Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Gommer Cholera

No one seems to really know how this delicious pie came to be named for a disease. One flimsy explanation states that people stayed indoors and cooked what they had, rather than venturing out to do food shopping during the 1830 cholera epidemic. The village of Goms in the Upper Valais is also well know for the quality of the cheese produced there, but any real Swiss raclette cheese will do nicely.

Thanks to my friend Aurelia Carlen of Zurich Tourism, a native of Visp in the Valais, for sharing the recipe.

Makes one 9-inch pie, about 10 servings

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 large white onions, about 1 pound, peeled and finely chopped

2 large tart apples (about 1 pound) such as Granny Smith, peeled, halved, cored, and thinly sliced

Salt, pepper, and nutmeg

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled until tender, cooled, peeled, and sliced

1 pound Goms or other Swiss raclette cheese, rind removed and thinly sliced

1 batch Flaky Pastry Dough, divided into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other (recipe follows)

Egg wash: 1 egg well whisked with a pinch of salt

One 2-inch deep 9-inch round cake pan, buttered

  1. For the filling, melt the butter on medium heat in a sauté pan or Dutch oven with a cover. Add the chopped onion and cook until it starts to sizzle. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and let the onion sweat until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add the sliced apples and continue to cook uncovered until the apples are tender and the water has evaporated. Cool slightly and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  2. When you’re ready to bake the pie, set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375˚F.
  3. Roll the larger piece of dough on a floured surface and fit it into the pan, letting any excess dough hang over the edge of the pan.
  4. Place a layer of half the sliced potatoes into the pan and season sparingly with salt and pepper. Spread half the onion and apple mixture over them, then top with half the cheese slices. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, onion and apple mixture, and cheese.
  5. Trim the excess dough at the rim of the pan to 1/2-inch and fold it in over the filling.
  6. Roll the remaining dough to a disk the size of the top of the pie and trim evenly. Arrange on the filling so that the top crust comes right to the edge of the pan. Brush with egg wash and trace a lattice pattern on the pie with the back of a fork.
  7. Bake the pie until the crust is deep golden and the filling is well heated through, about 45 minutes.
  8. Cool the pie briefly on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Flaky Pastry Dough

Flaky dough makes a wonderful container for many sweet and savory fillings. Its fragile texture after baking is more than equaled by its subtle buttery flavor, which always enhances but never competes with delicate fillings.

Makes about 18 ounces dough, enough for two 10-inch tart crusts or one double crust tart

2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 12 pieces

2 large eggs

  1. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  2. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1-second intervals until the butter appears in small pieces no more than 1/4-inch across.
  3. Add the eggs and pulse again just until the dough almost forms a ball – pulsing too much at this point will incorporate the butter smoothly and cut down on flakiness.
  4. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Gently press the dough into a coherent mass. Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm or as long as 3 days.  Or freeze and defrost overnight in the refrigerator before using.