Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Bastille Day Quiche Lorraine

My French conversation group has an annual luncheon to celebrate la fête nationale—Bastille Day as we Yanks call it—and there’s always a bit of an unofficial competition over the food. This year I offered to make quiche Lorraine, which I think contains the perfect balance of a light, creamy custard set off by salty, savory bacon.

I added not-traditional chives to mine, for added flavor and color

Although now known as a classic French dish, quiche originated in Germany (the word comes from the German word “Kuchen,” or cake). Of course, much of the Lorraine region has been passed back and forth between what are now France and Germany over the ages—only settling down permanently as part of France in 1919. So, not surprisingly, the cuisine of the Lorraine seems more German than French, with potatoes, sausages, and cabbage being among the popular dishes.

For our Bastille Day party, I used my mom’s quiche recipe, which is so simple (there are only two ingredients for the custard—canned milk and eggs) that you may not believe it doesn’t contain the traditional whipping cream. 

eggs and canned milk with the recipe card Mom gave me when I went off to college

But when you think about it, it makes sense that the result is so rich, because by evaporating milk its flavor becomes much more concentrated and intense. And although you may not want to drink canned milk straight, it works wonders in baking.

The Crust

Start by making your pie dough, which is also way easier than you might think: Measure 8 heaping tablespoons of flour into a bowl, and add ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ stick (4 oz.) of cold butter, cut into small cubes:

Using a pastry cutter or knife, cut the butter into the flour, until the butter pieces are about the size of green peas. (Don’t use your hands, as their heat will melt the butter; you want the chunks of butter to be separate from the flour, as this is what makes for a flaky crust.)

Next, add a couple ounces of ice water, and stir it into the flour mixture with a fork or spoon.

Keep drizzling in water (it should take about 4 ounces, total) until the dough is moist enough to just stick together in a ball.

Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer while you make the filling for the quiche.

The Filling

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

Slice ¼ pound of bacon into thin pieces and fry them until they are just starting to brown at the edges. Drain off the fat (but keep that delicious fat for frying potatoes or adding to sautéed kale, or some other yummy dish, later!) and set the bacon pieces aside.

Coarsely grate ½ to ¾ cup of white cheese (Gruyère is traditional, but I used Irish cheddar, as that’s what I had on hand, and it worked great), and set aside.

Chop a few chives, if you like (not traditional, but very pretty, and they add a bit of zip to the quiche), and set aside.

my cheese, bacon and not-yet-chopped chives

My mom’s recipe calls for 1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk and 2 eggs per quiche. I was making two quiches, and decided to use 3 eggs each, since that’s what Mrs. Rombauer says in The Joy of Cooking. But the eggs were enormous, so I compromised with 5 for the two pies, which ended up making the perfect amount of custard.

Pour the canned milk into a bowl, whisk the eggs and add them, and whisk it all together:

By now your dough should be good and cold. Roll it out, lay it in the pie pan, crimp the edges, and poke a bunch of holes in the bottom with a fork:

Scatter the cheese, bacon, and chives in the pan:

Give the custard a last whisk and pour it on top of the ingredients:

Bake the quiche until the center does not jiggle, and the edges are just starting to brown, which could take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the oven, altitude, humidity, and any number of variables. (See photo at top.)

Let it cool a little before eating. Or, if you’ve made it in advance, chill and reheat at 220°F for about a half hour.

Here are the ingredients, for easy reference:

8 heaping T flour
4 oz. chilled butter
½ t salt
4 oz. (estimate) ice-water

¼ lb. chopped bacon
½ to ¾ cup grated white cheese
several chives, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
2 or 3 eggs

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