Cooking is an art, not a science. It’s important when cooking not to get wrapped up in the measuring spoons and cups. Use recipes as your guide to creating food that YOU like to eat. I’ve decided to present a few formulas that allow a ridiculously huge amount of variation. Today’s formula is for quiche.
A short history of quiche (from foodreference.com):
“Although quiche is now a classic dish of French cuisine, quiche actually originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, and which the French later renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ is from the German ‘Kuchen’, meaning cake.
“The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open pie with a filling consisting of an egg and cream custard with smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added to the quiche Lorraine. Add onions and you have quiche Alsacienne. The bottom crust was originally made from bread dough, but that has long since evolved into a short-crust or puff pastry crust.”
Quiche can be ridiculously cliche and dated, but you can make one from anything you like. Tailor it to YOUR taste preferences. Quiche with broccoli and cheddar? Sure! What about quiche with poached shrimp and dill havarti? Sure! Quiche with andouille, crayfish and okra? Why not? (although I would say eww to the okra) Quiche with leftover Chinese food and monterey jack? Yes! These variations could potentially create a year’s worth of meals, although I suspect most of you would get sick of quiche long before then.
Let me explain food formulas. Each part of the formula has to be present for the recipe to work. However, the amounts are very flexible and the flavors can be completely yours. The only real requirement is that your crust be raw and your meat and most vegetables cooked (chopped scallions and shredded carrots can be raw). You don’t have to cook fresh herbs ahead of time, either.
Oh, um, one word of advice – don’t try to make a quiche with cucumber. The end product is totally gross. (Not that I’ve ever done that, I mean…)
#1 – Crust, uncooked
Your crust can be any kind of crust. Your grandmother’s recipe, your favorite pie crust, a nut crust, a cream cheese crust, a short crust, an herb crust, a Pillsbury store-bought crust: all will work. Whether the crust made with butter, margarine, Crisco, or cheese is irrelevant. I wouldn’t use puff pastry or graham cracker crusts, but anything else should work just fine. Put it in an 8″ or 9″ pie pan or tart pan with a removable bottom. One note of caution – don’t stretch your crust to fit in the pie or tart pan. A stretched crust will always shrink back to its original size, leaving you with very goofy looking edges. If it doesn’t fit, take it out and roll it thinner or get a smaller pie pan.
#2 – Cheese
You can get super-creative here. Use shredded or sliced cheese, queso fresco, sharp cheddar, dill havarti, swiss, or horseradish cheddar. The idea is to put a layer of cheese between the filling and eggs and the crust. It will prevent the crust from getting soggy. If you use shredded cheese, use at least 1.5 cups. If you want to use slices, make sure the bottom of the pie is completely covered with about 1/4″ of cheese slices (it’s fine – good even – if the cheese migrates up the sides). You can even use ricotta or cottage cheese. I would strongly suggest that you drain them in a colander or cheesecloth until all the excess liquid is gone. Then just spread about a cup in an even layer on the bottom of the crust. Although I’ve never done it, I bet cream cheese would work, too. Make sure to bring it to room temperature before trying to spread it, though.
#3 – Lumps
A lot of people look at me crooked when I talk about adding lumps to things. I add lumps to cookies (chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried fruits, coconut, etc.), so why not use the same term to describe what goes into a quiche? Lumps are anything that you want in your quiche. You’ll need roughly 2 cups. Consider chicken, leftover taco meat, zucchini, shredded carrots, shrimp, black beans, pineapple, fresh herbs, scallions, onions, crab, ANYTHING that will serve as the taste focus of your quiche. Remember, meat should be cooked. You can even use leftover Chinese or Thai or Mexican food! It’s a great use for your leftover St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Just chop everything up into bite sized pieces and throw it in! Any leftovers that have a sauce should be drained well before putting in (remember we want to keep our bottom crust as dry [and therefore flaky] as possible). If you put 2 cups on top of your cheese and it looks pathetically sparse, add more. Just don’t let your lumps go higher than your crust or you run the risk of burning them in the oven.
#4 – Custard
This is the easiest part. You will need 1 egg per 1/3 cup milk, cream, or half & half. An 8″ – 9″ pie will need 4 eggs and 1-1/3 cups liquid. This is where you add your spices (salt, pepper, dill, oregano, thyme, whatever floats your boat). Just mix them in with the eggs and milk/cream. However, if you’re like me and really like the lumpy part of the quiche, you may only need 3 eggs and 1 cup cream/milk. Mix the eggs, milk and spices together and gently pour over the pie. It should flow nicely into all the empty places in your quiche. Once the custard is in, the quiche is ready to go in the oven. 350F for an hour. The quiche will puff (and maybe crack, depending on the fat content of your dairy – it’s OK). A knife inserted near the center should come out clean, and there should be no jiggle when you move the pie pan.
So, that’s it! A super-easy way to use leftover bits from your fridge. A little hunk each of brie, mozzarella and gouda? A handful of dried cranberries, some ham and leftover steamed broccoli? A dish fit for a king! Give it a fancy name and serve it up proudly with some crusty bread and a salad.
The basic directions are:
- Place crust in a 8-9″ pie pan or 9-10″ tart pan with removable bottom.
- Place cheese in pan to coat bottom. Start with 1.5 cups and increase from there. When it melts it becomes the moisture barrier that keeps your crust from getting soggy.
- Place lumps in even layer on top of cheese. Start with 2 cups and adjust from there.
- Pour custard with spices in it over top. Start with 4 eggs and 1-1/3 cups liquid dairy of some sort.
- Bake at 350F for an hour. It will puff, the crust will become golden, the custard will not jiggle and a knife inserted near the center will come out clean.
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