Wednesday, October 7, 2009

quiche lorraine

quiche lorraine

So, I’m cheating. I really wasn’t planning on cooking just yet. You see, I spent a whole lot of the last few weeks of pregnancy honing in on cookbooks that focus on simpler, but uncompromised cooking (and I will absolutely do a post on these, soon), bookmarking the kind of recipes I could imagine assembling with one hand tied behind my back (or you know, holding a squawking newborn) and even banking a decent amount of recipes, such as that date spice loaf and the stuffed eggplant, and a few other things I have even told you about yet. And I don’t need to cook either: Our fridge is filled with homemade matzo ball soup, spaghetti and meatballs, endless bagel fixings, pickles galore, fruit, sandwich bread, lunch meats, milk for cereal and you name it (did I tell you our families were awesome or what?). Do you hear me? There is no reason on earth that I need to be pulling down the pots and pans right now. And yet I did. Because there was something — one tiny thing, perhaps — that I had not anticipated when I mapped these early weeks out in my head.

I am so freaking hungry.

leekscaramelizing the leeks and onions

Here’s the thing: When I was pregnant, I never had a huge appetite. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. Trying to figure out what to eat was an exacting process, to say the least. I’d eat perhaps half of whatever I had in front of me, and listlessly push the rest around the plate. I tried to woo my tastebuds with beef empanadas, migas and pasta but I have to confess: none of it did anything for me. It kinda blew.

ham, diced

So, to suddenly be consumed with the desire to eat, well, everything is like waking up from a 10-month slumber. I see squash and eggplants and cauliflower and onions and you name it at the markets and no, I cannot wait out some self-imposed no-cooking period, I must cook right now. And so I did. And I didn’t even ease myself back with one of those pared-down recipes; I made a crust and I caramelized onions and ended up with exactly the quiche I’d been craving.

ready for the custard

I did have a little help, though, in the form of a swing (I call it Mother’s Little Helper, if you must know) that my sister bought Jacob which sits right outside the kitchen. He loves it. He snorgles into the lamb-eared pillow and stays napping and content for hours in there. Mama gets her hands free for a while, Jacob gets mezmerized by the flying lambs, and we all get quiche — everyone wins.

in awe with the swing

Quiche, previously: Spinach Quiche, Leek and Mushroom Quiche and Leek and Swiss Chard Tart and wow, it looks like I might need a leek intervention soon, eh?

One year ago: Twice-Baked Shortbread, Acorn Squash Quesadillas
Two years ago: Arroz Con Pollo and Gazpacho Salad

Quiche Lorraine
Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien

So, curiously enough, one of the few places I could reliably find something I wanted to eat during my 9-plus months of no appetite this year was a chain restaurant (Quelle horreur! Except it is not.), Le Pain Quotidien. I loved their barely sweet granola bars, their hefty miche and countless simple lunches like this. (I believe they had a cookbook at some point, but it is either AWOL or out of print or maybe I’m just making this up?) Nevertheless, I found this recipe online and was chomping at the bit to make it, stat. No seriously, like the minute I got home from the hospital.

What sets this apart from other versions of this quiche is the piles of caramelized leeks and the richer-than-rich sour and heavy cream custard, two things I implore you not to miss out on. I hadn’t made this tart crust before, but was very impressed by how easy it came together and how crisp it remained as a shell without requiring a par-baking. I will definitely use it again.

1 3/4 cups diced leeks, white and light green only (from about 2 large leeks, although I think you can get away with one super-big leek)
3/4 cup diced onion
2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil (I needed a tad more)
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Salt
6 tablespoons butter, diced
4 eggs, divided
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups diced ham (1/4 -inch dice; I used about 1/2 pound)
3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1. Heat a large sauté pan over low heat. Sauté the leeks and onions in the olive oil 30 to 40 minutes until caramelized, occasionally stirring. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg (a fork works great for this) and mix it until a dough forms. (Dough can also be made in a food processor, or in theory, and as the original recipe suggests, in a stand mixer.)

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate (I used an 8-inch deep tart pan, though ended up with extra filling) and press to remove any air bubbles. Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. While the quiche shell chills, mix the heavy cream and sour cream in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining three eggs. Add a pinch each nutmeg, salt and pepper and combine to form a batter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Remove the quiche shell from the refrigerator and spread the leek and onion mixture evenly over the base. Sprinkle the ham and then the cheese over the leeks and onions. Pour in the batter and place the quiche in the oven.

6. Bake until puffed and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes (a deeper pan, such as the one I used, will require extra baking time). Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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