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Print this Recipe    Tourte Milanese

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 pound puff pastry, homemade or store-bought, chilled

10 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely
2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preparing the Pastry: Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan.
(The thich layer of butter will help the dough stick to the sides of
the pan.) Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set it aside.
Working on a lightly floured work surface (cool marble is ideal), roll
out the remaining puff pastry to a round that is 1/4 inch thick.
Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing against the pan to get
a smooth fit - don't worry about perfection, but do leave a 1-inch (or
slightly mroe) overhang.

Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut
out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the tourte and lift it
onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the crust and the lid with
plastic wrap and keep them both refrigerated while you prepare the
filling. (Save the scraps of puff pastry for other uses. Stack them,
wrap in plastic, and refrigerate or freeze until needed.)

Making the Eggs: You need to made a batch of seasoned scrambled eggs
to seal the tourte: Whisk the eggs, herbs, and salt and pepper
together in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low
heat and, when the bubbles subside, pour in the eggs. Gently but
constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set
into the center of the pan and tilting the pan so that the liquid eggs
run to the sides and cook - the eggs should be cooked slowly and
scrambled loosely, as they will cook again in the tourte. Slide the
eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with
plastic wrap. The eggs must cool before they can be used in the
tourte. If you want to cool them very quickly, set a layer of ice
cubes over the plastic wrap; remove when the eggs are cold.

The Filling

6 large red bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons (approximately) heavy cream (optional)
8 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
8 ounces smoked ham, thinly sliced

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt, for egg
wash

To roast the peppers, place the peppers, whole and untrimmed, directly
over the flame of a gas burner or under the broiler (if you're using
the broiler, put the peppers on a baking sheet). As soon as one
portion of a pepper's skin is charred, turn the pepper to char another
section. When the peppers are black and blistered all over, drop them
into a bowl of cool water. While the peppers are submerged, use your
fingers to rub off the blackened skin. Rinse each pepper under running
water and dry well. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away
the stem, open up the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside
veins and discard the seeds; season the peppers with salt and pepper
and set them aside, covered, until needed.

Cook the spinach in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1
minute, just to blanch it. Drain the spinach in a colander, rinse with
cold water, and, when it's cool enough to handle, press it between your
palms to extract all of the excess moisture.

Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the blanched spinach (if you ended up with a tight little ball of
spinach after squeezing to dry, pull it apart with your fingers so that
you have several pieces) and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with
salt and pepper and the nutmeg, and if you want, add a little heavy
cream. Bring the cream quickly to the boil and stir so that it mixes
with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted
spoon or spatula and set aside.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to
350 degrees F.

Assembling the Tourte: Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the
refrigerator and layer the filling ingredients in the following order;
half the eggs (discard any liquid that may have accumulated on the
plate), half the spinach, half the cheese, half the ham, and all the
roasted red peppers, laid out flat, then continue layering in reverse
order - the remaining ham, cheese, spinach, and eggs. With each layer,
make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan.

If you haven't already done so, trim the bottom crust overhang to 1
inch. Fold the excess in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust
you've created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over
the tourte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan,
pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Use
your palm to pat the top of the tourte down and level the crust. Brush
the top with the egg wash (reserve the remainder in the refrigerator -
you'll need it later) and cut a vent in the center of the top crust,
taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. A classic way to vent
and delineate portions, making cutting the tourte easier later. You
can embellish the design by etching a series of diagonal lines withing
each portion, alternating the slant of the lines from wedge to wedge.

Chilling the Tourte: Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1
hour before baking.

Baking the Tourte: Place the tourte on a jelly-roll pan, give it
another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1
hour and 15 minutes, or until wonderfully puffed and deeply golden.
Remove from the oven and let the tourte rest on a rack until it is only
just warm, or until it reaches room temperature. (The cooler the
tourte, the easier it is to cut it neatly.) If it fits into your
schedule, you can make the tourte a day ahead, refrigerate it, and
serve it cool or at room temperature. Run a blunt knife around the
edges of the pan and release the sides.

Storing: The cooled tourte can be kept for several hours at room
temperature or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight.

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