Bouffe: Spring Vegetable Buckwheat Galettes


Besides berets and baguettes, there’s nothing more French than a savory galette. These buckwheat crêpes originated in Brittany, in northwest France. (And they’re not to be confused with the other kind of French galette, the thick frangipane tart known as the galette des rois.) There’s a rumor that crêpes were the result of a happy accident back in the 13th century when a Brittany housewife spilled a little buckwheat porridge on a hot surface, went with it, and said, c’est bon, ça! Whatever the origin, crêpes are now so entrenched in French cuisine, it’s hard to imagine a French street without a crêperie or two.

Luckily for those of us who don’t live near a single crêperie, crêpes are almost as easy to make as they are to eat. It’s a matter of nailing a couple of basic techniques, and before you know it, you have a stack ready to fill, fold, fry, and serve.

One classic way to eat a buckwheat galette is with ham and cheese and a fried egg, folded into an open square. But the other day, I found myself hankering for crêpes with another classic, spinach and mushroom filling. It was a beautiful, cool, breezy day of sunshine and blossoms and birdsong: perfect for a light but filling supper of hearty galettes filled with savory greens and cheese.

Vegetable Buckwheat Galette Recipe

Luckily, my craving came early in the day, because it’s crucial to let the batter rest for a few hours, ideally overnight. So at noon, I measured buckwheat flour and lukewarm water into the blender, cracked an egg, threw in a little salt, whizzed out all the lumps, and stuck it into the fridge.

At five thirty, about an hour before dinnertime, I took the batter out to let it come up to room temperature while I made the filling. I grated a heap of cheese and prepped the shallots and mushrooms and heated olive oil in a cocotte

While the vegetable mixture simmered, I assembled my crêpe-making tools: a small dish of butter and a silicone brush, a flat cast-iron skillet and a good broad spatula, a 1/3-cup measure, and a round cake board to stack them on. 

To make sure the pan was hot enough before I made the first crêpe, I flicked a drop of water at the pan. When it sizzled, the pan was ready. I threw in a fingertip-sized nub of butter, spread it sizzling with a silicone brush, and then swirled in 1/3 cup of batter. To do this, hold the handle of the pan in your dominant hand, and pour with your other hand. As you pour, turn the pan so the batter flows around into a roundish shape. Buckwheat crêpes are thicker than wheat flour crêpes, so don’t worry about trying to get it too thin. It will find its level. 

Cook it on medium heat, as you would a pancake, a minute or two to brown on each side, and start a stack. When one comes off the pan, throw in a little more butter, and then make another one. Adjust the heat if it’s smoking, burning, or not cooking fast enough.

Famously, the first crêpe is a throwaway. I have no doubt that this is a beloved and well-worn joke among younger siblings all over the French culinary world. As a firstborn, I always try to make the first crêpe stick, but it’s something of a losing battle. So the first crêpe is the pan tester, and for those of us who hate to waste food, it is an imperfect treat to be eaten hot and plain with your fingers while you make the second one.

The following recipe makes about 20 crêpes; the average person can eat two or three at a time, so there’s enough to feed a crowd. Or you can make as many as you need and use the rest of the batter the next day. Once you have your stack made, wipe the skillet clean, melt a little more butter, and spread it. Lay a crêpe into the pan, spread a tablespoon or two of grated cheese on half of it, spoon some of the vegetable filling on top of the cheese, and sprinkle more cheese on top of that. Fold the crêpe in half.

Repeat with another crêpe so you have two going at once. When the cheese on the bottom has melted, flip each crêpe and let the other side get crisp. Serve right away, garnished with minced chives and more grated cheese if you like. 

Galettes go beautifully with a salad of fresh spring lettuce and radishes with a mustard vinaigrette. And a bottle of cold rosé!

Buckwheat galette batter

Buckwheat Crêpe Batter

2 1/4 cups buckwheat flour

3 cups lukewarm water

1 egg

½ tsp. salt

Put all ingredients into a blender, blend on high for 30 seconds, scrape the sides with a spatula, and blend for a few more seconds. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours or overnight. When it’s time to cook the crêpes, add more water if it’s too thick: it should have the consistency of melted ice cream.

Spinach and mushroom filling in a Dutch oven

Spinach-Mushroom Filling

3 T olive oil 

3 large shallots, minced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

15 button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 lb. baby spinach

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1 T dried oregano

1 tsp. each salt and pepper

1/2 cup milk or cream

1 lb. grated cheese, any kind you like

In a cocotte or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, add the shallots, and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms. When they started to brown, add the oregano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir well. Add the spinach and cover, stirring occasionally, until it wilts. Add the milk and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Spinach mushroom galette
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