I first tasted this life-changing pie this past summer at Dot’s, my favorite little cafe-deli in Lincolnville, Maine. The moment I set my eyes upon the colorful layers of all my favorite things nicely wrapped up in a flaky golden crust, I knew I needed a slice of THAT, whatever it was. It was a thing of great beauty. Dot’s calls their pie the Saturday Breakfast Tourte, because they only make it on Saturdays. And when I posted a photo of my beloved slice on Instagram, a friend mentioned that she recognized the recipe from one of Julia Child’s cookbooks.
The prospect of an actual recipe for this marvelous creation excited me and I immediately tried to track it down. It took a bit of detective work because I didn’t know what it was actually called, but once I found it, there was not doubt, this was that unforgettable pie: Tourte Milanaise!! It turns out, Julia Child did a whole episode on puff pastry, including a generous portion on Tourte Milanaise. You can see her guest Chef Michel Richard show the proper technique for making puff pastry. I love when Michel says, “too bad you don’t have the smell on television” to which Julia immediately replies something about “smell-o-vision”. No wonder the world adores this woman. The episode is totally delightful and really worth a watch!
Now, full disclosure #1: I did not make my own puff pastry. Christmas is such a busy time of year and while I normally love to make everything from scratch, this pie does allow for a few shortcuts. If you don’t have time to make your very own puff pastry, don’t sweat it, it’s easy to find in the frozen section of your grocery store. You can also buy roasted red peppers in a jar and frozen spinach and no one will ever know the difference. There, now you really have no excuse not to make this!
Ok. Full disclosure #2: The original recipe calls for ham. But part of my new year’s resolutions (which I’m starting in advance) is to not eat any meat that’s been factory farmed. I’m sticking to only local, pastured, and organic… and when that’s not available, vegetarian it will be! And since organic ham is impossible to find in my neck of the woods right now, I opted to leave it out altogether. Besides, my stepdad is vegetarian so this way, everyone will be able to eat this pie on Christmas morning. And honestly, the pie is still very decadent and every bit as delicious without the ham. So I’m offering you the vegetarian version today, but if you wish, do add a nice layer or two of shaved ham to your pie.
May you enjoy all the delights that the holiday season has to offer. And be sure to check out my other Christmas recipe videos from previous years: my mom’s Baba au rum, my Kale and Sun-dried Tomato Strata, and traditional French Canadian Tourtière. Bon appétit!!
This Tourte Milanaise recipe is a vegetarian version of the popular French savory pie, a perfect breakfast for Christmas morning. (Recipe Credit: Aube Giroux of Kitchen Vignettes)
- For the Dough:
- 1 lb puff pastry, homemade or store-bought
- 1 Tbsp butter
- For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp milk
- For the Filling:
- 12 eggs
- 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 pound fresh spinach (or a 10-oz. bag of frozen spinach)
- About 6 large roasted red peppers (a 12 oz jar)
- 12 oz real Swiss (Emmental) cheese, sliced thinly
- First, prepare the scrambled eggs. Whisk 12 eggs, dijon mustard, milk, and 1/4 tsp salt into a large bowl. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet on medium-low heat. Once the butter is hot, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Wait about a minute for the eggs to begin cooking on the bottom and gently drag a wooden spoon through the eggs, mixing gently every few seconds until soft scrambled eggs have been achieved. Don’t worry about the eggs not being cooked through all the way as they will continue cooking in the pie. Remove from heat, and cool the eggs completely.
- If using fresh spinach, steam for 1 minute until wilted and remove from heat. If using frozen, thaw and drain. Either way, be sure that the spinach you use is not overly wet, squeeze out any excess liquid.
- On a floured surface, roll out about 2/3 of the puff pastry into a piece large enough to cover the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Be careful that the dough is no thinner than 1/8 inch. Puff pastry dough is a bit tricky to handle but do your best to cover the bottom of the pan and line the sides, leaving about 1 inch overhang on the sides.
- Place half of the fully cooled scrambled egg mixture into the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the spinach, evenly distributed to cover the eggs. Place half the cheese slices evenly on top of the spinach to cover the full surface area. Now use all the roasted red peppers to make a nice even layer of red, this will be the centre of the pie. After the peppers, cover with the remaining cheese, then the remaining spinach, and finally the remaining eggs. Try to get nice even layers that are flat and not bulging in any one spot. This will give your pie a nice clean profile when you slice into it.
- Make an egg wash by beating one egg with 1 Tbsp milk. Use the overhanging puff pastry and bring it towards the centre, covering the edges of the top of the pie. Brush some of your egg wash on top of the overlapping dough. Now roll out the remaining 1/3 of the puff pastry dough to make a circle about 9 inches across. Place it on top of the pie, and trim the overhang. Pinch the edges all around, pressing them in to seal. Cut a small cross into the middle to allow steam to escape during baking. Cut some decorative patterns into the top of the pie if you wish (being careful not to slice all the way through the dough). Make some cookie cutter shapes with any of the excess dough to decorate the top. Now cover the whole top of the pie with a generous coating of egg wash.
- Bake pie in a preheated 350F oven for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the top is a beautiful golden color. Allow the pie to cool at least 30 minutes before serving. The pie will slice more cleanly if it is fully cooled. It can be served cold, warm, or hot.
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series has been nominated for multiple James Beard Awards for Best Video Webcast (On Location). In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.