Cracking the code on quiche

I know my way around an egg. I’m not saying this to brag – it’s merely a fact. As an explanation, you must know that I grew up with eggs and chickens (still not sure which came first), so I am at home with both creatures. I grew up gathering them, eating them and coloring them (eggs, that is). As a child, I had chickens as friends, chickens as enemies and, on one memorable night, young pullets as my fellow captives when we were accidentally locked together in a small shed. Ah, the memories.

I know enough about chickens and eggs to write a book…so I’ll save most of my thoughts on both subjects to other pages and blogs. For now, I will just say that, for me, preparing eggs comes second nature…get me to a stove with a skillet and I can crack and fry an egg blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back. This comes from years of being spoiled by farm fresh eggs. I know that an egg yolk is supposed to be a deep golden orange, not pale anemic yellow. I know the shell on a healthy egg is should be thick. I know that this comes from chickens who are allowed to wander and graze as they please. My parents’ hens are so free-range, they mail you a postcard to let you know they’ve laid an egg.

it’s getting thick here, so I’ll move along. I love eggs in all ways – poached, scrambled, boiled and deviled, fried, coddled (baked in bacon rings). At times, when nothing else will do to satisfy my hunger, I’ve staggered to the kitchen to cheer myself by making “Toad in a Hole,” upon where a circle is extracted from a slice of bread that is placed in a buttered pan and into the hole goes Mr. Toad – the incredible, edible egg.

Having made a number of egg dishes successfully (why did that gal in “Julie & Julia” make such a big deal out of poaching an egg? It’s easy as pie!), I pondered those I had yet to try. I want to make a soufflé at some point down the road, and I am intrigued by an MFK Fisher (more on her later) dish called “Eggs in Hell,” but for the time being – since I am trying a new pie each month – I thought, why not have a go at quiche?

Quiche (“keesh”), a savory egg pie, seemed to make a leap into the mainstream culture in the ‘80s and not everyone could fathom what to make of it – I know because that’s when it hit our high school cafeteria and our rather sardonic and rumpled biology teacher/track coach, reading us the weekly school lunch menu one day, seemed to puzzle over an item before calling it a “Western Quickie.” I think he was probably one of those real men who didn’t eat quiche (nor know how to pronounce it). But for those of us who did and who have continued to eat them over the last two decades, they are quite sumptuous, versatile and I recently came to find out, simple to make.

I looked over a number of quiche recipes, borrowed from some and came up with my own combination of what I considered ideal flavors. Bacon, of course, had to be included. Since this was a spring quiche, I liked the idea of using leeks to impart a soft oniony flavor, more sweet than overpowering. And, I have recently fallen in love with tangy Gruyere cheese. It melts beautifully – I can see why it is used in everything from macaroni and cheese to French onion soup fondue.

As for the crust for the quiche, I also nosed my way through a number of recipes. A good share of them called for a store-bought crust, but I wanted something homemade, a pastry crust that would work with in my tart pan with a removable bottom. I ran across one on a website called that incorporated cheese into the crust. Oh, my…I had to give that one a try! This pastry dough worked well with one exception – it was a tad greasy. I think one could avoid this problem with two possible options: either cut the amount of butter a bit in the crust recipe or chill the dough after it has been put in the pan for 30 minutes to an hour. I include the recipe here in its original form. Except for its oiliness, it really baked up well and was very flavorful. The cheesy aspect of the crust complemented the flavors of the quiche filling. All in all, the quiche was light and tender, delicately nuanced with the smoky bacon, sweet leeks and modestly pungent Gruyere. Accompanied by a green salad, it made a lovely Sunday night supper.

“Quickie” Bacon, Leek & Gruyere Quiche
5 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons sour cream
¾ cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
4 strips lean smoked bacon
1 large leek, top removed and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet, brown bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels and crumble or chop into small pieces. Drain all but one or two tablespoons of the bacon fat out of the skillet. Saute sliced leeks in pan over medium heat until wilted and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let the leeks cool in the pan.

Whisk eggs together with milk and sour cream; add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in bacon, leeks and cheese until well-combined. Pour filling into prepared tart pan (see below). Bake quiche on a parchment lined baking sheet until custard is set – about 35 minutes. Remove quiche from tart pan while still warm and cut into quarters for large servings or eight pieces for a lighter bite.

Cheesy Quiche Crust
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
5 teaspoons cold water

Place flour in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the chopped butter; rub butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the grated cheese. Sprinkle water over the flour mixture, a teaspoon at a time, stirring lightly with a fork. Add just enough water to allow the dough form a ball and cleanly leave the sides of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Roll out dough, and place in a 9 inch pie/quiche pan. Use a fork to prick holes over the bottom of the pastry.

Bake crust in preheated oven for 10 minutes before filling with quiche custard of your choice.

Blogger’s note: I substituted Gruyere cheese for the cheddar in the crust recipe.

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