Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The quiche is no longer kitsch

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

While the US celebrates this holiday today, let no one forget another very important, if slightly underappreciated, holiday from this past weekend.

Pi Day!!!

Yes, Saturday, March 14th (3.14) was Pi day, also known as Pie Day. And in honor of this, let's explore something a little less traditional than the average, all-American pie - quiche. Now, according to Food Network and various modern cookbooks, quiches have become kitsch in the last few years, and what was once a cool and cosmopolitan food, suitable for impressive dinner parties, has fallen from grace. And a good thing too, because quiche has regained its humble origins - as a French pie filled with egg and cheese, and other random vegetables and meat lying around. That doesn't sound too fancy, does it?

So, the questionable part is whether a quiche can really be called a pie. To answer this, let's dissect the anatomy of a quiche. The crust - identically made as that of an apple pie, with one minor addition - an egg. The insides - well, a quiche is, by definition, filled with savory eggy cheesy things, therefore is unlikely to have apples, cherries, peaches, etc. residing inside its crust. But the principle is the same. Bake the whole thing, serve warm, room temperature, or cold, and you're good to go. The quiche is the counterpart to sweet pies. And since almost everyone's made a pie in their lifetime, there's no reason everyone shouldn't also try making a quiche.

The following recipe was harvested from at least four online recipes and some old cookbooks. Use at own risk, however, it probably will be delicious.

1.5 cups flour
1 stick butter (cold)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp cold water
1 egg white

Mix flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter in half-inch cubes, mix with fork and hands into course meal (if blessed with a stand mixer, use this instead). Add the beaten egg and cold water, knead, and fold into a ball of dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, refrigerate for an hour.

Prepare a 9-inch pie pan with butter and flour. Roll out the dough, fit it into the pie pan, and refrigerate another 45min- 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Wrap dried beans (or pie weights, if you're fancy) in foil, place on top of the dough in the pie pan to weigh it down, and bake for 20 minutes. This is called blind baking.

Remove the weights, prick the crust all over with a fork, and return to oven without the weights for another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and decrease heat to 350F, let cool for a while, then brush with the lightly beaten egg white. Meanwhile, prepare the innards for the quiche.

1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped Portobello mushrooms
1 cup chopped ham and/or bacon
1 green pepper, chopped
1 leek, chopped
0.75 cup milk
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or gouda, gruyere, swiss, fontina, asiago - this recipe is not picky)
1 cup shredded havarti cheese (ditto)

Heat some oil in medium pan. Cook onions until browning. Add mushrooms and vegetables, and cook until tender and their liquid has evaporated. Add the ham/bacon, and cook until crisp.

Mix the shredded cheeses with the milk and the eggs, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Coat the crust with the vegetables and ham. Gently pour the egg and cheese mixture on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the quiche doesn't jiggle too much.

Now, as quiche was a peasant dish that one could put anything into, don't hesitate to add or subtract. This would taste great with spinach, potatoes, and tomatoes too. And probably most cheeses that you can get your hands on.

And with that, Happy (late) Pi(e) Day


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

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