Friday, March 2, 2012

Real-deal Quiche.

My first-ever real-deal quiche.
Quiche is one of those things that is so ubiquitous that I would venture to say it's actually reached the point of being under-lauded.  Up until a few weeks ago, in my uninformed mind, a quiche was simply the French version of an Italian Fritatta or a Spanish Tortilla.  Nothing particularly impressive, but tasty.  I figured all I had to do to make a quiche was mix a bunch of eggs in a bowl, add the fillings and pour that into a pastry crust.  Wrong, wrong, ever-so-embarrassingly-wrong.  

A quiche is not just another item on the list of many-splendid-cute-and-quick delicious appetizers available out there to the home cook.  It's not just another item on the mediocre and overpriced pathetic excuse for a French bistro I used to frequent in Abu Dhabi (I know, it looks so good but it's not - just think: pork-less French food! eek.), or any French bistro for that matter.  It's kind of an iconic thing, the quiche.  So simple, so well-known and widely-enjoyed around the world.  And yet, after making my first real quiche, from scratch, and asking all my closest friends and family, none of them knew that a quiche is made by creating a proper, real-deal egg custard.  Not just a sloppily whisked-together bowl of eggs.   A custard!  So simple and yet so different!  And when I realized it was a savory custard (ooh how I LOVE flan!) I was making (rather than baked scrambled eggs), I suddenly went from simply appreciating quiches to being a full-fledged devotee.

It was also a huge revelation to me that you layer the custard, rather than just dump all the fillings in at once.  It's a time-consuming process but makes for evenly dispersed ingredients within the quiche, and it's so worth the extra effort when you get the perfect bite every single time.

custardy layers
The recipes I used for the pastry and the fillings came from my newly discovered long-time cookbook Bouchon (of Thomas Keller fame).  One day I opened the book up and decided it was high-time I tried my hand at the real-deal.  I went into a quiche-making frenzy that Matt will probably remember for years to come.

I made three quiches in one-and-a-half days (which given how time consuming they are to make, is an achievement), two of which I kept and one of which I gave away to a friend who had just had a baby. 
I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did mine. Here are the flavors I made:

1. Kale, bacon and Gruyere
2. Maine Shrimp & Asparagus
3. Gruyere & caramelized onion

Apart from one disaster where I didn't pre-bake the crust long enough and it broke and the custard started leaking through, they all came out superbly.  I don't have a proper quiche pan like Thomas Keller recommends, so that's on the culinary wish-list, but until then I swear by my normal, removable-bottom tarte pan which worked really well.  On the other hand, I don't recommend trying the loaf tin so much.  Very hard to get the quiche out in one piece, and believe me, the last thing you want to do is break that thing of beauty after all the blood, sweat and tears it took to make.

My (&Matt's) favorite was the Kale, bacon and Gruyere, by far, so I'll share that recipe here.

* * *

Kale, Bacon & Gruyere Quiche
a la Bouchon

Serves 4

Pastry & Custard Recipes: See Thomas Keller's Bouchon Recipe

Follow the instructions above, simply substituting my fillings, as follows:

(Besides the things needed for the custard and crust above, of course)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head kale, chopped
6 rashers of bacon, chopped into small squares
1 cup grated fresh Gruyere cheese

1. While your crust is pre-baking, sautee the bacon until crisp.  Remove to drain and cool on paper towels, saving the fat in the pan. 

2. Add the minced garlic to the pan with the bacon fat at medium-high heat and sautee until fragrant (less than 30 seconds), then add the kale.  Sautee until completely wilted.  Set aside in pan.

3. When it's time to layer the quiche, start with a layer of custard, a layer of kale, a layer of bacon and a layer of cheese.  Repeat 2-3 times more (as necessary), ending with a generous layer of cheese.  Be sure, as Thomas Keller suggests, to fill the quiche to the very brim, even adding the last bit of custard mixture once you've placed the quiche in the oven, so as not to spill and waste.

Serve with a simply dressed mesclun salad and bon appetit!
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