Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tourte Milanese

I asked my friend Gigliola who comes from near Milan if she had ever heard of Tourte Milanese (or Torta Milanese) and she began to describe a sort of sweet Christmas fruitcake with vanilla sauce so I'm pretty sure this pie is not Milanese but a French invention. I've been meaning to make this savory pie for years now because the photo of it in the cookbook was so stunning, but I never got around to it because 1. it takes a lot of advance preparation and 2. the homemade puff pastry dough is such a monumental chore that I only do it once a year for Gabriel's birthday Napoleon cake. The recipe comes from French chef, Michel Richard in the "Baking With Julia" cookbook. Once I decided that a good, homemade pate brisee (pie crust) would fit this pie just fine, it came together right away. The advance preparation is 90% of the job. You have to have the pate brisee; 2 fritatta-style disk-shaped omelets cooked and cooled; roasted, peeled and seeded red bell peppers and washed and boiled spinach. Once that is done, all you do is assemble and bake. The dish takes time but the looks and the flavor are really outstanding. This would impress any Sunday lunch guest (even though this version is really different from, simpler than, the original.) Here's the dish:

2 10-inch pastry shells (see recipe here and omit sugar called for)

for omelets:
10 large eggs
1 tablespoon of fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons of olive oil

2 large red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 lb spinach, washed and wilted**
8 ounces provolone cheese, sliced thin
8 ounces cooked deli ham sliced thin

1 beaten egg for egg wash

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Roll out the pastry dough into 2 circles, one larger for the bottom and the other smaller for the top. Line a deep pie tin with the bottom layer. Press the dough into the edges. Begin filling it with 1 of the omelets, then half the spinach, half the cheese, half the ham, all the red peppers, and then continue in the reverse order with the other half of the ham, the cheese, the spinach and the omelet. Make sure that everything is as flat and even as possible. Top the pie with the smaller pastry shell then pinch and fold the bottom and top shell edges together making a decorative design. Cut holes in the top crust to let out steam. You can do the traditional one dime-sized hole in the middle or any other design you like. Finally, brush on the egg wash with a pastry brush (this will give the baked pie a shiny-brown finish) and place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn pie halfway through cooking to ensure even browning. Let pie cool for several hours until it is just warm or room temperature. Slice and serve.

**To wilt spinach: wash it well, drain it and place it in a large frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Salt the spinach to taste and stir turning the wilted bottom leaves over and on top of the raw upper leaves. The water that clings to the leaves after draining will be enough to wilt it. Music to wilt spinach by: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes "Are a Drag" Their punk-rock formula covers of Broadway musical hits will either have you singing to the rafters or laughing your head off. Either way, they're a lot of fun.


Blogger hellomelissa said...

oh, susan, it looks like a masterpiece! i can only imagine the work it must have taken. loads more work than the bowl of cinnamon toast crunch cereal that i ate for dinner.

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

VERY impressive looking, indeed! Yum!


2:19 AM  
Blogger Lotus Reads said...

You are quite amazing Susan and very inspiring, too. I always leave your blog full of good intentions to cook slightly more elaborate and wholesome meals for my kids. Thanks!

1:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It looks delicious!

5:04 PM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...

did you say savory and pie in the same sentence? i'm ON it.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Everybody, Thank you so much for the compliments! I feels great. You know this dish would be a lot qicker and easier if you got a ready-made pie crust, thawed frozen spinach and prepared roasted red peppers. It could be one of those Tuesday-night dinners.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Tracie P. said...

hey susan, it is ALMOST impossible to find the ischitani wines in naples, so i doubt you could find them in milan. for the most part, this is no big loss, but tommasone makes some good ones. if you want to buy some, i'm sure i can send it to you. just let me know...

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Susan!

It's beautiful! I have the same cookbook and have been wanting to try this as well but never have.

Well done!

4:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That pie looks incredible! Yum...

2:19 AM  
Blogger Lea said...

Wow this looks really beautiful and delish!! I think I may just make an attempt at this one during my upcoming long weekend! =)

Thanks for the recipe!

5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks so good it wouldn't have to taste like anything but with spinach, red peppers, provolone cheese and a fritatta, well duh, it must be terrific. Gorgeous!!!

3:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I baked one of these for a Chapter luncheon. It was a big hit. And yes, I made the crust from scratch. I'm a scratch type of person. I will do it again for a fund raisers.

5:56 PM  

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