“Can’t we have the Christmas pie?”
He looks so plaintive, my husband. He rarely makes special requests. I so want to roast a leg of lamb for Christmas dinner but here he is, pleading for the Christmas pie.
It’s the essence of romance, this pie. It was the entree I served him the first Christmas we spent together. For several years, it was our traditional holiday dinner. Then it somehow faded from my repertoire.
Not from his memories, though. “We haven’t had the Christmas pie in so long,” he says. “Can’t we have the Christmas pie?”
“Christmas pie” is actually a deep-dish spinach pie recipe that I clipped from Glamour magazine during college. Half a dozen eggs bind a mixture of spinach, sausage, cheese and nutmeg in a double-crusted sweet dough.
The pie is excellent right out of the oven, and it’s wonderful for breakfast the next morning. It reheats well but is just as good cold. It freezes beautifully.
During college, I made this pie for my parents a few times. When I moved from the Midwest to Florida after graduating, I copied the recipe on a 5×8-inch index card (now crumpled and spattered) and made the pie for friends and men I wanted to impress. After getting married, I made it for hostess gifts and — of course — Christmas dinners.
It’s back in rotation. Yesterday’s dinner was Christmas pie. And I had to smile this morning when my husband came down to breakfast.
“Can’t I have the Christmas pie?”
Deep Dish Spinach Pie (aka Christmas Pie)
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of kosher salt.
Dice 1 stick of cold butter into half-inch cubes. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut into the flour mixture until well-combined.
Combine 1 egg with 6 tablespoons ice water. Mix into flour until a soft dough forms. Divide dough in half, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate while making the filling.
In a skillet, brown 1/2- to 1-pound Italian sausage (I use turkey sausage; you can skip this step for a vegetarian entree). Drain on paper towels.
In a large bowl, whisk 6 eggs to blend. Add two 10-ounce packages of thawed and well-drained frozen spinach, 2/3 cup ricotta cheese, 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir well, then add browned sausage to mixture.
On a well-floured surface, roll half the dough into an 11-inch circle, then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon all the filling in the pie plate. Roll the remaining dough into an 11-inch circle and place on top of the filling. Seal edges and pinch to make a border. Cut slits in the top for steam to escape, then brush the top of the dough with cream, half-and-half or a beaten egg yolk.
Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a 350-degree oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the top is brown and the filling bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.