I like the way summer has been trying to hang on here in Washington. But after this week, I think we’ll have seen the last of 70 degrees until spring. Cooking styles tend to change right about now, but fortunately, grilling is doable year-round. In Food, Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin shares his secrets for turning out perfect chicken on the grill. There are three great recipes to prove his point.
Also, the crop of fast-casual restaurants is about to be joined by a newcomer with a big difference: It will be vegetable-focused, and it will be the brainchild of star chef José Andrés, who would be happy if the concept eventually grew into a chain — or at least a trend. Lavanya Ramanathan has that story.
There’s more: Maura Judkis explores the tradition of freezing the top tier of a wedding cake for the happy couple to eat a year later. (There’s a reason why experts advise against it.) And Whitney Pipkin interviews the two local contestants appearing in the new season of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” which premieres tonight.
Questions? Concerns? Culinary quandaries? Send them our way during today’s Free Range chat. It starts at noon sharp, and the earlier you write in, the better your chance of getting a response. Of course, I’m always hoping for a late question or two, so I can pick one to answer for Chat Leftovers. Here’s one we didn’t have time to handle during last week’s chat:
I make a crustless quiche flavored with crisped bacon and sauteed mushrooms and shallots. The filling includes four ounces of grated Gruyère, two eggs, two egg yolks and two cups of half-and-half. I’ve made it several times, baking it in a Pyrex pan at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. While the finished quiche looks and tastes fabulous, the texture is watery, and it has a curdled appearance. Can this recipe be tweaked to achieve a creamier result? It’s so good that I keep making it, even though the texture is always wrong.
When I first looked at the proportions for your filling — which is basically a custard — I thought maybe the egg-to-liquid ratio was a little low, and perhaps adding another egg would help. But then I realized that the custard ingredient amounts are exactly the same as the ones in the basic quiche from Cook’s Illustrated. And we all know that Cooks Illustrated tests its recipes to a fare-thee-well, so you can trust them to work.
What could be the problem, then?
I nominate a phenomenon called syneresis. Here’s how the American Egg Board explains it:
When you bake a custard, the proteins in the egg coagulate and cause the custard to set. But if you bake it for too long, or at too high a temperature, the proteins become over-coagulated and force out liquid, creating that curdled appearance. That’s syneresis.
Your oven temperature is fine; you don’t have to fiddle with that. But one thing you can do is make sure you take the quiche from the oven just as soon as the center has barely set. Keep in mind that it will continue to cook for a while as it stands. (Your Pyrex pan is very good at retaining heat.) If you bake until the center is hard and solid, that’s too long.
Another approach is to bake your quiche in a bain-marie, or hot-water bath. It provides gentle, uniform heat that won’t overcook the eggs. Select a pan big enough to hold your quiche pan. Preheat the oven, place the filled quiche pan in the larger pan and place both in the oven; then pour enough just-boiled (not boiling) water into the larger pan to come about halfway up the sides of the quiche pan. You’ll probably have to bake a little longer than the recipe calls for before the custard sets, but when it does, it should be nice and creamy, both around the edges of the pan and in the middle. Be super careful about getting the hot-water-filled pan out of the over after baking.
Hope some of this works for you!
Meanwhile, I know you like your recipe, but consider branching out. We have some good ones in our Recipe Finder. I’m thinking specifically of Spinach and Mushroom Torte, very much like a crustless quiche. There’s also the rich and luxurious Seafood Quiche and Basic Quiche and the more virtuous Ten-Minute Pan Quiche. (Just omit the crusts if you want.) And, of course, your own recipe allows for unlimited riffing on the additions: different cheeses, different vegetables, even fruits.
Just remember not to overbake.