Quiche Is No Quandary

18 May

When I was little, one of my absolute favorite meals was my mom’s quiche.  Delicate, yet simultaneously and sinfully rich, it seemed like a cloud made of cheese and egg and flecked with sought-after pieces of yummy bacon.  I rejoiced when I heard, after school, that it was on the menu. The whole time I was growing up, I’d hear people asking her for the recipe.  I took it to a potluck once and a guy told me it was one of the best quiches he’d ever tasted.  It was like this magical and complicated dish that my mother produced with her highest order homemaking skills.

Me. Pondering the mysteries of quiche.

You may be surprised to hear that I had zero interest in cooking until after college, so I never once asked her to show me how to make this quiche.  I was, likewise, surprised to hear later in life that my mom never really enjoyed cooking, which was probably why she never bothered to ask me if I wanted to learn.  So the art of the quiche remained a mystery to me long into my twenties.  I did learn from her, however, that the part she dreaded most was making The Crust.

Ahhhhhhh, The Crust!  Like a pie, the quiche maintains much of its unapproachable mystique because of the intimidating obstacle of making a crust.  It’s a whole project in itself, involving lots of messy ingredients and requiring some type of actual skill.  No wonder it feels like nobody makes quiches anymore.

When I started this blog, one of the motivations I cited was the desire to find a balance between my busy life and my desire to cook well.  Fans of Baking with Julia can tune out now, because I’m about to dispense with The Crust.  Pillsbury and my local grocery store (Wegmans) both make these lovely pre-made pie crusts that come rolled up in plastic sleeves, just waiting for a rendezvous with your oven at home.  Let me say right here that if I had not embraced these shameful items (usually sold in two-packs and found somewhere near the butter and cheese in the dairy section) I would not be here today, telling you how I make quiche.  I would be wishing I had time to make quiche and sticking, instead, to egg strata.

Fellow stressed-out cooks!  If you are ready to dispense with your scratch pie crusts, as well as your feelings of guilt, read on.  I will share with you why I think quiche is the greatest use-up-your-leftover-crap-at-the-last-minute-and-eat-whenever dish.  Plus, when you post on Facebook that you are making a quiche, you will have lots of comments about bacon and stuff like that.

The untold story of quiche is that it is really enormously flexible.  I’m not going to say it’s impossible to screw up (because that’s a fib) but you can do a lot of random things to your quiche and still have it turn into a respectable meal.  What I mean by that is that you have a lot of leeway on ingredients.  Allow me to demonstrate.

It is easiest to imagine quiche as a meal with three pieces.

#1 – The Crust, which we will demote to a plain, lowercase “crust”, because it will be easy and store bought.  You can also freeze these pie crusts, as long as you think ahead to defrost them in the refrigerator overnight.  If you don’t defrost them in the refrigerator, you will have soggy pie crusts.  And NEVER put them in the microwave.  I did it.  It wasn’t pretty.

#2 – The filling.  What have you got?  Mushrooms, onions, peppers, chives, bacon, ham, spinach…whatever you can imagine putting in your eggs, almost, will make a great quiche.  It can definitely be vegetarian, although I feature bacon (below). And you don’t need a lot of each ingredient, either, so get out those last five mushrooms that are about to go bad and put them to work!  The filling also includes any cheese you’d like to add, although it’s not always necessary. This is traditionally swiss cheese (for Quiche Lorraine) but I have successfully used everything from ricotta to cheddar. Seriously!

#3 – The dairy (henceforth to be known as “eggy stuff”).  This means eggs and some type of cream.  But you can switch up the number of eggs, how many yolks are in the mix, and the amount of cream…or even cream diluted with milk.

The possibilities are so numerous that I’m going to proceed by showing you how I made a bacon, mushroom, and chive quiche yesterday, and I’ll try to illustrate how I could have varied it for other ingredients.

