Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Wonderful World of Quiche

I love quiche. Frankly, I don't know many who don't. Even my kids love quiche! This savory pie can be doctored to any flavor, so long as you like pie and eggs. And to tell the truth, I'm not crazy about eggs, but still, I love quiche.

I also love to make quiche. It can be made in a very particular fashion, using choice ingredients and adding things in a very specific order, or it can be thrown together with whatever you have in your fridge and still turn out light, fluffy and delicious.

When I worked at a cafe in high school, I learned the ultimate technique for making quiche. The owner insisted on quiche only being made by certain individuals who were well trained in the technique which was inspired by the quiche one might encounter in French cafes. For those of you who are curious, here's the 'ultimate technique':
Prep your dough from scratch - any savory pie crust will do (I love my aunt's recipe, but everyone has their family favorite!) For an extra treat, put grated cheese (gouda or cheddar) in the dough.
Roll out your dough to fit your deep pie plate. Make sure you leave some extra room around the edge for when the dough shrinks.
Prick the dough with a fork all around. Lay down a greased sheet of tin foil (greased side down) and put a few dried beans down.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your filling. A nice, rich quiche will have about 8 eggs and 2 cups of light cream. If your recipe says differently, just go with it. It's actually quite hard to make a bad tasting quiche.
Beat the eggs, cream, 1/2 tsp paprika, cracked pepper, and any other spices/herbs you want. Once you think everything is well mixed, beat it a minute or two more.
As soon as the crust comes out of the oven, lift out the tin foil and beans, and pour in a bit of the egg mixture. It will leak through any holes and cook quickly, making a solid crust so the rest of the mixture doesn't have a chance to leak through.
Sprinkle a bit of grated cheese on the bottom of the crust and return to the oven for 3 minutes.
Chop up a variety of fillings: peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, olives, ham, mushrooms, etc.
When the crust is back out of the oven, pour in half of the egg filling. Sprinkle your chopped ingredients evenly around the pie plate. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese on top. Add the remaining egg mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes - after 10 minutes check your crust to make sure it's not browning too much. If it's getting too dark, wrap tinfoil around the crust.
The quiche is done baking when you can put a knife in at the centre and it comes out clean.

Now, there are ways to make it fluffier (beat the yolks and whites separately and fold ingredients together) but I've always found this method to work fantastically.

But let's face it - not everyone keeps cream in their fridge all the time. And who really has time to whip up a pie crust for a weekday meal? And isn't there any way we can make this process easier??

Well, just last night I made a quiche, and the reason I opted for that supper option was because our cupboards were feeling a little bare, and if I eat pasta one more time this month I'm going to die. I did a quick inventory of what I did have: some eggs, some leftover phyllo dough that I needed to use soon, a couple types of cheese that were getting past their prime and a half used pepper.
Have you ever seen that classic James Bond scene where he goes to make food for his lady-friend-du-jour and her fridge is nearly empty? And in the next scene he's whipped up a delicious quiche from seemingly nothing? It can really happen like that.

I laid the phyllo out in my pie plate (forget cutting it into circles... I just made sure I alternated which side of the plate the long edge was sticking over). And instead of brushing phyllo with butter, I almost always use my kitchen oil spritzer that I fill with canola oil. Lay the sheet down, spray, next sheet... super easy. For the filling, I only had 7 eggs, and only 1% milk, but I did have sour cream! I cracked all the eggs, added 3 tbsp of sour cream and a splash of milk and whipped it well. I wanted to cut the sharpness of the sour cream a bit, so instead of paprika I used a chili powder blend to add some roundness. I skipped the blind baking step (you don't want to overcook your phyllo, and besides, nothing was going to leak through the 8 sheets of phyllo I used) and I added the grated cheese right in the egg mixture (half cheddar, half gouda), as well as a Bell Pepper and Herb spice blend that I had kicking around. I poured the egg mixture in and then added some chopped deli ham, tomato and red pepper. I baked it at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, pulled it out and put tin foil over the crust edges, and then baked it for another 20 - 25 minutes. I can't remember the last time my house smelled so full of savory goodness!

I don't have a picture, mostly because I planned on using leftovers for my photo op, but my boys ate everything! I reserved a third of the quiche for Matt, and the boys and I all ate equal parts of the rest! Nathaniel, my youngest, doesn't like eggs normally, but he ate as much as I did, and that's after he ate a bowl of diced cucumber and tomatoes! Not bad for a 17 month old! Gabriel, my oldest, can be quite picky about his meals, particularly if he finds them difficult or messy to eat. We put ketchup on his just to help it cool down quicker and I barely ate half of mine before he was asking for more! Definately no leftovers.

If you don't have phyllo, try bisquick, puff pastry, or a quick dough with minimal chilling time.
If you don't have cream, or sour cream, or even milk, try a can of evaporated milk. You can use softened cream cheese to add some richness, too.
Eggs are a protein, so if you don't have ham, bacon or other meat to add to it, no worries! And the only veggies you shouldn't put in quiche are cucumbers (too high of a water content). You can make pretty much everything else work (although some veggies you may have to cook in advance)

So don't reserve your quiche meals for days with lots of prep time and fancy company coming. In under 45 minutes I made a quiche, start to finish, and we were sitting down to eat a deliciously balanced meal!

Ah quiche... how I love thee.

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

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