Being a part-time Parisian allows me a full-time love affair with quiche.
The savory tart is everywhere. My favorite cafes have a quiche on the menu; the flavor changes daily, but it’s always served with the same little green salad (and a not very good dressing, which must come from cafe-central; it’s inescapable). Gérard Mulot, the patissier down the street, is famous for his quiches. They’re made in grand slabs and cut to order. They also come in single-serves for picnicking in the park, and stand-alones to serve at dinner parties and pass off as your own.
Everyone knows that quiche’s provenance, but no one’s rude enough to call out the host. Even my friends, who don’t bake much, make quiche. It’s easy for the French: They buy all-butter already-rolled-out crusts at the corner convenience store, getting them halfway to quichedom in no time.
Although I can pretty much count on being offered quiche at a Paris friend’s home at least once a month, I can’t remember the last time someone other than moi made me a quiche stateside. Was the tart done in by that book with the widely known title, “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche?”
Whatever. I’m on a crusade to bring it back. It’s all part of my mission to make the world tastier.
The most famous quiche of all is the Lorraine, made with custard, cheese and lardons (pork fat or bacon). But this is a dish that even the most tradition-bound French person will give you license to tinker with. The basics are a crust and a custard made of cream and eggs — and whatever you’ve got tucked away in the refrigerator. After that, you are on your own; because you don’t need much of any one ingredient, a quiche is a perfect catch-all.
My quiche gets its good flavor from mushrooms and its good looks from cheese and herbs. But as much as I love it, I know how fickle I am when it comes to quiche. As soon as the weather changes and there are asparagus or peas or ramps in the market, it’ll be au revoir ’shrooms and hello, spring vegetables. That’s one of the joys of having quiche in your repertoire.
● There are two classic pans for a quiche: one metal, with fluted sides and a removable base (it’s the one I use); and one porcelain, with fluted sides and a solid base. If all you’ve got is an all-American pie plate, that’s okay. It would be a shame to miss out on this quiche for lack of gear.
● My go-to crust for a quiche is my version of a classic pâte brisée. I add a tad of sugar to the mix — for flavor and color — and so it’s a great switch-hitter. You can use the crust with both savory and sweet fillings. And yes, you can be all-French and buy a ready-made crust.
● Go the extra baby step and partially bake the crust before filling it; the quiche’s crust will stay crisper longer when you do.
● If you use a mix of mushrooms, your quiche will be more interesting; if you toss in some more unusual or exotic varieties, it just might be fascinating.
● When you’re mushroomed out, swap the mushrooms for leeks; think about celery, peppers and onions (a kind of Spanish mix, especially when you add chorizo); try eggplant or zucchini (make sure you cook away all the excess liquid). You can use cubes of cheese instead of grated cheese; add bacon in bits or chunks; and top the quiche with cherry tomatoes, which are so pretty when they pop from the oven’s heat.
● I think the best temperature for serving a quiche is at just-warm or room temperature. The Parisian cafes don’t agree with me. They reheat slices in a microwave; I make a face; they smile, say they won’t do it again, and then apologize when they forget . . . again. Oh well.
This is my last column for WaPo Food. I have loved our more than two years together and will miss you, my readers. Thank you for welcoming me into the WaPo fold so generously and for always making my work better, and for the opportunities I’ve had to learn from all of you. As always, I hope you will continue to cook and bake and share all the good food you make with those you love — xoDorie
Greenspan will host her last Just Ask Dorie chat from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday: live.washingtonpost.com.
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6 servings (makes one 9- to 9 1/2-inch tart)
Here, the classic French savory custard tart gets good flavor from earthy mushrooms and good looks from the herbs and cheese. Make it in a metal tart pan with a removable bottom or in a ceramic pan with fluted edges.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with a green salad.
MAKE AHEAD: The dough for the tart crust needs to be refrigerated or frozen for at least 1 hour before baking. Partially baking the crust in advance will help it stay crisper for longer.
From cookbook author Dorie Greenspan.
For the crust
1¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus more as needed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ice water
For the filling
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
8 to 12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and cut into ¼ -inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons white wine or white vermouth (optional)
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and/or basil
¼ cup grated Gruyère, Swiss or sharp white cheddar
¾ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2 scallions, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced (optional)
For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and whir a few times to blend. Scatter the bits of butter over the flour and pulse several times, to form a coarse, crumbly mixture.
Beat the egg with the ice water and pour it into the bowl in three additions, whirring after each one. (Don’t overdo it; the dough shouldn’t form a ball or ride on the blade.) You should have a moist, malleable dough that holds together when pinched. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball (if the dough doesn’t come together easily, push it, a few spoonfuls at a time, under the heel of your hand or knead it lightly) and flatten it into a disk.
Use butter to grease your tart pan — even though the pan may be nonstick.
Roll out the dough between sheets of parchment or wax paper. Lift the paper often (so that it doesn’t roll into the dough) and turn the dough over so that you’re rolling on both sides. The rolled-out dough should be about 3 inches larger than the bottom of your pan.
Transfer the dough to the tart pan, easing it into the pan without stretching it. (What you stretch now will shrink in the oven later.) Press the dough against the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you would like to reinforce the sides of the crust, you can fold some dough over, so that you have a double thickness around the border. Use the back of a table knife to trim the dough even with the top of the pan. Prick the base of the crust in several places with the tines of a fork.
Refrigerate or freeze the dough in its pan for at least 1 hour before baking.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Press a piece of lightly buttered aluminum foil against the dough’s surface and fill with dried rice, dried beans or pie weights. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
To partially bake the crust, bake (middle rack) for 20 minutes, then very carefully remove the foil (with its weights). Return the bare crust to the oven; bake for 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow the crust to come to room temperature before you fill it.
For the filling: Melt the butter in a large skillet, preferably one that’s nonstick, over medium-low heat. Toss in the chopped onion. Season lightly with salt and pepper; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until translucent. Add the mushrooms (to taste), season again lightly with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high; cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring, until the mushrooms are softened and browned here and there.
At first, the mushrooms will sop up all the liquid in the pan, then they’ll exude it, then take it up again. Add the wine or vermouth, if using; bring to a boil and cook until it evaporates. Sprinkle the onion-mushroom mixture with 1 tablespoon of the minced herbs, cook 30 seconds more, and then transfer to a bowl to cool for at least 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to bake the quiche, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the partially baked crust or chilled tart shell on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Sprinkle half the grated cheese evenly over the bottom of the crust and top with the remaining herbs. Spoon over the onion-mushroom mixture, avoiding any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl.
Lightly whisk together the heavy cream and eggs in a large liquid measuring cup just until well blended, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour over the cheese and mushrooms in the crust, then scatter the sliced scallions evenly over the top, if you’re using them, and the remaining cheese.
Carefully slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake (middle rack) for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the custard is uniformly puffed (wait for the center to puff), lightly golden and set.
Transfer the quiche to a rack and cool until it’s only just warm or until it reaches room temperature before serving.
Nutrition | Per serving: 390 calories, 9 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 30 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 175 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar
Recipe tested by Kara Elder and Bonnie Benwick; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org