Bacon, Mushroom and Chive Quiche

First, you need to bake your pie crust.  The box will have instructions, but I have refined them somewhat to work for me, so here’s what I do.

Let the sleeve of the pie crust stand on the counter for about 15 min.  in order to come to room temperature.  Don’t let it stand much longer than 20 min. or the crust will stick to the plastic and become gooey, making it difficult to roll out into the quiche pan.  Speaking of which, I like to use a ceramic quiche pan that measures a little over 9″.

Like SO

If you use a deeper 8″ dish, you may need to adjust your cooking time a little longer for the finished quiche.  But the crust baking time will be the same, regardless.

Spray the BOTTOM of the pan with cooking spray, but leave the sides untouched.  I have learned that this is the way to keep the crust from baking onto the bottom of the pan, but it allows you to mold the sides to the pan and they won’t slip and shrink into the bottom during baking. Gently (slowly) roll the pie crust out over the pan, lightly pressing it into the bottom and making sure it’s centered.

You can do it!

The only artistic part of this crust.

Poke holes in the bottom of your crust with a fork.

And like SO.

This prevents it from blowing up like a balloon during baking.  Try to leave a slight edge of crust rolling over the very top of the sides of the dish.  This will help anchor it in place.

The box says to bake the crust 9 -11 min. at 450 degrees.  I never do this anymore.  It burned even at 9 min.  Instead, I bake the crust for only 8 min. and remove it promptly.  Set it aside while you make the filling.

So tired from all this pie crust...er...making.

Reduce the oven to 350 degrees.

The Filling!

One trick I’ve learned in the past couple of years is this: If you have bacon in your recipe, and you are cooking it in a pan, it sure doesn’t hurt to save the bacon fat for cooking your veggies afterwards.  I’m not saying that’s sanctioned by Weight Watchers, you understand.  But it really adds flavor!  For this quiche, I saute five (you could do fewer of course) chopped slices of thick-cut hickory smoked bacon until crispy.

Crispy Baaaacon!

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on a plate with a paper towel.

Pour the majority of the bacon fat off into a can or jar that can sit aside to cool.  You only need the pan to be greased – you don’t want to poach your veggies in fat!  Well…maybe you do.  That’s up to you.

My veggie here is mushrooms.  If I’d had regular onions, I’d put them in at the same time.  Cook the mushrooms until they’ve released most of their water.  You don’t want them releasing water into your quiche, so they should be compact and lightly brown. Remove them and set aside in a bowl.  Peppers and spinach should also be lightly sauteed until soft.

Chop up your chives.  I LOVE chives because they are so delicate and make all eggs taste better, imho.  They are really easy to grow, if you have an herb garden.  You can also buy them with the fresh spices at the supermarket.  If you don’t use chives, you can use anything from regular onions to scallions to shallots (also very delicate and nice).  All other onions I just mentioned need some level of quick saute.  The chives can be used raw.

Crumble that bacon until it’s in little pieces.

Lay the bacon and mushrooms evenly all over the baked pie crust.  If you are using shredded cheese, this is the time to add the cheese as well.

Now it's looking good!

The Eggy Stuff

What I’ve learned through various desperate attempts to piece together a quiche with insufficient eggs or no cream, for example, is that yolks and cream make a filling richer and heavier and eggwhites (or whole eggs versus just yolks) and lighter cream…or whole milk…make it fluffier and lighter.  The world will not stop turning if you depart from the recipe.  This quiche that I made contained two egg yolks (which I save in a glass container in the fridge when I use eggwhites for something else – they last a few days) and two whole eggs, plus 1/3 C of heavy cream.

2 egg yolks

2 whole eggs

1/3 C cream

If my refrigerator had looked different, I might have used four whole eggs and 1/3 C milk, or maybe 3 whole eggs and 1/3 C cream.  Just imagine the basic volume and richness of what you’re omitting and do your best to match it.  It is unlikely you will ruin your quiche!

