Friday, November 1, 2013

Real women eat quiche

Comfort food. Everyone has their favorite. That meal that takes you back to your childhood, that eases away the tensions of the day, that soothes the soul. What comes to mind for you? Meatloaf and mashed potatoes, perhaps? A hearty stew? Fried chicken? Mac n'cheese?

For me, it usually means something eggy and cheesy, so I like quiche - a rich and creamy concoction of milk, cheese and eggs and whatever vegetable happens to be around. 

Although quiche is now a classic dish of French cuisine, it actually originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, when it was 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 eggs and cream with smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added to it. Add onions and you have quiche Alsacienne. (In Germany, there is a wonderful dish called Zwiebelkuchen or "onion cake", that I adore). Though the bottom crust was originally made from bread dough, it has long since evolved into a short-crust or puff pastry crust. Though fillings vary, they are all variations on the same theme: a fantastically flaky buttery crust holding in place a custard of eggs and cheese. Comfort food at its finest.

Swiss Chard and Bacon Quiche

1 Quiche crust (see below)
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. bacon, cut into lardons
1 1/2 lbs. Swiss chard, ribs removed
3 eggs
1 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream and sour cream combined
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4  oz. Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Fry the bacon. Remove from pan. Saute shallots in bacon fat (or remove bacon fat and add a little olive oil or butter) until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Remove to the plate with the bacon. Divide the chard leaves from the ribs: chop the ribs quite small and shred the leaves. First, fry the ribs in the bacon fat until tender. Then, add the chard leaves to the pan, cover and wilt, about 4-5 minutes.

Beat the eggs together with the creme fraiche and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the shallots, bacon, chard stems and leaves. Fill the quiche crust with this mixture, then sprinkle with the grated cheese, and pour over the custard (egg and cream). Bake for 50-60 minutes until quiche is set and browned. Cool and serve at room temperature.

In a bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 tsp. salt. Add 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) plus 2 Tbsp. butter, cut into chunks; mix to coat with flour. With your fingers or pastry blender, rub or cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Add 1 egg and stir with a fork until dough holds together. Shape dough into a ball. On a floured board, roll out dough and fit into a 10-inch quiche pan or pie pan. Make dough flush with top rim, folding excess dough down against pastry-lined side and pressing firmly in place. Flute edge decoratively. If made ahead, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using. Makes enough for 1 quiche.

Excellent served with a side salad and a glass of white wine. 

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