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Rustic Potato and Greens Pie

A colander filled with the beautiful greens.

Servings: 6

I made one of my favorite savory pies with greens and fingerling potatoes from Chefs Garden.

When I was working in Gourmet’s test kitchen in the mid-Eighties and we styled a dish to be photographed that didn’t look perfect, we’d turn a negative into a positive by calling it “rustic” and bragging that it was “made by human hands.” That’s exactly the kind of thinking that went into this pie. Pastry-impaired as I am, I can’t help but love a pie that’s as free-form and forgiving as this one.

The finished pie. Photo by Jessica Leibowitz

You start by making my very simple food-processor pie dough. Roll it out into a rough circle between sheets of plastic wrap and drop it into a pie plate. Spoon the filling into the middle of the pie, then fold in the edges, free-form style. Bake it up and you’re done. Family and friends will be amazed – “What, you made a savory pie on a weeknight!?” Yes, you did.

This baby’s real versatile, too. The eggs and potato, along with the cheese, are the binders, but you can swap out the greens and swap in any number of other vegetables, including blanched broccoli, sautéed zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, and so on. Likewise, you can use the lower-fat version of the cheeses or other cheeses altogether.

Basic Butter Pastry (below) or store-bought pastry for a single crust pie
3/4 pound small boiling potatoes
1 medium onion
3 large garlic cloves
A hefty pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds greens (chard, spinach, collards, mustard or a mixture)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces Gruyere, Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated.

Prepare the Basic Butter Pastry and chill while you make the filling.

Rinse the potatoes and cut them crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces: combine them with salted cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop the onion (about 1 cup). Thoroughly rinse and spin dry the greens, remove the tough stems and coarsely chop the leaves. (If using chard the stems will be tender; reserve them to stir fry for another meal.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the onion and cook 5 minutes or until it has softened. Mince the garlic (about 1 tablespoon), add to the skillet along with the red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Add half of the greens and cook 4 to 5 minutes until they have wilted. Remove the greens with tongs to a medium bowl and repeat with the remaining half of the greens. Return the first batch of greens to the skillet and cook 2 minutes longer until any liquid that collected in the pan has evaporated.

When the potatoes are done, drain and mash them with a potato masher. Combine the potatoes and the greens mixture in a large bowl and set them aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry between lightly floured sheets of parchment paper to make a 12-inch round; pat the edge of the pastry to make the round even. Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate; press it against the side of the plate allowing the excess to hang over the edge. Put in the fridge while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Grate the Gruyere (about 1/2 cup) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 2/3 cup microplane-grated or about 1/3 cup grated on the fine side of a metal grater); add them to the potato mixture along with the ricotta, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste and stir well.

Lightly beat the eggs; set aside 1 tablespoon. Stir the remaining eggs into the potato mixture and spoon the filling into the pastry-lined pie plate.

Gently lift the overhanging pastry over the filling pleating as necessary to make it fit (it will make a 1- to 1 to 1 1/2-inch border covering the edge of the filling. will be uncovered in the center.) Brush the pastry with the reserved 1 tablespoon egg.

Bake the pie about 40 minutes until the filling is hot through and the pastry is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Basic Butter Pastry

Hands-On Time: 20 Minutes
Total Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
Makes enough pastry for Two 9-Inch Pie Shells or 1 Double-Crust Pie

2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 t table salt
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs yolks

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with chopping blade. Cut the butter into 1/8-inch-thick slices and add to the flour mixture. Pulse 10 to 12 times, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Beat the yolks with 2 tablespoons ice water and add to the mixture; pulse 4 to 5 times, until a crumbly mixture forms. Press the mixture together to form a ball, adding more water, if necessary, to make it manageable.

You can immediately roll out the dough between lightly floured sheets of plastic wrap or, if you have the time, chill the dough for 1 hour before rolling it out. That allows the gluten in the flour to relax, ensuring a tender crust.

Use the pastry as directed in a recipe or divide it in half, shape it into balls and flatten slightly. Wrap the flattened rounds tightly in freezer wrap and freeze until firm for later use. Use within 3 months.

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