Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I made a quasi quiche

Say the word "quiche" and I immediately recall swanky luncheon spots of the 80's, decked out in chrome and glass, a carafe of chablis, Big Hair, and shoulder pads.  But I happen to like quiche, or any kind of savory pie, and every so often, I enjoy putting one together.  If I'm feeling industrious, I make my own pastry.  If I'm feeling lazy, I buy a frozen deep-dish pie shell.  Either way, quiche is fabulous.  Anytime.  Warm or room temperature, it's satisfyingly solid with just enough richness from the cheese, eggs and pastry.

So I decided to make a quiche.  I made it strictly from ingredients on hand.  Now, I don't have these ingredients on hand all the time, but often, after dinner parties and other events, I have food in my freezer, refrigerator and pantry that comes together in serendipitous harmony.  Such was the case with my quiche.  But wait, I need to 'fess up here.  I didn't really make a quiche.  I made a quasi quiche.

Michael Ruhlman states that quiche has been misunderstood in the United States since Americans have insisted on trying to fit its contents in a pie shell.  "A proper quiche shell must be deep enough to allow you to cook the custard properly, which is why it is traditionally cooked in a 2-inch by 9-inch ring mold. Ring molds are inexpensive and can be found in many kitchenware stores, but you might also use a 2-inch cake pan provided you line the bottom with parchment paper. If you cook a custard in a pie shell, even if you cook it perfectly and don't overcook it — which is easy to do — when it's so thin, the custard is too shallow to offer its fundamental pleasure, which is a luxurious texture."  Read Mr. Ruhlman's full story and find his recipe for classic Quiche Lorraine here

So while I plan to tackle Mr. Ruhlman's recipe in the very near future, I thought that my quasi quiche was quite nice.  And although it wasn't technically The Real Deal, it was more than a reasonable facsimile thereof.  Basically, you can make a (quasi) quiche that contains just about any edible ingredient as long as you follow the rule for the egg custard that binds the ingredients.  The ratio of eggs to cream/milk/half-and-half needs to be 2:1 (i.e., 2 eggs to 1 cup cream, etc.).  I use large eggs.  And I usually use half-and-half (and sometimes evaporated milk) to ensure that the egg custard is properly dense and rich.

To accompany my quasi quiche, I cut up a mango and tossed it with blueberries, raspberries and mint in a dressing of fresh lime juice, honey, oil and a little garlic and then spooned the dressed fruit over mixed baby greens.  I also served a sparkling riesling spiked with elderflower liqueur.  It was a lovely lunch, and I plan to repeat it again soon.  Only the next rendition will be The Real Deal, at which point I will ask Mr. Ruhlman for a critique.  What??  You think he's much too busy to come to my house for lunch?  Oh, pish.  I bet he'd have a great time at Vindaloo's.

White Flower Sparkling Cocktail

1 oz. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
5 to 6 oz. Pacific Rim White Flowers Brut Sparkling Riesling, chilled

Pour elderflower liqueur into a chilled champagne flute.  Add sparkling riesling.  Makes one cocktail.

Dressed Fruit and Baby Greens
         You can use strawberries and blackberries if you wish, but the mango is key.

Dressing: Whisk together 2 Tbs. each fresh lime juice, honey, canola oil.  Add 1 clove of garlic, smashed and 1 tsp. poppy seeds (optional).

1 large, ripe mango, flesh sliced away from pit, skin removed and cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup fresh blueberries 
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
6 to 8 fresh mint leaves, in chiffonade
4 cups mixed baby greens

1.  Prepare dressing.
2.  Combine mango, blueberries and raspberries in a small bowl.
3.  Drizzle with 1/4 cup dressing and toss.
4.  Stir in mint leaves.  Set aside.
5.  Divide and arrange baby greens on two chilled salad plates.
6.  Divide dressed fruit between salads, spooning over the top.
7.  Drizzle with additional dressing, if desired.  Makes two salads.

Quasi Quiche with Mixed Seafood

You can substitute an equal amount of sauteed vegetables such as zucchini, yellow squash or asparagus, seafood and/or cheese for the leftover filling called for below.

1 leek, ends trimmed, sliced lengthwise and washed well, then cut into 1/4" slices
2 Tbs. butter
salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup small, cooked cocktail shrimp, peeled and deveined (I buy these frozen and thaw them)
1/2 cup imitation lobster or crab meat, pulled into small pieces
1 cup leftover filling from stuffed piquillo peppers recipe
1 cup shredded mild white cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella and jack)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup half-and-half, whole milk, cream, evaporated milk or a combination
2 tsp. dried dill weed
salt and white pepper to taste
1 9" deep dish pastry shell (or make your own)

1 medium tomato, cut into 8 wedges, for garnish
sprigs of flat leaf parsley, for garnish
1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Saute leeks in butter until slightly caramelized, seasoning well with salt and ground white pepper.  Set aside to cool slightly.
3.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine shrimp, crab or lobster meat, filling (or your substitution), shredded mild white cheese, eggs, and half-and-half.
4.  Stir in dill weed and add sauteed leeks.
5.  Season to taste with salt and ground white pepper.
6.  Pour into pastry shell which you have placed onto a sided baking sheet.

7.  Arrange tomato wedges and parsley over the top of the filling.
8.  Scatter Parmesan cheese over all.
9.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and golden.
10.  Cool for at least 30 minutes to allow filling to set.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.  Serves 6 to 8.

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