May 3, 2011
With warm weather creeping up on us, there are a few recipes that will soon be set aside until fall, because I don’t want to heat up the kitchen. One of them is a classic French recipe for using up a surplus of dairy products, a bit of bacon or the odd vegetable: a cheese pie or quiche. You can make a homemade pie crust or use a reliable mix that has given you good results. I like to make my own.
This was always a source of disagreement in our kitchen. My grandmother used lard when they were on the farm. She rendered her own and knew its quality. My mother used Crisco solid shortening, but I felt that I got tastier results by substituting butter for some of the shortening. Mom thought I was wasting butter, but she had to agree it tasted pretty good. The amount of shortening can be adjusted to suit your tastes, and in warmer weather, be sure your shortening is well chilled.
If this is your entree, the quiche will serve four comfortably, but it might serve six for lunch with a vegetable or a generous serving of salad on the side. It also works for brunch with fruit salad. Sometimes we make it for supper and then enjoy leftovers for breakfast the next day. You can re-warm it in the oven; that works better than the microwave for this dish.
Probably the best thing about this recipe is that much of the preparation can be done ahead of time. Pastry dough can chill in the refrigerator for several hours if need be. Bacon does not have to be hot out of the pan. Finally, once your quiche is in the oven you have almost half an hour to pull everything else together.
Ingredients for pastry crust:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
8-10 Tablespoons butter*
6-7 Tablespoons shortening
4-5 Tablespoons ice water
This can be done by hand, but the food processor does a great job of mixing pastry dough. Combine flour, salt and sugar and mix well (If using food processor, use steel blade.). Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat with flour. Cut butter into flour with 4-5 one-second pulses. Add shortening and continue cutting until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than small peas, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into mixing bowl.
Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over mixture. Use rubber spatula with a folding motion to mix and distribute water. Press down on dough with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to one tablespoon more ice water if dough will not come together. Use your hands to shape into two balls. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.
The amount of shortening in pie crust is largely a matter of personal taste. We think a combination of butter and solid vegetable shortening is best. Grandmother used lard, so if the crust is too rich for your taste, adjust the amount of shortening. Makes enough for two crusts.
Ingredients for cheese custard:
6 sliced lean bacon (optional but classic), cooked crisp and set aside to drain on paper towels
2 eggs, plus 2 extra yolks
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch white pepper
¾ cups grated Emmentaler or Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Optional: a ½ cup chopped fresh spinach, 6 stalks blanched asparagus, sliced sauteed mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 375°F and roll the dough on a floured surface. I like to use a pastry cloth to make it easier to transfer into the baking dish. The sides of a quiche dish are usually at a 90-degree angle to the base, but some dishes will have crenulated sides. Roll the crust into a large circle and transfer to the dish pressing firmly into the bottom and against the sides. Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Weight it with some aluminum foil and pie beans. Bake it for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool.
Beat together eggs, extra yolks, cream and seasonings. Crumble the bacon over the bottom of the baked shell and add grated cheese (or you can mix it into the custard). You can also add vegetables at this point. Ladle the custard mixture over the bacon and cheese. Sprinkle dots of butter on the top and bake at 375°F for 25 minutes or until set. Serve hot or warm. Serves 4-6.