November 1, 2008
Dinner Formula: Quiche
My fellow busy-mom friends often ask me about my go-to quick-dinner repertoire. We all have our ideas for well-rounded meals that can be put together quickly and are a step above take-out. One of my favorites is quiche.
What I like best about this dish is its "clean out the fridge" possibilities: You can throw in practically anything you've got on hand. I use a formula adapted from the handy one Molly Katzen provides in her vegetarian classic, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Here it is:
1. The Crust: If you've mastered a perfect pie crust, I applaud you. My fear of homemade pie crust is one of my biggest hang-ups in the kitchen (more on that later), so I cheat and buy frozen crusts. Store-bought crusts often come two to the package, so you can have an extra on hand for another last-minute dinner. You can get all-natural varieties, even whole-wheat, at good grocery stores. Be sure to check the ingredients list for sugar; some crusts are better suited for dessert pies. I like to lightly prebake the crust on a baking sheet on the bottom rack of a 375-degree oven, just until the crust looks dry.
2. The Cheese: Semi-hard varieties--like Cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda, and Jack--work well here, as they will melt in the oven and form a barrier between the custard and the crust so the latter doesn't get soggy. Katzen advises grating 1/4 to 1/3 pound of cheese, but I just eyeball it: You want the shredded cheese to cover the bottom of the crust in slightly more than a single layer.
3. The Stuff: Being primarily vegetarian, we use vegetables: Leeks, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, cherry tomatoes. Most veggies require some precooking, either by saute (leeks, mushrooms, spinach) or steam (broccoli). Cherry tomatoes can be halved and left raw. There is no required set amount of stuff, be it veggies or chopped bacon or ham, just imagine a pleasing amount distributed evenly over the cheese and prep that much. Season with salt, pepper, what-have-you.
4. The Custard: 3 large eggs, beaten, mixed with one cup of half-and-half or whole milk. You can use cream if you like, you naughty minx. Season with salt and pepper. Pour on top of cheese and stuff until it reaches the rim of the crust.
Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Throw together a salad and open a bottle of white wine while the thing bakes and call it a day.
Some of our favorite combinations: Cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach or basil, and goat cheese; mushrooms and Gruyere; broccoli and cheddar; leeks and gouda. Tonight's pie had leeks and cheddar, because that's what we had, along with a frozen pie crust, and also it was raining buckets and I wasn't about to go out there and I said, "Quiche for dinner?" and Byrne said, "Yes!"