Perfect French comfort food, with a time-saving American trick.
France may have given us the fancy haute cuisine found at Parisian dining temples like L’Arpège and Pierre Gagnaire. But honestly, I prefer the country’s simple French ham and cheese galette any day, made with earthy buckwheat and topped with a smear of good salted butter and a creamy, sunny-side-up egg. The galette recipe is from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz, a phenomenal and accomplished cook, food writer, and my favorite American in Paris.
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Better Know a Food: Crêpes vs. Galettes
Subtle distinction, but the two are different. In general, “crêpe” describes super thin pancakes made with white flour, most commonly used with sweet fillings like sugar, fruit preserves, or spreadable chocolate. Galettes are larger and made with buckwheat, or sarrasin or blé noir en français, and used for savory meals.
Background on Buckwheat Galettes
The French have a whole different relationship with buckwheat, which tends to be underutilized in the States. Earthy and naturally gluten free (despite having “wheat” in the name), buckwheat flour is made from ground seeds of a type of flowering Eurasian herb.
Buckwheat galettes derive from the Brittany region of Northwest France. At their most authentic, galette batter is made only from buckwheat, water, and salt. No white flour, no eggs, no milk. However, many galette batters these days use a combination of all of the above. I like an egg in the batter, but no flour. White flour takes away from the buckwheat’s deep nutty flavor.
Recipe Notes: French Ham and Cheese Galette Complète
- The three perfect components of a galette complète are ham, egg, and cheese. Many recipes call for Gruyère. This is acceptable, but not ideal. I love an aged Gruyère, but Gruyère is actually Swiss, not French. Better to use a French cousin like Comté. But if you do use Gruyère, I won’t tell.
- The first step is to make the batter, and let it thicken for at least an hour. I let it sit overnight. The next step is to individually cook the galettes in a griddle (more on this in the recipe, below). Once you have a nice stack of galettes, the traditional thing is to lay a galette back on the crêpe pan. Then, place a piece of ham in the center, sprinkle generously with grated cheese, and crack an egg on top. After that, fold the sides up to make a square with the egg peeking from the center. The galette then gets covered for a couple of minutes with a lid to cook.
- Want to save time? If you are making more than one galette at a time — and even if dining alone, you will want more than one — skip the individual pan cooking. Place several galettes on a baking sheet. Fill each galette with ham, cheese, and the egg, fold the sides, and bake them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Voilà. Perfectly done galettes, runny egg and all. This may be heresy in France, but I’m writing this from the States, so I’m ok with it.
French Ham and Cheese Galettes Complètes
For the Galette Batter
- 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1 large egg
For the Galettes Complètes
- 1/2 pound grated Comté cheese (Emmental or Gruyère are good, too)
- 1/2 pound good deli ham, sliced thin
- 6 eggs
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- flaky sea salt and fresh-cracked pepper, to serve
For the Galette Batter
- Whisk together the buckwheat flour, salt, water, and egg. Cover and let let sit in the fridge for at least one hour, or overnight.
- Whisk the galette batter and make sure that it has thickened to the consistency of heavy cream.
- Heat a 10" crêpe pan, cast-iron pan, or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Use a bunched paper towel to spread some melted butter to evenly coat the pan. Add a generous 1/4 cup of galette batter and quickly spread it to make an even circle about 8' to 9" wide.
- When the galette looks dry on top and the edges begin to curl slightly (about one minute), use an offset spatula or any thin, long spatula to turn the galette. Continue to cook for another 30 seconds, then slide it onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan each time. Keep stacking the galettes on the plate. If the pan seems like it is getting too hot, lower the heat a bit.The galettes can be refrigerated, covered, for up to two days.
For the Galette Complète
- Step 1, The French Way: Heat the skillet over medium heat and place a cooked galette in the center. Lay a slice of ham in the center, then sprinkle with cheese. Crack an egg in the center, using a fork or spatula to spread the white out. Step 1, The Unpeeled Shortcut Way: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Divide the galettes onto one of two sheet pans. Lay a slice of ham in the center, then sprinkle with cheese. Crack an egg in the center, using a fork or spatula to spread the white out. Fold the edges in to make a square.
- Step 2, The French Way: Fold the edges of the galette in to make a square. Place a lid over the galette and let cook until the white sets and the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes. Step 2, The Unpeeled Shortcut Way: Bake the galettes in the 375° oven for 15 minutes, until the eggs are set but runny, and the cheese is melted.
- Use a spatula to slide a galette onto a plate. Repeat. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. Serve immediately, perhaps with a little salad.