PITY THE POOR quiche. Maligned as a ladies-who-lunch food. Bastardized in supermarket refrigerator cases. Miniaturized as frozen party fare. One look at the ingredient labels would leave anyone familiar with the original recipe at a loss. The original is a quick mix of cream, milk and eggs baked in a butter-rich crust. And in our back-to-real-food world, I am calling for a return to the original for all the right reasons.
Quiche is always a favorite. Many moons ago, when I was cooking the “family” meal (meaning the staff meal) at the restaurant where I was an intern, I made quiche. Line cooks came over and grabbed whole ones for themselves. The reception at parties is the same as the one I got at that lunch, especially if I make a bite-size version. In my house, quiche is a favorite emergency meal. (But don’t tell my family it was an emergency choice: They think I’m treating them.)
There’s a basic formula for quiche: ½ cup cream and/or milk to 1 egg. My standard for filling one quiche is 3 eggs, ¾ cup of whole milk and ¾ cup of heavy cream. I always season with nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper. From there I keep the add-ins simple. Diced ham, crumbled cooked bacon, browned mushrooms and caramelized onions are classic, but choose only one or two in each quiche. Treating the quiche like a destination for everything in the refrigerator is how the thing got ruined to begin with. Whichever add-ins I choose, I like to put 1 cup grated gruyère or Swiss cheese on top of them. Then I pour on my egg-cream-milk custard. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in a 375- degree oven. Be careful to bake just until the custard is set and lightly browned. Over-baking can cause the custard to water out, and soggy quiche is a downer.
As for the crust, I make an all-butter crust, sometimes using an egg in place of the most of the water. It makes a firmer crust. Lately, I’ve been prebaking my crust for 15 to 20 minutes so I don’t have to worry about whether the custard is done before the crust is cooked through. Pie pans, tart pans and cake pans all work just fine. If you want to present the whole quiche, use a pan with a removable bottom so you can easily get the quiche out onto a serving platter.
My current obsession is making mini-quiches. The frozen kind are so bad that making your own is well worth it. Line mini tart or muffin pans with rounds of the all-butter pie crust. Add your fillings and just enough custard to cover. Bake on the lowest rack of your oven for 15 to 18 minutes and you have some pretty delicious party food.
Perhaps best of all, you can make quiche a day ahead of your event so you’ll be relaxed on the day of. Yes, quiche is always at its very best on the day it’s made, but it heats beautifully.
—Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
LittleBird “Stephanie Cooks” shares dinner and entertaining ideas every Monday.