#14 : Carrot-Harissa Galette
("I went to school with her.")
Harissa is a Moroccan hot chili pepper paste, made with peppers and spices such as cumin and coriander. I'm not sure when (or why) this started, but once we started cooking with harissa and Jeff mentioned harissa vinaigrette, I replied, "I went to school with her." The joke stuck (no, I really did not go to school with anyone named Harissa Vinaigrette) and the very mention of anything harissa brings the quote out. Is it actually funny, or just amusing to us? Doesn't matter; we'll likely be saying it to our graves. You can make it or buy it, usually in the condiments area near the meat section at the store, in paste or powder form. This harissa paste, Charissa, is made locally on the East End of Long Island.
We are big fans of The Great British Baking Show and I often look for cookbooks by the GBBS contestants at the library. I discovered A Good Day to Bake by 2016 quarter- finalist Benjamina Ebuehi, with some recipes that sound fabulous and a few that are little out there. I decided it would be fun to try her Roasted Carrot and Harissa Galette ("I went to school with Harissa Galette") - this recipe made Jeff a little nervous.
We'd been talking about how it was probably time to feature another savory tart suitable for lunch or dinner (or, what the heck, even brunch) and I'd bought a bunch of rainbow carrots a while back just for this galette. (A galette is simply a fancy French term for a rustic tart with just a bottom crust. It's as delicious as pie, but easier!)
The recipe, found here, is very simple. First, you peel and slice the carrots before roasting them. The recipe called for slicing them lengthwise, either in half or in quarters for the larger carrots; they still seemed quite long so I also chopped most of them in half horizontally, coating them in the harissa with honey and a little salt, and then popped them in the oven.
Why bother with mascarpone?
I had a pie crust all ready to go in the fridge...these days I usually make more pie dough immediately after finishing a pie - it comes in handy to have dough ready for the next pie when you're working your way up to sixty. (Pie dough gets a little brown and stiff if left in the fridge too long - you can also freeze it and thaw it before using...somehow the dough never seems to stick around too long in our refrigerator.) This recipe calls for a thin layer of mascarpone on the rolled-out crust. We didn't have any, and I forgot to take out some cream cheese to warm to room temperature. (Is it me, or do mascarpone and cream cheese taste exactly the same, making it silly to spend extra money on "Italian mascarpone" when cream cheese will do just fine? Let me know if I'm wrong....my Italian friends are probably shuddering right about now at this heresy.) I decided to just use crème frâiche...which we always have on hand. (On a trip to France we learned that adding crème frâiche to just about anything makes it so much better.)
I know it's not a pie, but Jeff was making scallion pancakes for an appetizer while I was working on this. They used to be my favorite things to get at the Chinese restaurant after rehearsing a show, but Jeff's homemade scallion pancakes (recipe found here if you're interested) have spoiled me for life and I'll probably never get them at the Chinese takeout again...I'll just buy extra scallions and let Jeff know we have them - he usually doesn't need too much convincing.
Jeff has given me the permanent title of 'Scallion Chopper' as I chop them extra fine. So good...so tasty...and that wonderful crispiness that no takeout can duplicate!
Oh...where was I? Oh, yes, back to the galette filling...
The carrots are then layered on top of the mascarpone/cream cheese/crème frâiche layer and the edges folded over and brushed gently with an egg wash. Sprinkle with parmesan and then back into the oven!
If you have a pizza stone, baking a pie crust on the baking sheet on top of the stone helps make it extra crispy. This crust was beautifully baked. Dinner time!
The Verdict: "18-Karat" (ha ha) or "What were you thinking?"
This was sensational. Jeff suggested maybe goat cheese instead of the crème frâiche to make it a little less rich; I had no problem with the extra richness. Also, I might roast the carrots a little less as many of them lost their vivid color. But all in all, a success, and something I would happily make again. (I think Jeff would happily eat it again, too.)
Since we'd also had scallion pancakes, we only ate half of this galette for dinner, which was nice as it made a delightful lunch today.