Monday, December 19, 2011

Making do

Caramelized onion and bacon galette
I don't tend to do much cooking when I'm away from home. People seem happy enough to feed me, and I'm a bit particular about where I cook anyway. I'll cook in someone else's kitchen if need be, of course, happily even, but that doesn't mean I won't chide you if your knives are dull or if you don't have any graduated measuring cups. I don't mind improvising, but I don't like surprises. So I tend to leave the cooking to others when I'm only visiting. I hope that's not too prima-donna-ish of me.
I make exceptions, of course, like this caramelized onion and bacon galette. I wasn't going to bother bringing anything to dinner with the extended family this past weekend. My grandmother was taking care of all the important things--the turkey, the stuffing, the pies---and I had been wrapped up in a blanket in front of the TV with a terrible cold for most of the week anyway. But by Saturday morning, I had pretty well recovered, and there were those onions and that bacon to consider--a little something from the very last issue of Gourmet that I'd rediscovered while convalescing.
My thoughts that morning, maybe still somewhat cold-addled, went something like this: a small mountain of onions cooked down until sweet, dark, and jammy! With bacon! And butter! Now, there's a reason to get out of bed! So I got out from under my heap of blankets, made some tea, and nudged my boyfriend toward that mountain of onions that would need chopping.
Now, the recipe as printed is actually for a Zwiebelkuchen, a sort of onion pie of German provenance, traditionally flavoured with bacon and caraway and bundled up in a yeasted crust. But I couldn't quite convince myself to proceed that way. My cold-addled daydreams of onion pie involved buttery, flaky pastry. Nothing less would do. It would happen--with or without a proper pastry blender. So, I turned to an old favourite, a butter-flecked galette dough, and didn't look back.
It paid off. The galette came together like a dream--the jammy onions made lush with sour cream and bacon drippings and baked bubbly and dark, the smoky, salty bacon to balance, all of it nestled in puffed and golden pastry. Not bad at all for having had to make do, I have to say (there were neither graduated measuring cups nor a pastry blender to be found anywhere at my parents' place).

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Galette
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009 and Smitten Kitchen
Note: Extra filling. I had about a 1/4 cup or so of onion filling leftover that the pastry couldn't quite handle. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I eyed my 12 inches and didn't quite make a proper circle out of the dough. With more care, you might be able to get all of the filling in. If you can't manage it, not to worry. Just scoop the remaining filling into a ramekin and bake it alongside the galette. A few bites that you can set aside just for you. Caraway seeds. In keeping with the Zwiebelkuchen tradition, I think I might add at least a teaspoon of whole caraway seeds to the onions as they cook the next time I make this. I can see the caraway playing well with sweetness of the onions.

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg white + 1 teaspoon water

For the filling:
1/4 pound bacon, finely chopped
3 1/2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks
Sea salt
Black pepper

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven until crisp. Then, add the onions, butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper to the pot. Give the onions a good stir to coat them evenly in bacon drippings and butter. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, 15-20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply golden, another 20-30 minutes. Let cool. Whisk together the sour cream and egg yolks and then stir them into the onion mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round. Lay the dough in the center of a half-sheet and spread the onion mixture over it in an even layer, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border all the way around. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling. Whisk together the egg white and water to make an egg wash. Brush an even layer over the dough. Bake the galette until the crust is golden brown and the filling is dark and bubbly, about 50-60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. I'm really similar, I can't stand to really try to impress people in a kitchen that's not mine with tools (or lack of) that I'm not familiar with. Glad you decided to make something anyway! This looks great, by the way. And great great job of describing it--good gosh you made me hungry just reading about it!

  2. Thanks, Amy. I'm glad you understand. I love the holidays, but the one thing I really miss is cooking. I'm always a visitor somewhere, so I don't tend to do much.
    You should give the galette a try. The onions take a while to cook, but the wait is well worth it. I polished off the extra filling today, and now that my nose wasn't all stuffed up, amaaaazing.

  3. goodness this looks stunning, the pastry looks perfect... all golden and flaky.
    i can't believe i still haven't tried making my own pastry yet, it scares me a little, and i would feel so disappointed if it didn't look as lovely as yours.
    i hope you fully recover from your cold before christmas!

  4. Zoe, pastry isn't all that hard to get right. It just takes a little bit of practice. I think that the three most important things are (1) keeping the butter cold--throw everything in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes if you think things are getting too warm, (2) cutting the butter into the flour so that you get the right consistency--you don't want lumps of butter left in the flour but more of a crumbly meal, tiny nubs of butter scattered throughout, and (3) getting the liquid right (not too much of a worry with this dough--but generally speaking, enough liquid so that everything holds together but not so much as to make the dough tough). As far as pastry dough goes, this one is pretty forgiving. It's a little soft because of the sour cream and might tear on you a little, but it's great otherwise. You should give it a try, but in a pinch, puff pastry from the freezer aisle will stand in just fine for this galette dough, I think.

  5. You had me at the photo. Wow. Gorgeous recipe Katie.

  6. Thanks, Oana. It is. I will definitely be making it again soon. I can think of a few friends who will appreciate it.