Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.
Today: Associate Editor Marian Bull thinks you should be eating more pie for dinner. Here's how to make that happen.
I shouldn't have to sell you very hard on the virtues of savory galettes. They are pies that you eat for dinner.
Savory galettes (or tarts, if that's what you'd rather call them) will also sit proudly in the center of your table, flanked only by a good salad and a bottle of wine, and feel like a capital-D Dinner, the kind you can serve to any type of company, fancy or not, picky or not, wearing sweaters or wearing sundresses.
They are also, I can confidently say, one of the most reliable vegetarian entrees you can pull from your back pocket any time that grain salads feel a little too virtuous, or pasta a little unimaginative. They welcome imperfection and improvisation and enormous amounts of cheese. And if you're keeping pie dough in your freezer -- if not, why? -- well, you're halfway there.
Once you have a handle on how to make pie crust -- here's a good primer -- you don't need a recipe to make a savory galette. Cook down whatever vegetables call out to you at the market, sex them up with a handful (or three) of cheese, then swaddle them in crust and bake until you have something deep golden brown and bubbling and ready to steal whatever show you have planned.
Tell me that vegetables tucked into buttery, flaky crust isn't the perfect comfort food and I'll tell you to come over for dinner.
Here's how to make any savory galette, without a recipe:
1. Make your crust. Use whatever pie crust recipe you fancy; I like to use half white whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose, because it makes the whole thing taste a little heartier. I use all butter, and a bit of apple cider vinegar mixed into my water -- basically this recipe, with a bit of white whole-wheat flour subbed in.
You can also try adding cornmeal, or spices, or ground-up herbs, or maybe even cheese? This is your first opportunity to build flavor, so don't cast it off as some sort of flavorless serving vessel for your filling. Once you mix it, form it into a fat disk and let it chill for at least an hour or so, but ideally overnight.
2. Here's a brilliant tip I learned from our test kitchen manager, Allison: Before you roll out your thick disk of dough, whack it down a few times with your rolling pin. This is a lot of fun and a little loud, but it also gives you a good head start on a nicely shaped pie crust. You're avoiding those first few rolls where your dough cleaves and cracks and turns into a weird amoeba and you know that a real circle is not in your future. So lightly flour your surface, lightly flour your dough, then bang it down until your circle widens by a few inches.
Roll out your dough, rotating it every few rolls to keep it from sticking or turning into an amoeba. Stop when it's about 10 or 11 inches in diameter, or when it's at a thickness that looks good to you.
3. Cook your filling. You have so many options!! Sautéed mushrooms. Roasted squash. Roasted fennel. Slinky leeks. Straight-up potatoes. You could probably put some sausage in there, or some bacon, if that's your thing.
My go-to is heaping piles of greens -- here, I've used one bunch of lacinato kale and one bunch of mustard greens -- cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked down with garlic and shallots until they're soft and meek. (Blessed are the meek greens, for they shall inherit our plates.)
If you cook greens or another watery vegetable, be sure to squeeze all the liquid out to ensure that your filling is rich and flavorful, not sad and watery. Use a colander and the back of a spoon, or do it with your (clean) hands -- just make sure to wait until the greens cool, so you're not dealing with second-degree palm burns.
4. Finish your filling. Cheese is always welcome here; I used asiago. But you can also add delicate herbs, nuts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, capers, and so on. Maybe a few glops of soft cheese. Whatever doo-dads you like -- stir them in, then taste for seasoning. (If you're adding cheese, remember that this will make things saltier, so salt your vegetables conservatively -- you can always add more after you add your cheese.)
5. Lay your groundwork. Transfer your rolled-out crust to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and if you like, add a little layer of something to serve as a buffer between your filling and your crust. I like a bit of Dijon mustard, or a sprinkle of hard cheese, but you could also try a savory jam, or really any other condiment that's more viscous than watery. If you were British, maybe you would consider Marmite.
6. Add your filling. Spread it in an even layer. Consider how much top crust you want -- my answer to this is always "a lot," so I keep a 2-inch border of unfilled crust. If you want your galette to be daintier, or you want to see more filling, keep a thinner border.
7. Fold! This is my favorite part. Fold little sections of crust over your filling to make something that resembles a hexagon, or an octagon, or if you're feeling really crazy, a dodecahedron. (And then you'll have a Phantom Tollbooth-themed galette! And I'll be your friend!)
If your dough is feeling particularly soft and therefore making you nervous, stick the whole thing into the fridge or the freezer until it firms up.
8. Preheat your oven! Then finish your galette with an egg wash or a cream wash, and sprinkle with cheese or herbs. I've found, and I'm not sure why, that replacing your egg wash with heavy cream works well here. But go with whatever wash you want, then sprinkle on some hard cheese (Parmesan, Pecorino), maybe some herbs, a few cracks of black pepper, or a sprinkle of flaky salt.
8. Bake your galette -- I recommend a really high heat, like 400° F -- for 30 to 40 minutes, until your crust is a deep golden brown. You don't want your cheese or anything else to burn, of course, but remember that a brown crust is a flaky, flavorful crust. When it comes to pastry, blondes do not have more fun. If your cheese is browning more quickly than your crust, consider tenting it with foil.
Unlike fruit galettes, which often need to set up after they're cooked so that their filling doesn't run everywhere, savory galettes can usually be sliced almost immediately. While your galette cooks, toss together a salad -- I'd suggest something crunchy and sturdy like radicchio. Set it on the table, pour a few glasses of wine, and wahoo, that's your dinner. Slice your galette at the table; you'll be going back for slivers until it's a pile of crumbs. If any leftovers survive, you'll be smart to save them for breakfast.
Photos by James Ransom