Artichoke Pie (Torta di Carchiofa)

Torta.jpg (22479 bytes)

The list of ingredients and instructions may at first appear intimidating.
This recipe is actually much simpler than it looks, and is well worth trying.
It is an exquisitely delicious dish, worth every calorie.


Filling

6-8 large artichokes*     lb.baby portabella mushrooms**    lb. mozzarella or buffala***
1 med. yellow onion,     1 clove garlic,    1 shallot,    1 T chives, all finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme   1 sprig fresh lavender or rosemary   2 T Italian parsley   salt & pepper
C. chicken broth or water    C. white wine    C. olive oil    1 T butter    lemon


Custard

6 large egg yolks     2 C. milk    pt. heavy cream or sour cream     tsp. grated nutmeg
C. freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano or Peccorino Romano (opt.)


Pastry

2 C. flour    1 sticks unsalted butter    1/3 C. ice water (approx.)     1 tsp. salt


Warm cup olive oil in a 12" non-reactive skillet over low heat. Working with one artichoke at a time quickly break off all the leaves, remove the choke, peel the stem, then slice it lengthwise into " pieces. Immediately rub all cut surfaces with lemon and place them in the skillet, tossing to cover with oil. Repeat until all the artichokes are done. Add the finely chopped onion, garlic and shallot, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cook till limp. Add the lemon, wine, chicken broth, lavender (or rosemary) and thyme. Raise the heat and quickly bring to a simmer, cover the pan, then lower the heat. Cook until tender but firm (approx. 15-20 min), removing the lid toward the end of the cooking time to evaporate all liquid. Discard lemon and herbs. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in another large skillet heat the remaining olive oil and the butter over med.-high heat. Add the thinly sliced mushrooms and toss until golden. Add finely chopped chives and parsley, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss, then remove from heat to let cool.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Cut the butter into T. size pieces. Coarsely cut them into the flour with a pastry knife or two table knives. (It needn’t be as fine as a flaky pastry.) Make a well in the center and add the salted ice water all at once. Stir with a spoon until combined. Flour your hands and form the dough into a ball. DO NOT KNEAD. Wrap the ball tightly in plastic and place it in the refrigerator at least 1 hr.

After the dough has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured board into a circle approx. 14" x 1/8". Lightly roll the dough around the rolling pin, making sure the top is slightly floured. (If the kitchen is warm, place the dough in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to firm it.) Carefully unroll the dough evenly over a 9" x 2 " spring-form pan, then ease it to the bottom. Gently press the dough against the bottom and sides. Trim off excess dough or flute the edges.

Put the cream, milk, egg yolks, and grated nutmeg into a large bowl. Using a wire whisk, gently stir until barely combined. DO NOT BEAT. Fill the shell with the cooled and drained artichoke mixture, then the mushrooms, and finally the mozzarella cut into " cubes. Add the custard and sprinkle with C. freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano or Peccorino Romano (opt.).

Place the pan on a cookie sheet and carefully slide it into a preheated 450 oven. After 15 min. lower the heat to 325. Bake until done (approx. 1hr.) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, remove the spring-form.

The torta may be served at room temperature, or individual slices can be reheated in a 400 oven for 10-15 min. ( 8-10 Servings)

 *Frozen artichoke bottoms may be used if you can find them. Defrost, then slice and proceed as above. In a pinch, canned artichoke bottoms may also be used. Rinse them in water to remove the brine, reduce the cooking time by half. DO NOT USE CANNED ARTICHOKE HEARTS.

**Baby Bellas are now available in most supermarkets. White mushrooms (champignons) can be used, though they are a poor substitute. Cook them over high heat until brown and dry.

***Buffala is mozzarella made from water buffalo milk. It may be found at some Italian specialty shops. It is very expensive, but well worth the price. Once you try it, you'll never use cow's milk mozzarella again. If it is unavailable try to find a good whole-milk mozzarella.


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