicely in the end to allow for a tall, if not a little more uniform around the edges, rustic pie.

Yeah, there are a couple of "fancy gadgets" I put to good use... But we're thrifty – both our food processor and mandolin were used finds we paid a fraction to acquire. The ingredients are downright elemental. This will easily serve 6-8 and shouldn't set you back more than about ten bucks.

Tasty hot or cold, I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.

Potato and Carrot Gratin Galette

Pastry  -  Adapted from Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook, Pastry for Two-crust Pies

1/2 cup organic dark rye flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (put in freezer for 15 minutes)
Ice water, 7-10 tablespoons to consistency.

Sift flour into a bowl (I just use a fine-mesh strainer) then put in food processor. Add salt, and butter in pieces. Pulse until the butter is in small pea- to lentil-sized pieces. (This can also be done manually with a pastry blender.) Spoon water from a bowl of ice water by the tablespoon and pulse a few times after each addition. The dough is ready when it holds together when pinched. (Note: These are not weight measures. We store our flour in the freezer and used a higher fiber brand of all-purpose flour, so this accounts for the adjustment from the 6-7 tablespoons of water the recipe called for.) Turn out onto a sheet of cling-wrap and form into a thick disc. Wrap and put into refrigerator to chill for about an hour, or while preparing the filling. (Dough may also be made a day ahead.)


4 tablespoons butter 
1 pint half & half   

1 large (1 lb.) russet potato, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick using mandolin
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and rough chopped 

3 large (1 lb.) organic carrots, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick using mandolin
1 large sprig rosemary

3 cups fresh spinach, julienned 
4 ounces cream cheese 

Salt to taste.

1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

On stove top, place sliced potatoes and garlic in one pan and the sliced carrots and whole rosemary sprig in the other (this is to simply infuse flavor from the rosemary). Split the half and half between the two pans, pouring over until just covered. (Actually, the potatoes will require a little greater proportion, as the carrots are easier to toss in minimal liquid.) Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to each pan and poach/simmer until tender, 15-20 minutes on medium-low heat, adding salt to taste. 
Pastry, carrot, potato, spinach. © Ryan Schierling
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out pie dough on a sheet of parchment paper into a large single circle until about 1/8-1/4" thick. Lift parchment sheet into a 9" pie plate and gently press to fit the center into the shape of the bottom of the pie plate. This will help you achieve the shape while you fill the galette.

Lift the carrots from the poaching liquid (or alternately drain the carrots, saving the poaching liquid and removing the rosemary sprig) and layer evenly on bottom of the pastry. Next layer the potatoes evenly on top of the carrots.

Toss the spinach in the poaching liquid remaining from the carrots. Using tongs, or your fingers, lift spinach from liquid and distribute onto top of the potatoes. Into the spinach nestle 8-12 knobs of cream cheese.

Gently pull edges of pastry dough away from the parchment and over onto the top of the galette. If it's a big tall galette, set an 8-9" springform pan ring over the top before lifting the whole galette with the parchment out of the pie pan and transferring onto a baking sheet. Slide the ring down to the parchment and fuss with the top a bit. (If the galette isn't very tall or you're just feeling especially rustic, just forgo the whole springform part and go ahead and apply the egg wash before putting it in the oven.)
Galette goes vertical. © Ryan Schierling
Bake in 425 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Remove spring form ring and brush on egg wash at the 15-20 minute mark.

Allow to rest for a 5-10 minutes, slice and serve.


  1. Beautiful recipe (and post!), I love that the use of rye flour in this recipe, I don't see it used often enough and think it would add the perfect flavor balance to this. Great post!

  2. CulinaryCache - I'm a big fan of rye, and the rye pastry is very tasty. No doubt I'll be finding other applications for it!


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