I haven't yet participated with the recipe-of-the-week, but Julia and I are old friends. Details about that will come in a future post, but today I'm writing about a dish I learned from her: Quiche. Given the Julia celebration, I'd been thinking about this and other recipes already. Then, lo and behold, fellow Nashville food blogger Lesley Eats recently confessed to the fact that quiche was a bit of a personal Waterloo. The convergence of the two events inspired me to brush the cobwebs off my recipe and make one.
Quiche has been around a long time, but it became popular in American restaurants and homes in the 70's, and was still going strong in the '80s. During that heyday I made it during my tenure at two different restaurants while in college. As with any dish that becomes popular, there are a million permutations, many of which are, well, bad. Quiche is a savory egg custard tart. It is not a fritatta in a crust, it is not scrambled-egg pie, it is not a metric ton of ingredients held together by some eggs and milk. The cheese (if used) and/or other filling ingredients shouldn't overpower the custard, which should be allowed to shine through. Another mistake many restaurants have always made is to serve it piping-hot with a limp crust, usually as a result of being reheated in a microwave. Freshly baked, warm from the oven after a rest is fine. Gently rewarmed in the oven is fine. It's even good at room temperature. But please, whatever you do, don't nuke the life out of it.
Below is my recipe, adapted from The French Chef Cookbook, the companion book to Child's first TV show. Some important tips:
- Julia's original recipe called for partially pre-baking the shell. I've come to prefer a fully baked shell, not only for quiche but for any pie that's going to be baked after filling. It's really the only way to get a good, flaky, crisp crust.
- I use half-and-half for quiche most of the time. Some of Julia's recipes use cream, some use milk; it depends on what other ingredients are included. You may use any combination of whole milk, half-and-half, or cream. I have even made it with part milk and part evaporated milk. For best results, though, don't use non-fat or 1% fat milk.
- Don't overbake -- Cooking a custard too long can cause it to separate and weep moisture.
1 unbaked, deep-dish pie shell
Preheat oven to 450. Make sure pie shell has no cracks or splits. Lightly poke the bottom all over with a fork. If you have pie weights, place those in the bottom of the crust. If not, line the bottom with paper coffee filters or parchment paper and add a layer of raw rice or dried beans. This weight will prevent the crust from humping up as it cooks. Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the weights and/or paper. Continue baking another few minutes until the bottom starts to color. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
While the crust is baking, prepare whatever flavorings you plan to use; if cooked, make sure they are cooled to at least lukewarm before combining with the custard. (See Variations, below.) In this particular case, I made something like a Quiche Florentine and used:
1/4 cup finely chopped onion & shallot mixture
3 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
A fat handful of spinach, larger stems removed, sliced into strips
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to thinly film the bottom of the pan (about 2 tsp). Add the mushrooms and saute a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion and a sprinkle of salt and saute another couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add spinach and saute, until spinach wilts, just a minute or so. Remove from heat.
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 tsp salt
pinch each of nutmeg and white pepper
Put the eggs in a small mixing bowl and beat with a whisk until frothy. Add the half-and-half, nutmeg, salt, & pepper and mix well.
Crust, Filling, Custard
3/4 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Preheat the oven to 375. Put the filling in the cooled pie shell, then gently pour the custard over it. Bake for 45 minutes until the custard is set and the top is lightly browned. If the crust rim starts to get too brown, cover with a ring of foil paper or pie guard. Allow the quiche to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.
You don't want the total of cheese and other fillings to exceed about 1 1/4 cups.
Lorraine: Add several slices of crisply cooked, crumbled bacon to the custard mixture.
Vegetable: Add up to 1/2 cup of your favorite chopped, lightly sauteed or blanched vegetables. Be sure and squeeze to remove excess moisture first if needed.
Three Cheese: Reduce Gruyere/Swiss cheese to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup each of two other cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan, etc.