Easy Quiche

Easy Quiche at Home

It was only when I really got serious about cooking that I fell in love with the egg. It's such a simple little thing, yet somehow the ultimate culinary workhorse and challenge. Eggs are delicious as an ingredient in their own right, but are also the primary foundational ingredients in entire catalogs of recipes. How many dishes are based on some sort of custard? Can you imagine meatloaf without the binding power of the egg? How about brownies, cakes and cookies? Mayonnaise? They all rely on the perfect package that is the egg.

Which brings me to today's meal. I had a fridge full of ingredients to use up and I figured the best way to tackle the task was to make either a quiche or a frittata. Both are great egg bases that can use up whatever you've got left in your fridge or pantry. Since I got home earlier than expected, I had a few extra minutes to cook, plenty of time to make a quick shortcrust pastry, and decided on a quiche.

I use the word quiche because I started with a shortcrust pastry and used eggs in the filling. I do admit to putting in substantially more fillings, so maybe this is a ham, egg, potato and cheese tart? Either way, you need to start with a shortcrust pastry.

The word pastry used to frighten me. It sounded so fancy and complicated. Some pastries are complicated, but the shortcrust pastry is not. It's a standard pie dough. The ingredients vary by tradition, but shortcrust pastry is fat and flour, held together in a cohesive mass with a little ice water.  In American traditions, that fat would be butter, lard, shortening or any combination thereof. I tend to follow the French tradition of using all butter and adding an egg yolk for richness (you could certainly leave the egg out, you'll just need more ice water).

Shortcrust Ingredients
175g AP flour
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
pinch of salt.
1 egg yolk
2-4 tblsp ice water

Filling Ingredients
3-4 whole eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
Other fillings of your choice, great place for leftovers
Salt/pepper to taste
Fresh ground nutmeg to taste

For the Pastry:

Place the flour in the food processor with the butter and process for a few seconds, then add your egg yolk and 2 tblsp of ice water. Process quickly in the food processor until you get sandy lumps that hold together when you press them. Depending on conditions, you may need up to 4 tblsp of ice water, so check as you go.

By the way, when I started making pastry, I had better results with a pastry cutter and making the dough by hand. A food processor is a wonderful tool because it works so quickly, but if it's your first time making shortcrust, that speed means you can easily over process your dough. It happened to me the first time I made a pie crust. So if you aren't used to making pastry and you start with the food processor, take your time.

Sandy, lumpy, perfect.

When you press it in your hand, it should come together.

Once you've got the pastry coming together, pour the shaggy dough into one large heap on a floured work surface, press it together with your hands and bring it to one unified mass.

If you've worked quickly, you can roll it out now, if not, wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for 15-30 minutes. It's important that the butter stay cold.

When you are ready to roll, lightly flour your surface and get going. Sometimes I roll between parchment, it does make transferring the pastry easier. If you roll on a counter, a bench scraper is a nice tool to help you pick it up. Whatever you do, roll the dough a uniform thickness and out to a larger diameter than your pan, it is easier to cut off and remove excess than to try to stretch or pull the dough to cover.

Place the pastry in your tart pan (I love the removable bottom and fluted edges) gently pressing into the flutes. Cut off your excess (I like to run my rolling pin over the top of the pan, easy and fast.) If you get any rips or tears, just use excess dough to patch or fill. Place the shell on a sheet pan, cover, and put them in your fridge to rest while you preheat the oven to 400 F. You'll want to give it at least 15 minutes rest before you do the blind bake.

Blind baking is when you pre-cook your pastry shell before filling it. Some recipes won't need a blind bake, but I always blind bake quiches because the filling is so wet. Blind baking keeps the crust from getting soggy.

Once your oven is hot, take the pastry shell out of the fridge, prick the bottom several times with a fork, cover it with aluminum foil (shiny side down is tradition, I don't know why, but its what I always do) and fill in with dry beans or pie weights. I've never used pie weights, in fact, I have crazy old dry beans that I've kept forever for blind baking. Once you are done just drop them bake in storage for next time.

Anyway, bake with the foil and beans for 15 minutes, then remove the foil/beans and continue baking until the shell looks set and is barely golden. That'll take 5-10 more minutes. You don't want to fully brown the shell since it will go back in the oven, but you do want it cooked.

On to the filling:

Take the shell out of the oven, turn the oven down to 350, and start filling your quiche. You can fill with anything you want. The only rule I have is that most fillings should be pre-cooked. Your quiche is only going to bake 20-25 minutes, that is not long enough to cook raw potatoes or onions, so if you want to use those ingredients, saute them first. This is why I love quiche as a fridge cleaner. Any leftover bits from meals earlier in the week are perfect. Here's the ingredients I used tonight.

Ingredients for tonight: fried potatoes, prosciutto, scallions, shredded cheddar cheese, thyme and parsley.
Herbs don't need to be precooked, and cheese just needs to be shredded. Other awesome ingredients for quiche are sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions, defrosted frozen spinach, or the classic, fried bacon lardons and gruyere. Once you've added your fillings to the shell, gently mix the eggs with the cream (3 eggs if you're using a lot of fillings like me, 4 eggs if you are going simpler) and a dash of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture over the other fillings in the shell and use a spoon or spatula to move/distribute everything into an even layer.

Out of the oven and on a cooling rack.
Place the quiche in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. You want the eggs set around the edge, but still a little wobbly in the center. When done, remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool slightly. Once you can handle the quiche, remove the pan edges and move it to a serving platter. Slice into wedges and serve. I like to garnish with parsley or scallions, or whatever herb I used inside. One of the beauties of quiche is that it can be eaten warm or room temperature, so it can easily be made in advance. To reheat, place a quiche slice in a 350 oven or 5-10 minutes.

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