My New Best Friend

I have a new friend I'd like you to meet. I've never had a friend like her before – she's fast and easy. So I was skeptical when my parents, of all people, insisted I would like her.

I don't like her, I love her. Readers meet Miss Cuisinart.

She is now my new best friend. Pie crusts are a snap thanks to her. She's also really neat; I no longer have to suffer sticky fingers and counter tops; she keeps everything to herself.

In full disclosure, our relationship was a bit bumpy at first. I wasn't sure when her dough needed more water or was ready to come out, and she wasn't forthright with me. So last time my mom visited, she conducted an intervention between Miss C. and me. Mom gave me suggestions such as how much water to add and how much to pulse. She did not give Miss C. any suggestions though; I guess I was the source of all our problems.

After that, Miss C. and I made pate brisee, a French buttery crust that is wonderful for pies and tarts. We also made a basic sweet pie crust for strawberry pie (coming soon). I was so elated at this turn of events, I would have kept making more crusts, but how many pies can two people eat?

Though Miss C. and I are tight now, I still won't invite her over when I make homemade pizza dough. Pizza dough is always made by hand; I'm just old school that way.

If you're looking for a new friend to hang out with in the kitchen, Miss C. has lots of sisters; you can find them at the Cuisinart site. So go ahead and splurge. OK, maybe not on the $800 one, (we are in a recession after all) but perhaps on the $150 or $200 model. She'll be one of the most reliable friends you've ever had.

My pate brisee (from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook) is the basis of this savory galette. A galette, which I like to call the "Lazy Susan's Pie," is an open-faced, free form pie that can be filled with savory or sweet fillings. Think of galettes as low maintenance pies-- they don't have to look perfect; a few little cracks are "rustic."

I made a savory filling of hot Italian sausage, crisp fresh fennel, salty sun-dried tomatoes, and rich smoked mozzarella. Though the aroma will entice you to eat two or three pieces, I'd suggest just one; the crust is rich, and buttery, and the filling is, well, filling. Serve it as an appetizer or with a simple side salad of arugula and cherry tomatoes for a dinner.

Savory Sausage and Fennel Galette
Serves 6-8

Pate Brisee:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/8 cup ice water, plus more if needed

(from Food Blogga)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 pound hot fennel sausage, removed from the casing
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
6 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in oil, patted dry and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary

1 egg, lightly beaten, and 1/2 teaspoon water for egg wash

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until mixture coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. (To mix by hand, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry blender.)

With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a a slow, steady stream, just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Test by squeezing a small amount of the dough together; if it is still too crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into flattened disks. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.)

To make the filling, warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sausage, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add sliced fennel and sugar, and continue sauteing until sausage is cooked through and vegetables are lightly browned, another 3-4 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in smoked mozzarella and fresh herbs, until well combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer dough to a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Arrange filling on top of dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold the border over the filling, overlapping where necessary and pressing gently to adhere the folds.

Brush dough with egg wash. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the filing is crispy. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool the galette. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(The second piece of dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.)
Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of two upcoming books that will be published in the fall of 2010.