Carol said, “You know what I want for Mother’s Day? A Quiche.”
The first time I remember eating Quiche Lorraine was at Pat’s house in Roanoke, prepared by Pat’s wife Pat for a Super Bowl III Party. If memory serves, I took the Colts, giving 19 points, and was devastated that the upstart AFL and the Jets loudmouth quarterback from hated Alabama, beat the mighty NFL.
At the same time, I harbored no love for the Colts. In Roanoke we got the Colts and Redskinsâ€”one or the otherâ€”on Sundays, and Sonny Jurgensen’s ‘Skins were my team of choice. I cursed when the hyper-babble of the fast talking Chuck Smith, the Colts broadcaster, came on CBS. We never knew which team we would get until the broadcast started, the TV listings were unreliable.
But I digress. The Quiche Lorraine was gobbled up like the Southwestern Virginia mosquitoes gobbled our blood; caught on fast and was served at nearly every party going on until we left Roanoke for Boston. We arrived in Boston just in time for the French Chef, and since Quiche was one of the easiest of Julia Child’s French Chef Cookbook recipes, it became a staple in our household for Sunday brunch, made by Carol, rarely me. The Classic Quiche Lorraine simply has bacon, cream, eggs, salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Julia Child has variations for cheese and shrimp, as well. Following on the heels of The French Chef Cookbook, James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking has a nearly identical Quiche Lorraine and he gets adventuresome with a Chicken Quiche, Clam Quiche, Spinach Quiche, and Swiss Onion Quiche. Both books cite the importance of the crust.
“After years of sampling quiches,” Beard says, “I have learned that the most common failing is a soggy crust. The secret of a crisp one is simple: the pastry shell is partially baked and then brushed with egg, and returned to the oven to dry. A new trick which lends excellent flavor is to use Dijon mustard, but the results are the sameâ€”a perfect, crisp, nonsoggy crust.”
Of course, by Sunday morning I had forgotten Carol’s wish for Quiche, focusing instead on baked beans that take all day to cook. When I pulled out some leftover pizza to quickly scarf before starting the beans, she said, “Aren’t you going to make Quiche?” a look in her eye somewhere between pleading and hurt.
“Right,” I said. Totally unprepared, I reached for one of my new favorite cookbooks, Bouchon, by Thomas Keller with Jeffrey Cerciello, knowing it would have a Quiche recipe. And it surely does, but Lord, it’s the recipe for the Quiche they make in the restaurant, a large, 6 egg version that is 2 inches deep, made with a 12 inch ring mold and chilled for at least a day before cutting, then heated to order. I’ve eaten that Quiche at Bouchon and it is magnificent. And I learned from reading the recipe the reason for the 3/16 inch thick pate brisee shell, blind baked, with any resulting cracks carefully repaired with dough scraps. I also learned to mix the custard with an immersion blender to aerate the batter. All this is well and good, but I don’t have a commercial paddle mixer or a ring mold, and I need to finish this Quiche in time for lunch.
Ignoring Julia and James (at my peril) and wanting something a little quicker than Bouchon, I pulled out Firehouse Food: Cooking with San Francisco’s Firefighters, knowing that they don’t do difficult. Sure enough, Quick Quiche with Spinach, Ham and Mushrooms is on page 155. “Make no mistake: Real firefighters do eat quiche, especially when Ed’s cooking,” it says. I don’t have any ham, I’d rather use bacon; and of all the worlds’ greens, I don’t like spinach, it makes my teeth all edgy, I’ll substitute asparagus. I’ll build my own recipe around the basics.
4 ounces bacon
8 asparagus spears, tossed with olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced — I have a wonderful fresh spring onion
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 frozen pie shell — I have one that’s been taking up space in the freezer for weeks
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375 °F. A nine inch pie shell fits nicely in the toaster oven, so I’ll use that. No need to fire up the big oven. (The toaster oven is an indispensable tool for the for-one-or-two-kitchen.) Cut the bacon into 1 1/2 inch lardons and bake for 10 minutes to render the fat, but not brown. Drain on a paper towel. [from Bouchon] [My bacon was not thick, and browned in 9 minutes.]
Pour off the bacon fat and use the same pan to bake the asparagus for 6 minutes. Reserve on a plate. Reduce the oven to 350 °F.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for one minute. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes more, until the mushrooms are lightly browned and their liquid has cooked off. [I wanted my onions caramelized, so I sautéed the mushrooms first for 4 minutes, reserved to a plate and sautéed the onions over low heat for 10 minutes.] Combine the onions with the mushrooms and let the vegetables cool for 10 minutes.
Spread to onion/mushroom mixture evenly in the bottom of the pie shell. Cut the asparagus spears into bite size pieces, and arrange those in the pie shell, reserving the tips to decorate the top. Arrange the bacon pieces in the pie shell and sprinkle the cheese over all.
In a medium bowl, combine the eggs with the half-and-half, nutmeg, salt and pepper and blend with an immersion blender. [Also indispensable equipment.] Pour this batter into the pie shell. Decorate the top with the asparagus spears. Bake at 350 ° for 25 to 35 minutes until the center is firm, the top is browned and a paring knife stuck in the center comes out clean.
In and Out of the Oven
Tasted great! By the time we finished, there was only one piece left.
The bottom crust turned to a soggy mess. Perhaps even the frozen crust would have been okay had I coated the bottom as James Beard advised. I’ll find out soon, because it won’t be too long before I make another.
I think bacon should always be a part of a Quiche, but that’s just me. But the vegetables can surely vary, depending on what you might have left over, or fresh in your fridge.