In fact, here are some combos that can be found in Le cordon Bleu’s Quiches & Savories book:

1 egg, 2 yolks, 1/3 C heavy cream

3 eggs, 3/4 C ricotta, 1/3 C heavy cream

1 egg, 2/3 C heavy cream, 3/4 C milk

3 eggs, 1 C heavy cream

Of course, all these quiches have different contents and richness and a variety of heights (fluffiness) but you can see that there is definitely some elbow room to mess with your ingredients.  If you’ve only got two eggs, increase the cream.  If you’ve got no cream, add an egg yolk.  You get the picture.

Put all the eggy stuff into a bowl and whisk it.  Add the chives, if you’re using chives, and whisk them in.  I find the chives spread more nicely throughout the quiche when whisked into the egg rather than sprinkled onto the crust and left to float to the top.

Eggy stuff.

Put that quiche together!

Just pour the eggy mix over the crust as evenly as possible and gently redistribute rogue filling if it clumps in one area.

Put your little masterpiece in the oven and set the timer for 25 min.  When the buzzer goes off, try inserting a knife into the center of the quiche.  If it comes out clean, the quiche is usually done.  Hopefully your quiche will also show some light toasting on top.  I’d say, when in doubt, put it back in for five more minutes.  I’ve rarely overcooked a quiche, and you don’t want it to be runny!

Voila!

Another glorious feature of the quiche is that you can make it earlier in the day and set it aside to serve at room temperature (and we often reheat leftover slices briefly in the microwave – gasp!) with a crisp, green salad.  It really is the perfect meal at the end of a stressful day, when you have no energy left and no time to cook.  If you’ve made it in advance, you’ll be done.  Just slice, pour your well-deserved glass of wine, and sit down!

Now you can relax, friend.

With all this crazy ingredient-swapping, you’re going to get pretty good at quiche.  In honor of my mother, however, the original quiche-master of my family, I am going to share her wonderful Quiche Lorraine.

Mom, me, and my brother circa 1977

Marilyn’s Mysteriously Marvelous Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients:

1 pie crust (even she buys them at the store now!)

1 1/2C grated Swiss cheese

8 slices of bacon (thin)

3 eggs

1 C heavy cream (Heart…stopping…now.  But it’s SO GOOD)

1/2 C milk

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

black and cayenne pepper to taste

Fry bacon until crispy. Place crumbled bacon and cheese in pie shell. Whisk everything else together (put cream in last) and pour over cheese and bacon.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 min. and then turn oven down to 300 degrees for another 45 min. Should come out puffy and browned on top. Watch the edges of the pie crust and protect them with foil toward the end if necessary.

And that, folks, is all I have to say about the marvelous, mysterious, world of quiche.  Guten Appetit!

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3 Responses to “Quiche Is No Quandary”

  1. JD May 19, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    I loooooooove quiche! So here’s my question : can I use half and half? If so, how much and then how many eggs?

    • frazzledfoodie May 19, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      You definitely could (according to me ;)) Look at my mom’s Quiche Lorraine recipe. It has milk AND cream in it. So…half and half. If you substitute half and half for cream, maybe just add an egg yolk – or make sure there’s some cheese in the quiche. Or don’t, and just have a light and fluffy quiche! It’s such an art, rather than a science. Maybe start with three eggs, an egg yolk, and 1/3 C half and half? Or if you wanted more volume in the quiche, maybe even jack that up to 1/2 or 3/4C half and half or add one more egg…eyeball it!

  2. Anne Miller June 21, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    My mom’s Quiche Lorraine uses 16 oz. half and half and 3 eggs. She made hers with swiss cheese and ham but lately I’ve been adding green onions and other kinds of cheeses – cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella – whatever I have that needs using up. Definitely want to try spinach and/or mushroom quiche since I am crazy for both of those ingredients. Yes I love Pillsbury crust. Would NEVER make quiche without it.

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