When we travel, it isn't just about seeing the 1000th church, walking around the city, seeing yet another museum or staying in the best hotel. Honestly, and perhaps a bit shallow of us, I think we love experiencing the food and then trying to recreate it once we return home. Stuffed baby squid from Montenegro, Okonomiyaki from Japan, BBQ from Korea, Salt Cod Croquettes from Portugal, Tapas from Spain, Boulettes (meatballs) from Belgium, and German breakfast...the list goes on and on and most of the time, we have been fairly successful by walking down memory lane during an afternoon of recreating meals from our travels.
But the one that has eluded me, much to my chagrin, is the Breton galette. The terrain being as it is, makes it difficult for wheat to grow. Somehow, buckwheat made its way to this incredible area of France and the galette was born. Similar to a crepe, it is simply made with buckwheat flour (farine de sarrasin), water and salt and filled with either sweet or savory fillings. Every outdoor market in France will have a galette truck and we used to keep Cate occupied by getting her a Galette au Chocolate - a warm galette filled with nutella on every visit.
My favorites are the savory galettes - filled with anything you can imagine. The complete (missing the necessary accent mark on the first "e") is simply a galette stuffed with ham, cheese and a fried egg. The sides are brought over to form a square and the yolk of the egg peeks through the center. This a favorite of Jamie's. On the grounds of Monet's home in Giverny, Cate and I feasted on galettes filled with potatoes, lardons and formage. At a local restaurant perched high above the Breton countryside in an old water tower, I was served a galette filled with beautiful Breton scallops in a delicate cream sauce. The galette is the canvas. Paint it any way you choose.
On visits to Brittany, I would bring home packets of premade Galettes that I purchased at the grocery store, but alas, I am in Brittany no more. Once, while in Tennessee, my mother took me to a Creperie and I was so happy to find Breton Galettes that I purchased six to make the drive back with me. Locally, I have found a small French restaurant but when I inquired about purchasing from them, I was aghast at the price. So, no Galettes for me.
On more than on occasion, I have attempted to make them but even with its simple ingredients, they were a disaster. So, I gave up. There are other French specialties that I happy to make...that worked. Then last week in my CSA parcel, I received a pound of local buckwheat flour. The challenge was on...again. I searched the Internet for days and finally came across a recipe from David Leibovitz. It had more ingredients that others I had come across but it intrigued me. So on Saturday afternoon, I whipped up the batter. The directions indicated that it had to sit overnight in the refrigerator. Sunday morning with great trepidation, I took off the lid of the container. The mixture was to resemble a heavy cream consistency. Did mine? Yes - and that was a good sign.
I brought out my new Tefal skillet as I did not have a crepe pan, swirled some butter around the pan and poured in 1/3 cup of the mixture. I wasn't fast enough on the first round to get a thin pancake but I made the crepe anyway. No use making all of them if it tasted horrible. Of course, I made Jamie taste the first one. "Not bad." Ok - not the greatest endorsement but what the heck...continue on.
I made 10 galettes and by the last one - I had the galette mojo. I could pour in the batter, quickly swirl it around to cover the bottom of the skillet - cook for one minute, pick up the edges with my fingers (!) and quickly flip to cook on the other side for an additional minute. That morning, Jamie and I dined on his favorite, the complete (remember the accent mark on the first "e"...you say the word with a short "e" sound...not a long "e". Got it?). I took a cooked galette, heated it briefly in the pan, placed two slices of ham in the center, covered it with grated Gruyere cheese, topped it a fried egg and brought the sides in to create a square. Once the cheese was melted, the galette was ready.
So how was it? Not completely authentic - as my recipe called for a combination of buckwheat and all purpose flour but it was authentic enough to take me back in time. Over breakfast, we reminisced about the different places and different kinds of galettes we had eaten in France. Once Cate made an appearance, I was certain that she would not have one. Years ago, she decided that she didn't like them. She picked one up, folded it and between bites, asked if we had enough to have for Monday's dinner.
So last night, I made her favorite: Bacon, Gruyere cheese and sautéed potatoes. She had two. And this morning, with the last remaining one...Galette au Chocolate. Bring on the buckwheat flour...I have some galettes to make!
Buckwheat Crepe Recipe
by David Leibovitz
2 cups whole milk
1/2 t salt
3T butter, melted
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
In a blender, mix all of the ingredients together. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the batter one hour before cooking.
Heat a 8-9 inch nonstick skillet. Drop a piece of butter and swirl it around the pan with a paper towel. You only need to do this just before cooking the first one.
Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter in the pan and swirl quickly to cover the bottom of the skillet. After a minute or so, lift the side with a spatula and flip. I was able to lift with a spatula, lightly grasp with my fingers and flip. It may take a few tries to get the hang of it. Keep going.
Cook an additional 30 seconds to a minute and slide onto a plate. Cook the remaining galettes.
When ready to serve, you can fill with all kinds of toppings.