Erbazzone ~ A savory pie with Spinach, Swiss Chard & Pancetta from Parma, Italy
Have you ever come across something, anything, where you look at it and say, I must? And then leave it on the back burner in your little gray cells only to revisit the thought off and on and once again do nothing other than exclaim, I must. No, I am not talking about joining the gym though that could very well apply.
I am in fact talking about a pie.
Erbazzone an original of Reggio Emilia, constitutes street food a.k.a fast food and is packed with enough flavor and nutrition to give the big mac a giant black eye any day of the given week.
I first heard of this 'sandwich' during a PBS travel special a couple of years ago and it appealed to me at every level. What is not love about a savory pie a.k.a 'sandwich' filled with a rich and extremely tasty spinach and Swiss chard greens mixture and pancetta? Loosely related to bacon, pancetta is a much more delicate and less salty version of the cured meat. And as far as I am concerned if it's got bacon (or it's relative), I'm in!
I can't however bring myself to call this a sandwich because essentially the filling is nestled in 2 layers of pie crust, not bread, so sandwich? I think not so let's just call this a pie and get on with it.
After my 'incident' with the struffoli, I said my prayers as I opened my Mario Batali recipe book and got cracking. The most challenging part is always the pie crust and the quality of the crust, in essence, defines the pie. I don't care how yummy a filling is, if the crust yucks, then the pie yucks.
I must say that as skeptical as I was about Mario's recipe (and don't get me wrong, I love that guy in orange crocs but it's his recipe writing skills that I question), I had never made a crust quite like this one and oh so apart from my 'go-to' pate brisee recipe.
The results, fortunately, are astounding especially with all that lovely garlic oil that is slathered all over the flaky crust. I have however done away with certain steps in his version that I thought to be tedious and unnecessary.
So what are you waiting for? Don't be like me - stop dragging your feet and actually do something about this!
Erbazzone ~ Better Late than Never! A savory pie with Spinach, Swiss Chard & Pancetta from Parma, Italy
Shopping list : Serves 4 - 6Crust -
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon olive oil, for the pan
5 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
3 large garlic cloves
2 medium-large onions
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1- 1/2 pounds fresh swiss chard (1 large bunch)
1/2 lb fresh baby or tender spinach
1 - 1/2 Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan, freshly grated
3/4 cup Ricotta cheese (is using)
1 tsp Salt
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Fats - Chill the fats in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes or till the shortening is cold and the olive oil turns cloudy.
Garlic -Peel and finely chop. Set aside.
Garlic Oil - Place the olive oil in a small saucepan. Heat on medium heat and add the chopped garlic set aside for the garlic oil. Set aside the remainder of the garlic for the filling. As soon as it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to season and cool.
Onions - Peel, discard ends and skin. Finely chop in a mini-chopper or food processor.
Baby Spinach - If not pre-washed, wash and spin dry. Remove tough stems if any. Set aside.
Swiss Chard - Cut away the tough stems and finely cut the leaves into slivers.
Pancetta - Roll up the slices together and cut into thin slivers and then finely chop up.
Eggs - Crack in a bowl, discard shells and beat with a fork. Set aside.
Fix the filling first before starting on the crust~
This is because the filling needs to cool completely before it can be piled onto the crust.
In a large skillet or saute pan, add the oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add chopped garlic and as soon as it sizzles, add the pancetta. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the pancetta has released its fat.
Add the chopped onions and saute for 5 minutes. Cover with a lid and cook for another 10 minutes or so till the onions have softened.
Remove the lid and on medium-high heat, saute the onions till all excess liquid is evaporated and the onions are a light golden brown.
Add the chard and saute 3 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat to prevent burning. Saute for a few minutes till the chard leaves have wilted.
Add the spinach and cover with a lid for 2-3 minutes so the spinach settles in the pan.
Remove lid and saute on medium-high heat so all the leafy vegetables have wilted and excess water is evaporated.
Remove from the heat and empty into a bowl and allow the mixture to cool completely.
While the filling is cooling, begin working on the crust ~
In a food processor or electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flours and salt in the bowl.
Add the cold shortening and oil and pulse for a few seconds till combined - like soft breadcrumbs. Now add the cold water and pulse for about 20-25 seconds or until the dough forms clumps.
Remove the dough from the food processor or stand mixer, gather the clumps of dough and form into a ball.
Enclose in plastic cling wrap and chill at about 30 minutes. Using a kitchen scale, divide the dough ball into 2 equal parts.
Roll the first dough ball out to fit the diameter of a 9" pie dish (large enough to cover the sides as well) or a pizza pan.
Cook's Note - I did not find any need to use flour while rolling the dough out but feel free to sprinkle some as you go to keep the crust from sticking to the surface.
Using a pastry brush, liberally use the garlic oil wash to grease the pie dish. Fit the first rolled out pastry crust into the pie dish.
Return to the filling-
To the cooled vegetables add the cheese (ricotta also, if using). Stir and taste to adjust seasonings. Add the beaten eggs and stir to thoroughly combine.
The filling is now ready to use.
Spoon the cooled filling into the pie dish and roll out the 2nd crust to fit over the filling. Pinch to seal the edges of both the crusts.
Cook's Note - Feel free to do a decorative scalloped, pinched edge if you wish. I chose to keep it simple and rustic looking so didn't do a decorative edge instead just pinch the crusts together with a fork.
Make some slashes on the crust to let out the steam. Bake in the oven pre-heated at 400 deg F for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven and using the pastry brush, apply the garlic oil generously all over the crust.
Cook's Note - Though I did sprinkle some of the garlic on the crust, I found it to be quite bitter since it overroasts in the oven so I do not recommend doing this.
Continue to bake for another 30 minutes or so till the crust is pale-golden and very crisp and edges have turned a golden brown.
Cut into narrow wedges and serve.
What a great way to eat leafy veggies! This is such a wonderful dish to serve for brunch or a light dinner. The flavors of vegetable punctuated by the delicate pancetta is wonderful. the flavor of the matured aged cheese shines through.
The crust is crispy and flaky and wonderful with the flavors of the filling. This one's a keeper for sure.