Tort reform

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The "torte" works overtime. In the bakery, it's a cake. One that's often low and rich and elegantly dressed on top, if sometimes naked on the sides. Sassy, that torte.

At the deli, the torte is a sandwich, one that can heave ham and cheese and hot pepper onto its Spanish-accented bolillo. Burly, that torte. Or torta.

In court, the tort is just plain wrong. While at breakfast the torte is decidedly right. It's potato, pressed into a puck, or torte, torta or tortilla.

Preparing the potato torte has inspired many a tort case. Some plaintiffs swear the potatoes must be boiled in oil. Others simply toss in potato chips. The potatoes are melded with eggs and tamped into torte shape, to tender, tasty effect.

The potato torte is tough enough to withstand tampering. Sage, for instance. Even pumpkin. The torte takes new jobs in stride. Then strides out for a hard day of multitasking.

Winter breakfast

Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Serves: 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold), peeled and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon slivered fresh sage leaves
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
Unsalted butter for slicking ramekins

Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Slip in potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, turning now and then, until they begin to color, about 4 minutes. Add onion, cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and sage, cook 1 minute. When it all looks golden (but not brown), pull pan off heat.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, cream, pumpkin, nutmeg and cayenne. Use a slotted spoon to add potatoes. Mix gently and let rest, 10 minutes.

Slide potato mixture into 2 buttered ramekins (5-ounce size) set on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until slightly puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Enjoy.

Inspired by breakfast at Johnny's, in Baltimore.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at

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