Good to see you again, Ms. Tourte Milanese! You’re looking as beautiful as ever!
Yes, there is a story behind that unusual welcome to an edible, inanimate object. I’m weird, but not that weird. I hope.
Remember when I told you about the computer crash of 2011 where I lost almost everything? It was mainly tons of photos of some of the best goodies I’ve ever made, most of them pretty labor intensive. You see, I was on this roll from September 2010 to January 2011; a fancy shmancy crazy roll. Once or twice a week I was creating showstopping sweet and savory dishes like they were going out of style, and as luck would have it, getting some good clicks of them.
It was an amazing food blog run, and I had about 7 posts lined up. The posts weren’t written, but the photos were ready..tucked in and snug as a bug in a rug in my photo program, waiting until I was ready to write and post.
Then, the crash.
A twist on Crack Pie, 12-Layer Macadamia Nougatine Milk Chocolate Torte (the macadamia nougatine chocolate ganache counted as a layer, not 12 layers of cake!), Cassoulet (which I had to make again immediately since it was a challenge I was cohosting) , a Gateua Basque, beautiful Quince-Fig Tarts with Frangipane, and this Tourte Milanese. There were other potential posts lost, but those five bothered me the most, especially the 12-Layer Torte, Gateau Basque, and Tourte Milanese.
I cried when I was told that the drive was so damaged there was no way of recovering the photos. I cursed and screamed, but it wasn’t going to bring them back. I threw something; I think it was a banana, but all that did was leave a smudge on the wall.
I’m not a violent person by any stretch, but, damn, when you put so much heart, time and intensity into something, and then it vanishes into thin air, you need to throw something. Think of those who don’t back up 100’s of pages of a book they’ve been writing for a year or more and lose it in one fell swoop – forever.
Now I pay for an online backup service, and it’s more than worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I always had backup before that, I just put it off for a few months, never thinking it would happen so quickly. What were the chances?
The worst part is, only those 5 creations were annihilated. Most of the so-so potential post photos were recovered or partially recovered. It freakin’ figures.
I never posted the so-so potential posts.
It still bugs me to this day because I will never recreate any of those tourte photos. I had every step snapped, and for once, I was happy with the results. With artificial light, I didn’t think I could ever do better than those, so I never even attempted to recreate any of them. The amount of photos plus post processing was staggering; it was hours and hours of work. No way, no how.
Well, apparently my stubbornness and laziness are not as concrete as I thought. Once I saw the theme for this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, ‘en croute’, the Tourte Milanese resurfaced aggressively, and I couldn’t pry it out of my frontal lobes. I knew it was finally time to erase the misery of those lost photos and just do it again. I was a mixed bag of excitement (because I love making it) and dread (the thought of all the photo work made me queasy), but with a few days to go, I let it loose and ran with it.
I had to make this tourte easier or I wouldn’t do it, so I bought the puff pastry dough. I had no more homemade puff pastry in my freezer, and I wasn’t going to make the puff pastry from scratch this time, no matter how much I enjoy doing so. Time is an issue..energy is an issue. Purchased puff pastry or bust.
The Tourte Milanese and photos didn’t turn out as nice as the 2010 annihilated batch, but I’m happy with them nonetheless, and glad I could finally share it with you all.
Now to the lady whose blog name I love;
Our lovely Monkey Queen of Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys, was our May Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to dive into the world of en Croute! We were encouraged to make Beef Wellington, Stuffed Mushroom en Croute and to bring our kids into the challenge by encouraging them to create their own en Croute recipes!
Please excuse the hideous photos of the spinach layers, below. The spinach was too dark to get a decent photo of with the artificial light. Also, please excuse the fact that I didn’t shoot the Tourte Milanese in one place as I added each layer, which would have been a much cooler gif ; you know, like it built itself.
I made individual beef wellingtons back in 2010 for another en croute challenge so naturally I wanted to go in another direction ‘en croute’ wise. The Tourte Milanese was perfect in that respect and it is ‘en croute’, or in layman’s terms, encased in dough, so I am following the rules, I think..I hope.
I’m not sure if this Tourte Milanese is Italian in origin or a tribute to Italy via the French, or just Michel Richard, since the layers, yellow representing white (what white-ish food is better than light and fluffy scrambled whole eggs?) pretty much correspond to the colors of the Italian flag. Milanese is well..from Milan.
Although this Tourte Milanese looks difficult, it isn’t. You cook eggs and spinach and roast red bell peppers. The rest is rolling out dough and layering ham and cheese along with the three, and that’s it – unless you feel the need to butcher a pig and make cheese. It makes a beautiful brunch treat or anytime main dish. Switch out some of the ingredients for ingredients you like; for instance, broccoli instead of spinach, turkey instead of ham, cheddar cheese instead of Swiss. Endless possibilities.
Oh, the 10 eggs? Remember, this tourte serves anywhere from 6 to 8 people, depending on the size of the slices. That’s about an egg per person. It sounds much worse than it actually is.
- 1 pound puff pastry, chilled - homemade or purchased. If using purchased puff pastry, roll both sheets together to make 1 lb, then cut off ¼ lb for the top of the torte. Use any scraps to cut out designs for the top, if desired.
- 10 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 large red bell peppers
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1½ pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- 8 ounces Swiss cheese or Gruyere, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces smoked or honey ham, thinly sliced
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt
- Prepare the pastry: Generously butter an 8½-inch springform pan. Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set aside. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a ¼-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, leave a 1-inch overhang. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is ¼ inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the torte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the crust and the lid with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. If using scraps for cut-out designs, like leaves, place the cut-outs on a separate plate, cover with plastiv wrap and chill in fridge along with top and lined springform pan.
- Make the Eggs: Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and 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. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap. You want a loose, soft scramble since the eggs will be baking for a little over an hour.
- Roast the peppers: Place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, drop into a bowl...cover with plastic wrap and let steam (I throw them all in a paper or large ziplock bag and seal it shut) for about 20 minutes. Use your fingers to rub off skin - DO NOT rinse under water; you lose flavor. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, then open the peppers and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper and set aside, covered, until needed.
Alternatively, lay the peppers on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler, turning them as each side chars, then continue as instructed above.
Note - The peppers release a lot of liquid once roasted. Make sure the peppers are dry (blot with paper towels) before adding them to the tourte. I cut up the roasted peppers because sometimes you end up with large or whole pieces pulling out with each forkful.
- Cook the Spinach: in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture. Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add the heavy cream if using. Bring quickly to a boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach, letting it reduce. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside. Once it's cooled, squeeze as much liquid out as you can, and season with a little more salt and pepper before adding it to the tourte.
- Assemble the Torte: Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the refrigerator and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: (quick tip: Sprinkle a little dry bread crumbs or grated Italian hard cheese on the bottom of the raw crust before adding first layer of scrambled eggs to protect against a soggy bottom crust).
-half the eggs
-half the spinach
-half the ham
-half the cheese
-all the roasted peppers (season them with salt and pepper), laid flat
Continue layering in reverse order
-remaining half of cheese
-remaining half of ham
-remaining half of spinach
-remaining half of eggs
With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan.
- Fold the excess crust 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 torte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.
- Twenty minutes prior to baking; position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bake the Tourte: Place the torte on a jelly-roll pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan and release the sides. Let cool for 20 - 30 minutes before cutting. I let it cool for 1 hour before cutting because it still felt like it would fall apart upon cutting after 30 minutes.