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Christmas Eve Fish and Escarole Pie

  • SERVINGS: 8-10
  • MAKE-AHEAD

Tina Nicodemo of La Cantina del Triunfo, discovered this recipe in the appendix of a treasured old cookbook, the 1880 edition of La Cucina Teorico-Practica, published by Neapolitan aristocrat Ippolito Cavalcanti. At the restaurant, Tina makes the pies in individual tart pans, but it's much easier to prepare one large pie.

Pastry

  1. 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  2. 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 large egg yolks
  5. 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Filling

  1. 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 6 or 8 whole peppercorns
  4. 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 2 pounds skinless haddock or red snapper fillets
  7. 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  8. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  9. 1 pound escarole, leaves rinsed but not dried
  10. 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pitted Gaeta olives
  11. 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
  12. Pinch of crushed red pepper
  13. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  14. Egg wash made with 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  1. In a medium bowl, cut the butter into the flour until thoroughly combined. Add the salt. Mix in the egg yolks with a fork, adding enough of the ice water to make a cohesive dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly flowered work surface and knead very briefly. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine 1 cup of the wine with the water. Add the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a simmer over moderately low heat. Add the fish and poach gently until the fish is just firm, about 5 minutes; do not overcook as the fish will finish cooking in the pie. Transfer the fish to a plate to cool.
  3. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until golden. Transfer the pine nuts to a small plate.
  4. In a small saucepan, bring the remaining 1/4 cup of wine just to a simmer. Add the raisins and set aside to steep.
  5. In a medium saucepan, cook the onion in the olive oil over low heat until softened but not browned. Stir in the escarole and cook over moderately low heat until thoroughly wilted; add a tablespoon of water if necessary to prevent the escarole from burning. Drain the escarole and when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze it dry. Coarsely chop the escarole and place in a bowl. Stir in the olives, capers and red pepper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°. If you have a baking stone or oven tiles, preheat it in the oven. Divide the chilled dough into 2 pieces, one a little larger than the other; keep the smaller piece covered and chilled. On a very lightly floured work surface, roll out the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch round. Fit the dough into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing the dough lightly into the side without stretching. Put the shell in the freezer while you finish making the filling.
  7. Drain the raisins and stir them into the escarole along with the pine nuts. Flake or cut the fish into large pieces and mix gently with the escarole, taking care not to break up the pieces. Season generously with salt and black pepper.
  8. Roll out the remaining piece of dough into an 11-inch round. Remove the pie shell from the freezer and fill with the fish and escarole mixture, smoothing the surface. Cover with the dough round and crimp the edges to seal. If you have any leftover dough, make a pair of small fish cutouts, moisten lightly and set them on top of the pie. Using a sharp knife, cut a few steam vents in the top crust. Lightly brush the pie with the egg wash and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for about 30 minutes before serving in wedges.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 5 up to 1 day ahead. Keep the pine nuts at room temperature. Refrigerate the fish, soaking raisins and escarole separately; bring to room temperature before assembling the pie.

Suggested Pairing

Escarole gives an attractive bitterness to this buttery fish pie. To balance the bite of the greens and contrast the richness of the dough, serve a refreshingly dry white from southern Italy, such as Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo or Casa d'Ambra Biancolella Ischia.

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