Just over a year ago, I was talking to Stéphane at Zen Can Cook via email apropos this post, in which he and fellow bloggers Claire (Colloquial Cooking) and Marc (No Recipes) smoked homemade knackwurst to make the Alsatian classic choucroute garnie from scratch. In this email I lamented the fact that, although I know lots of folks who like to cook, I didn’t know anyone who was nearly as enthusiastic and dedicated as this, and expressed my envy that he had this crew of people with whom to embark upon these types of challenging cooking “projects”.
Fast-forward one year and I’m happy to report that through the miracle of Twitter, I have stumbled on a group of folks here in Detroit who may well be just as nutty (and I mean that in the best possible way) for DIY food as Stéphane’s New York pals. Detroit is really not that big a town, and these are all people who were only one degree of separation away from me in the first place, but Twitter facilitated the discovery that we had these common interests, and got us chatting on a regular basis.
We decided it would behoove our palates to take our Twitter friendships a step further, so this past Friday I got an invitation to attend a “meeting” that evening. I knew there would be gustatory hedonism involved, but little did I know the extent to which these guys are committed to their food and drink- after getting the tour of our host James‘s house, I felt like a rank amateur! This is a guy who, in addition to several casks of homemade wine in his basement, has a few choice hunks of pork casually hanging from the rafters to cure, no big deal.
As well as being hardcore food aficionados, these guys are also serious about their beverages: Todd and Evan co-author the blog Swigs, and Todd brews his own beer and kombucha. James, in addition to being an all-around connoisseur of wine and spirits, is the coffee roaster at Great Lakes Coffee. Jarred is a wine buyer at Western Market in Ferndale (where, incidentally, he is pushing to get more local, healthy and affordable choices on the shelves).
Due to the last-minute nature of this meeting, I just ended up bringing what I’d planned to make for dinner that night: buckwheat galettes (i.e. savory crêpes) with a ham/leek/crème fraîche filling. I had some extra Swiss chard to use up so I also made a little chard/shallot/ham filling. I whizzed up the batter in the blender, brought it with the fillings and my crêpe pan, and cooked them sûr place.
I’m already planning ahead for the next get-together so that even if it’s a last-minute affair I can be prepared with something semi-impressive. Not that anyone is competitive per se; it wasn’t that kind of vibe. But I actually enjoy feeling an element of challenge and upping the ante- it’s an excuse to try something that goes above and beyond my usual repertoire. In spite of their humble simplicity, I think my galettes were well-received though. In fact, I already got a request for the recipe, so let me oblige:
For another take on galettes, see this post, in which my French friend Youn gives his recipe!
Buckwheat Galettes with Ham & Leeks (Galettes Bretonnes au Sarrasin, Jambon & Poireaux)
For the galettes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 cups milk
½ cup apple cider vinegar (see notes)
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs melted butter, cooled
additional butter to grease the pan
For the filling:
3 large leeks
6 oz good quality ham steak, diced small (feel free to substitute lardons or pancetta)
2-3 Tbs heavy cream or crème fraîche
a knob of butter (about 1 Tbs)
a few grinds of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
If your buckwheat flour is very dark or if you prefer a milder taste, you can use a higher ratio of white flour, such as 1 1/3 cups white & 2/3 cup buckwheat. Cider vinegar is a traditional Breton twist and will give your galettes a tangy flavor that nicely offsets the ham and cream. Again, you can play with the proportions, using more or less vinegar (or none at all) according to your taste (if omitting, make up the difference with more milk or water). For fillings, the sky’s the limit- I often use up whatever bits of meat or veg I have in the fridge to create different fillings (as you can see in the photos, I added some leftover asparagus to these). Ham and eggs are probably the most popular filling for galettes in France (speaking of eggs, the leek & ham filling is delicious in an omelette if you happen to have any left over). This is a great make-ahead dish because the batter actually improves as it sits; I love to keep it on hand for quick weeknight dinners.
Make the batter: Put the flours and salt in a blender and pulse a few times to combine. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the milk and butter; with the blender running, pour this mixture into the flour. Add the vinegar if using (putting the vinegar in separately will keep it from curdling the milk) and pulse until blended, scraping down the sides if necessary. Check the batter and add more milk, water or vinegar until your batter reaches the consistency of light cream. Transfer to a bowl and put in the refrigerator to rest, covered, for at least 2 hours.
Make the filling: Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and slice into thin half-circles. Place in a bowl of cold water, swishing them around to free any dirt. After the grit settles, lift the leeks gently out of the water and place in a colander to drain. Melt the butter in a 10 or 12″ skillet over medium heat. If using lardons or pancetta, fry them for a couple of minutes (use less butter or even skip it) until they render a bit of their fat, then add the leeks. If using ham, cook the leeks in the butter until soft, then add the ham to warm it through. When the leeks are cooked, add the cream, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste (I like to use white pepper for this).
Make the galettes: Warm your crêpe pan or griddle over medium heat until very hot. Smear a bit of butter onto a paper towel and rub it on the pan. Test the heat with a few drops of batter; they should set immediately. Give the batter a couple stirs in case it has started to separate. Wipe the pan clean with the paper towel wad, and then rub it again with butter. Ladle batter onto the center of the hot pan (quantity will depend on your pan’s size), lifting the pan off the heat a few inches and quickly rotating the pan so it is thinly and completely covered. If there is excess batter (i.e. batter that does not instantly set), pour it back into the bowl. Cook the galette until lightly browned on the bottom- about 30 to 60 seconds. Peel it off the griddle and flip it to color the other side. You want it to color, but not cook so much that it becomes crispy. If making several at a time, transfer it to a plate and cover loosely with a tea towel.
If the first galette seems heavy, thin the batter with a little milk or water. Continue to cook the galettes, re-greasing the pan if needed to prevent sticking. Pile the finished galettes on the plate to keep warm. When ready to assemble, spread a few generous spoonfuls of hot filling in the center of each galette and fold each side in towards the middle to form a square or rectangular packet (in the photos I did them in omelette shapes to accommodate the asparagus; you can also fold it in quarters for a triangular “cone” shape). Serve immediately with a simple green salad.