The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I studied abroad in France, in the small town of St. Brieuc, located in the Celtic region of Brittany (or Bretagne). At that point my French was largely untested--I had only had three years of high school French, an introduction in middle school, and some lessons in elementary--but the program was soon to change all that. The main rule dictated that as soon as the plane hit the ground in Paris, we were not allowed to speak English until we had completed the program seven weeks later...or else we got sent home. So when we finally pulled into the town parking lot with the host families waiting outside, I remember being a little scared to get off the bus. But I didn't know then the wonderful home I'd be welcomed into by Anny, Jean-Marie, Simon, and Clément Lachevre.
I'm not sure if the program just did a superb job matching students with hosts, or if I was just lucky, but despite my piecemeal French, I felt immediately comfortable--the Lachevre's home felt so similar to mine and there was a piano to play, a yard to kick around the soccer ball with my host brothers, and a room all my own with a view of the garden and desk where I could write letters and leaf through back issues of French Vogue that Anny had set out for me. The Europe Cup was that summer, so we watched a lot of soccer, went on excursions to nearby fishing villages, and every Friday, we ate Breton galletes.
Now these are not the galettes like we call them here. Breton galettes are in fact a savory crepe, made from buckwheat flour, and stuffed with Emmental or Gruyère cheese, jambon (ham), and a fried egg. Sometimes other ingredients are added-- Clément, for instance, always requested tomatoes in his. The meal is traditionally enjoyed with a glass (or two) of hard Breton cidre, which was indeed another compulsory item on our own Friday dinner table. I remember once when Jean-Marie and Anny had plans to go out on a Friday, Anny specifically taught me how to make galettes, just so Simon, Clément and I wouldn't miss our tradition.
Back in November, I headed down to North Carolina for my friends Lora and Joe's baby shower. On the way home on Sunday, we all took a trip to Foggy Ridge Cider, a woman-owned orchard and hard cider producer outside of Floyd, VA. Unlike the overly sweet cider varieties common here in the states, Foggy Ridge makes a European-style cider, complex, and more dry than sweet. Throughout our tasting I was reminded me of those Friday night dinners at the Lachevres.
So on my ride home from the orchard, a new member of the Foggy Ridge Cider Club with a few bottles in tow, I decided I would make a Breton galette-inspired galette, that I could pair with the cider I'd brought home. I've made this a few times now--for our Southern Friendsgiving, as an appetizer for Christmas dinner, and for a Sunday brunch. Originally I used a buckwheat crust, but it came out a little dry, so have opted for a rye crust in subsequent attempts. This crust is good, but is still a little too crumbly for my taste, so next time I think I'll experiment with adding egg. I'll keep you posted.
Rye crust adapted from 101 Cookbooks
scant 2/3 c. rye flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
1/3 c. dark beer, cold
1 medium-large onion, sliced
1/2 c. ham steak, diced
3/4 c. Gruyere, shredded
1 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tblsp. coarse ground mustard
sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 large egg
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flours and salt. Using a pastry cutter or knife and fork, cut in the butter until it is the texture of cornmeal and peas.
2. Make a well in the center of the butter-flour mixture and pour in the beer. Using a wooden spoon, combine until the dough forms together into a flat ball (you may need to use your hands at the end). Fold the dough over itself and wrap in plastic wrap, then let chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
For filling and assembly:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add 1 Tblsp. olive oil and sliced onions to a cast iron skillet and place over medium heat. Stir to coat onions with olive oil. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Sprinkle onions with salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 25-30 more minutes until onions are caramelized.
2. While the onions are cooking, prepare the rest of the filling. In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and mustard and set aside.
3. After 30 minutes, remove dough from fridge and unwrap. On a floured surface, roll it out into an elongated rectangle. Pick up the bottom of the rectangle, and fold the dough 2/3 of the way up. Now pick up the top third of the dough and fold it over the bottom. Sprinkle more flour over the dough, rotate it 90 degrees, and then do the same folding technique.
4. Roll out the dough into a 10 or 11-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Transfer the parchment and dough to a large cookie sheet.
5. On the bottom of the crust, brush on the mustard-vinegar mixture and spread evenly. Add cheese, ham, and caramelized onions, scattering evenly across the crust, but leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the edge over the top of the filling and seal. Brush olive oil on the crust edges and sprinkle entire tart with sea salt and pepper.
6. Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the filling, leaving the crust exposed (this will keep the filling from browning too quickly/burning). Bake for 35-50 minutes until crust is browned. Remove from oven and cool on a rack while you fry the egg.
7. Heat a pat of butter in a small skillet. Fry egg sunny-side up until white is no longer translucent and edges have crisped. Using a skillet, transfer egg to the tart. Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of hard, dry cider--I recommend Foggy Ridge First Fruit!
For more savory galettes/tarts try: