My grandmother taught me to love the kitchen. I remember making jam with her and being by her side while she baked. She did not teach me everything she knew, unfortunately. I have heard stories from my mom about lovely meals she served to her friends and family on holidays. By the time I was born, her French cooking did not make an appearance as often, and we were more likely to have fish sticks (thanks, Matt) for dinner than a fancy concoction.
That doesn’t mean she taught me nothing. She taught me that cooking takes patience. You have to know your recipe, but be creative as well. These are lessons that I will always remember when I cook.
I have two cookbooks that belonged to Nana, my grandmother. Of course as good cook of the 1980’s, she owned a copy of Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet. I haven’t delved into the recipes of this book much, but I cherish it for the recipes written on the inside covers. There are only four, but I love them. I don’t know where she got them, whether they’re her own, and I don’t care. They’re a part of her that I still have.
OK. The point of this is that Nana made the best pies, and it was all because of her crusts. Lucky me, she inscribed her “Best Ever Pastry” recipe inside the back cover of The Frugal Gourmet. Anytime I need a good pastry crust, I make hers. The reason her pastry is so delicious is that it uses Crisco, or vegetable shortening. The 100% fat content, while not good for your heart, creates a flaky and tender crust that can’t go wrong.
I had to use her recipe for my galette tonight!
Nana’s “Best Ever Pastry” Crust
(makes enough for two crusts – divide in two and freeze and save the rest!)
3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. Crisco (vegetable shortening)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white vinegar
5 tbsp. milk (she specifies whole, but who drinks that anymore?)
With a pastry cutter, combine the flour, Crisco, and salt until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, white vinegar and milk. Add the liquids to the flour/Crisco mixture and blend until just combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
When ready, divide the dough in half. Wrap one half again in plastic wrap and freeze for later. Roll the other half out on a floured surface (I rolled mine on a piece of parchment paper, which works, too) until it is in a 12″ round. Poke small holes in the dough with a fork 6 or 7 times. Follow instructions below for the galette.
Heirloom Tomato Galette with Broccolini
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 c. broccolini tops, coarsely chopped and blanched
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, torn
2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. parmesan
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 egg white, beaten
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your pastry dough on the baking sheet (if a bit of the pastry edges fall over the sides of the baking sheet, it’s OK).
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Mix until smooth. Spoon the ricotta mixture onto the center of the pastry dough. Spread until even, not going any closer to the edge of the pastry than 1 1/2 inches. Arrange the tomatoes on the ricotta, then sprinkle the blanched broccolini and basil leaves over the top.
Carefully fold the edges of the pastry in toward the center, folding 2 inch sections at a time. If the pastry tears, carefully mold it back together.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush the beaten egg white over the pastry. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes. The galette is done when the crust is flaky and golden brown.