Potato Galettes (Galettes de Pommes de Terre)

July 15, 2010

My mouth is a happy place.
~Pat Conroy

Galettes are flat, round, rather freeform traditional French cakes. They may be savory or sweet, and are crafted from pastry, cereals, potatoes, nuts, etc. Galettes vary regionally, so those from Bretagne will differ from those in Lyon or Franche-Comté, and there are even some cakes made for special occasions such as the Galette des Rois eaten on the holiday of Epiphany.

Crispy potato galettes are savory potato cakes which can be simply made as below, but they also lend themselves to fecund imaginations. Sometimes they are grated and other times sliced; sometimes they are skillet sautéed and other times oven-roasted. Mix it up with personal zeal—add differing herbs (rosemary, tarragon, herbes de provence), eggs, ham, sausages, onions, leeks, shallots, mushrooms, and cheeses (gruyère, emmental, chèvre, parmigiano-reggiano and friends), just to name a few. Try topping with seared scallops, salmon, duck and drizzle with their luscious pan juices.

Creative minglings can be exalting to body and soul…even epiphanic.

POTATO GALETTES

3 large (but not oversized) russet potatoes
2 t chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black and/or white pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T unsalted butter

In a heavy pot, steam or boil the potatoes until almost but just not cooked. They should be slightly underdone so a paring knife or sharp fork should just piece the potatoes. But, the core of the potatoes should not be raw.

Let thoroughly cool in the refrigerator before grating. Then, peel the chilled potatoes and hand grate into a large bowl. Combine and toss the grated potatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper.

In a heavy large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium high heat. Reduce to medium heat and carefully form the potatoes into rounds and slip into the pan, pressing the them down gently with a flat spatula. Cook until the bottoms brown and become crusty, and the galette pulls away from the skillet. If the heat is too high, the potatoes will not cook in the middle, and if too low, the potatoes will stick to the pan.

Using a wide spatula, flip the galette. Cook until golden brown on the second side.

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