Baked Leek Pie

Torta di Porri

Those who have had some acquaintance with Piedmont’s cooking will recognize it in the textural sumptuousness and rich flavor of this torte. The leeks for its batter are cooked very slowly in a covered pan with butter and a little salt, a procedure that concentrates this vegetable’s distinctive sweet-and-sour quality, Piedmontese cooks love egg yolks, and they are used liberally here, together with cream and Parmesan. Yet the dish compels our attention not purely for the richness of its components but, once tasted, for the grace with which they are balanced.

Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 1⅓ cups flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Filling

  • 3 to 3½ pounds leeks
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces.
  • Salt
  • 2 eggs plus 2 yolks
  • Black pepper ground fresh
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon butter for the pan

Making the Leek Filling

  1. Turn on the oven to 425°.
  2. Trim the root end away from the leeks and slice away about an inch from the green tops. Cut both the bulbs and tender green tops of the leeks into very thin rounds. Soak in several changes of cold water, drain, and pat dry in a towel.
  3. Put the leeks into a 12-inch skillet or sauté pan together with 3 tablespoons of butter and a pinch of salt. Put a lid on the pan and turn on the heat to medium low. Cook, occasionally turning the leeks over with a wooden spoon, until they wilt and are considerably diminished in bulk, about 30 minutes or more.
  4. Put the leeks in a bowl to cool down.
  5. Into another bowl, break open the eggs, separating and discarding the whites, and adding the yolks together with black pepper, grated Parmesan, cream, and nutmeg. Beat the ingredients until they form a homogeneous mixture.
  6. Smear the inside of the baking pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  7. Spread flat on a work surface a sheet of aluminum foil a bit larger than the diameter of the baking pan. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, put it on the foil, and roll it out very thin, trying for less than ¼ inch, and wide enough to cover nearly all the foil. If it sticks, sprinkle a little flour over it and on the rolling pin. Pick up the foil and turn it upside down over the baking pan. Lift away the foil, and press the dough into the pan. Cut away any excess and use that excess, if necessary, to patch any place in the pan that has remained bare.
  8. Put the leeks into the pan, topping them with the egg and Parmesan mixture. Bake in the upper middle level of the oven for about 30 minutes. Let it settle for at least 10 minutes before serving.

A 9 by 2-inch round heavy cake pan

Method

Making the Pie Dough

Pour the flour, butter, water, and salt into a food processor, and run the processor, pulsing it, until the ingredients form a ball of dough. Knead the dough briefly by hand, then wrap it in foil and put it in the refrigerator for 40 minutes or more.

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