Some days when I stroll through the farmers market in spring, what I desire is to eat all those fresh vegetables in their purest and cleanest form, as if I'd just plucked them straight from the ground. I want the taste of new shoots and green life. And then sometimes I want to melt those green vegetables until tender, fold them with cheese, and wrap it all in a silky sheet that's half-made from butter. In short, vegetables luxuriating in a bath of fat, cradled in more delicious fat. That's called a galette, FYI.
Kidding. Galettes are free-form pies, and while they can be sweet like fruit pies, they can also be savory. Decadence should know no bounds.
Here's how to make them, plus two recipes, one starring broccoli, the other starring asparagus and leeks, both starring cheese. And both starring buttery, flaky pastry.
Choose Your Vegetables, Then Cook Them
A vegetable galette isn't just for spring—they can be made at any time of year. You just need to think about what you want in the galette, and how you want to handle it. In the two recipes I'm sharing here (see links at the top of this article), I'm using asparagus and broccoli as the featured players, rounding them out with leeks (for the asparagus) and onions (for the broccoli). For some extra meatiness and earthiness, I also worked mushrooms into the asparagus one.
But you could use leafy greens, or tomatoes, or various summer or winter squashes, or corn, or eggplant, or potatoes even. There's hardly anything that won't work, as long as you handle the combination with a little forethought. There are two things in particular you want to think about: the texture and water content of the vegetables.
Unlike sweet fruits such as peaches and apples, many vegetables, if packed raw into a galette, will never tenderize sufficiently in the time it takes to bake the crust. Others, like tomatoes, will dump their juices, threatening to turn the filling into soupy slop. With fruit galettes and pies, starches are added to thicken those juices, but I can't think of too many cases where a savory, starch-thickened vegetable sludge sounds appealing.
The solution in most cases is to pre-cook the filling, eliminating excess liquid, tenderizing the vegetables, and concentrating their flavor. Tomatoes can be roasted in the oven, leafy greens can be cooked down spanakopita-style, and winter squash can be roasted until browned and softened.
Exactly what form your vegetables take is also up to you. You could leave them in beautiful big pieces, or chop them smaller, or go for a more purée-like texture. You could also do a mix, possibly even keeping some components separate and then layering them into the galette during assembly.
For my asparagus galette, I sautéed the mushrooms first to brown them, then added asparagus-stalk segments and cooked it all together until tender; I reserved the asparagus tips, adding them raw on top of the filling, since they cook through more quickly, and make for a more beautiful presentation when they're not hidden in the depths of the filling. At the same time, I melted diced leeks until very soft and silky, then mixed them with the asparagus and mushrooms.
For the broccoli galette, I sautéed the florets until they were beginning to soften, then mixed in sliced onions, and continued cooking until the onions were wilted and everything was beginning to turn golden.
Any spices, herbs, or other flavorings you'd like to add can go into the mix at this stage.
Enrich the Filling (Preferably With Cheese)
Now, you don't have to add a megadose of dairy to make a good vegetable galette. You could leave the vegetables as they are for a presentation that lets the greens speak for themselves. I support this. But I also support embracing the inherent richness of a pastry-wrapped pie and running with it. I'm not terribly creative with this kind of thing, so extra richness to me more or less equals cheese.
For the asparagus galette, I folded grated fontina into the filling. You could use many other good melters, such as Gruyère, Jack, or mozzarella, or a cheese like feta that will keeps its shape and add a briny punch.
For my broccoli version, I took inspiration from broccoli with cheese sauce, making a Gruyere-spiked béchamel sauce (more succinctly known as Mornay sauce) and drizzling it into the vegetables.
Make Sure You Have Some Killer Pastry (We Do)
Once your filling is ready, it's time to assemble the galette. But first you need a crust! We've got you covered there. Stella's old fashioned pie crust is one of the best I've ever had, and because it has a minimal amount of sugar in it, it works just swell in a savory setting like this.
Assemble and Bake
To assemble a galette, pile the filling onto a 14-inch round of the pie dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a two-inch border all around.
Cut slits into that ring of dough every five inches or so. Fold each flap of dough up and over the filling, making sure each successive flap makes a good seal with the one before it. By the time you've gone all the way around, you should have a nice rim of dough hugging and exposed center of filling.
Brush the pastry with an egg wash for a glossy look, then bake in a 400°F oven until the pastry is golden and flaky and the filling is hot and bubbling. For my broccoli one, I sprinkled more cheese all over the crust midway through baking, to create a crackly, frico-like crunch.
You may never go back to the sweet versions again.