Sure, we Americans think of quiche as something special but did you know that quiche was once considered food for simple folk? That’s right, quiche originated not in France as is commonly assumed but in Germany,(1) though I should also mention the boundaries of that area (the Alsace-Lorraine region) have shifted right up until WWI. Amongst the farmers and rural folk, meat was often hard to come by although eggs and dairy were relatively available. So, for hundreds of years (some say going back as far as the 14th Century) the quiche was most likely a versatile custard made of eggs, cream and whatever vegetables and scraps happened to be on hand.
So, when making that springtime vegetable quiche feel free to be flexible, using what you have on hand to make a quick, simple lunch or dinner. Nevertheless, there are a few simple guidelines you should stick to.
1. 3 Ingredients is Best
That’s right, minus the eggs, cheese and cream, it’s usually best to stick to 3 ingredients or less. Why? With quiche, less really is more. The custard is part of the whole experience and stuffing too many different ingredients can take away from those sweet leeks or those earthy mushrooms.
2. Blind Bake that Pastry Crust
You can avoid that sad, soppy bottom if you blind bake your pastry crust for 10-12 minutes at 190°C. Though some people swear by glass-bottom pie pans and I love glass, I find aluminum actually works better for pastry dough and glass works better for crumb-style pie crusts.
3. Skip the Gouda and Emmentaler
These cheeses don’t really add much to the mix. Their milder flavors get lost in the shuffle, so unless you’ve got a lot of leftover cheese you’re trying to use up, leave ‘em off. For a creamy backdrop, use cream cheese or ricotta that has had time to drain off its extra liquid in a cheesecloth.
4. Only one Star Cheese Please plus Parmesan
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese should be standard in every quiche you make. After that, you can go with sharp cheddar, bleu cheese or any other strong-flavored cheese. Do not mix half bleu and half cheddar or half cheddar, half Swiss because that confuses things a bit much. Just stick with the cheese you think is best suited to star in your show.
5. White Pepper is Essential and Go easy on the Nutmeg
Do I need to say more than that? 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg is plenty. If you like mustard like I do, skip the nutmeg and add 1 tablespoon or Dijon.
6. Precook, Cool and then Mix
I prefer fresh not frozen vegetables in my quiche. Since most vegetables will not cook fully whilst submerged in custard and baked, you want to cook those vegetables at least half-way and drain off any excess liquid. If you’ve got something really juicy like a tomato, you’re going to way to cook it as much as you can and use it like a sauce. Then, just before baking, place very thin slices of tomato (not layered) on the very top of the quiche. Tomatoes change the texture of eggs and this can be great when planned for (more here) but that’s not desired in a quiche. I even cook my spinach in a quick sauté with garlic and olive oil. The moment it wilts I remove from heat and let it cool. Once it’s at room temperature, I start building the quiche.
7. When in Doubt, add Egg Yolks
Now, if you’re ignored my advice and decided to use every vegetable you’ve got in your garden, more power to you, you’re going to want to add a couple extra egg yolks to give that custard some extra firmness.
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 egg white (for crust)
1 cup whole cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 lb. fresh spinach, sautéed in olive oil and garlic, room temperature
1 9-inch piecrust or aluminum pastry-lined pan
1 teaspoon All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard (or 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg-NOT both!)
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack
1/2 cup ricotta cheese, drained through cheesecloth
1/2 cup and 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Sauté and cool spinach. Remove from juices and place on lined paper towels or clean dishcloth. Preheat oven to 190°C. Brush thawed pie crust or pastry lined pie pan with egg white. Blind bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove.
Mix eggs, egg yolks, 2 cups parmesan, all the ricotta and jack, cream, and butter. Add teaspoon flour and stir. Add salt, pepper and mustard or nutmeg. Pour into pie dish and top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 190°C for approximately 50 minutes or longer, depending on oven. You know quiche is done when there is no pool of uncooked custard in the center. To test, wearing hot pads, grab the edges of the pie pan and shake lightly like you’re turning a steering wheel. If the center does not move, your quiche is done! You can also poke a sharp knife into the center to see if it comes out clean. The first method it better though for hitting it right on the nose.
Have fun with my trusty Spinach Quiche recipe and enjoy improvising with various ingredients! Now all you need is a really simple mesclun or butter leaf salad and maybe a nice bottle of Riesling or Pinot Grigio.