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Country cooking with Chef Kirby

Some thing’s cooking just about all the time in Dunster House, where Mark W. Kirby ’03 and Stephanie A. Stuart ’02 lead the Dunster Culinary Team in whipping up tasty treats for bi-monthly Dunster Open Houses. The rotating cast of 30 students is given free rein by House Masters Roger and Ann Porter, and the menu changes with the seasons. Favorite recipes prevail, though, including Kirby’s Red Onion Galette, which originated on the pages of the Deep Springs College Cookbook. Deep Springs is an extremely small, two-year, all-male liberal arts college in the California dessert that Kirby attended before coming to Harvard. With a fresh garden and a panopoly of farm animals, the school is the ideal breeding ground for a fresh-foods cook.

Kirby reflects on the autumn day when he first tasted the galette: “The college had just acquired a few goats and we were experimenting with making our own chevre [goat cheese]. Tom, the college chef, believed in using ingredients from the farm in elegant ways—on that fall day, we enjoyed stately, multi-folded galettes made with our goat’s chevre, our chickens’ eggs, our heifers’ butter and our garden’s red onions. Essentially free-form pies, the gallettes come out of the oven like sunflowers with purple, caramelized onion centers and golden, buttery crust petals. I’ve gained a newfound appreciation of the galette by baking it as part of the team, watching nostalgically as the Dunster community enjoys a taste from my past.”

Chef Kirby's Red Onion Galette

Makes 2 pies; serves 8-12

Crust Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

3/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. sugar

14 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled

1/4-1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, as cold as possible

Filling Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

8 medium red onions, sliced as thinly as possible, against the grain

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. blackcurrant liqueur (crème de cassis) or sherry vinegar

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar (less if using sherry vinegar)

1 lb. fresh chevre, softened

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 egg, separated

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the pie crusts. Divide the dough into two balls and place in the refrigerator. Melt the butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pile in the onions with 1 1/2 tsp. salt, stirring as the onions cook down. Carmelize onions, cooking them until they are completely soft, darkened in color, and sweet. Season with the crème de cassis, vinegar, salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Beat the eggs into the chevre, then beat in the salt, nutmeg, and pepper.

Roll out one of the crusts into a circle and place on a flour-dusted cookie sheet. Brush the top surface of the dough with egg white. Fold in the rough edges to make a uniformly smooth edge around the circle. Spread half the chevre mixture evenly in the center, leaving 3-4 inches of dough around the edge. Spread half the onions evenly over the chevre. Fold the crust over the filling in six even folds, tucking the final fold under the first, to make a roughly symmetrical, hexagon-shaped galette. A small window of onion will show in the center. Repeat with the second round of dough.

Dilute the egg yolk with 2 tbsp. water and brush the tops of the galettes. Bake, turning the sheet once of twice, for about 40 minutes to an hour—the crust should be golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes and serve hot.

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