When you’re asked to make brunch for a crowd, obviously what you need is something that looks good but that doesn’t require a lot of work early in the morning. Something golden-brown and easy to adapt that doesn’t chain you to the stove while you make it to order. Something that can be made ahead. That something is quiche, a fact I learned from a friend, Grace, who makes an impressive version.
Grace has been making tall, beautiful quiches for as long as I’ve known her.She first turned them out in our tiny and ill-equipped dorm kitchen with mismatched fillings stolen from the cafeteria’s salad bar. Rolling out the dough on the bit of space we’d scraped clean at the bar; trying to remember to remove whatever we’d hidden in the stove before turning it on. It’s even easier now that the fillings are planned rather than improvised and no one has to worry whether the oven will actually preheat. It’s simple and elegant, easy to make ahead, and the obvious answer to what to make for brunch on a group vacation.
That is, until I got to the kitchen where I would have to make said quiche. It was big on 70’s chic but missing some vital equipment; namely a rolling pin, some flour to roll out the dough, and a whisk to beat the eggs. Instead I had to cobble together the crust by patting dough into the pie pan with my fingers one small piece at a time. I beat the eggs with a fork. The butter in the crust got a more melted than I would like; the eggs weren’t as fluffy as they could have been. But the end result? It was still as perfect as it gets; puffed and golden brown on the edges with a rich custardy egg filling.
Despite it’s French-ness, quiche is fairly forgiving. You can bake it the day ahead and serve it hot, warm, cold, or room temperature. It’s easy to make for vegetarians (a vital characteristic in San Francisco), and making two isn’t much more work than making one. And yes, you can just press the crust into the pie pan if you lack a rolling pin or skip the extra egg-beating. No one knew about my difficulties except the people who were in the kitchen while I tried to piece together a crust. And they would have kept my secret if I hadn’t just blabbed it to the Internet.
Adapted from multiple sources, including Julia Child and the Stonewall Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 6-8 servings (more if your brunch includes several other options)
A small article I came across recently about Julia Child noted that she recommended a quiche ratio or 1 egg to 1/2 cup of liquid in the filling which I think is just about perfect. I like to use a mix of cream and sour cream, but all one or the other does very nicely as well but you could easily use milk instead of cream or substitute reduced fat sour cream. Just be wary of the fat free stuff, it’s more likely to burn in the oven (and I don’t think it tastes very good either). For fillings use whatever you have but try to limit it to no more than three ingredients per quiche so you can really taste everything.
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cream
1 cup sour cream
1 tbs mushroom powder*
1 1/2 cups filling**
Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet large enough to hold your pie pan with foil. You can butter the pie pan but I generally don’t because there’s enough butter in the crust to generally ensure it doesn’t stick. Roll out the rested pie crust to about a 1/4 inch thickness so that it’s large enough to fit in the pie pan. Lay it in the pan and roll the excess under so that it forms a tall ring of crust around the edge. Crimp that edge by pressing your thumb on the inner edge and putting your first two fingers out the outer edge on either side of the thumb. Repeat that process all around the dough to get a professional-looking fluted edge. Then put the crust in the freezer for at least 15 minutes while you mix up the filling – that will help it hold it’s shape in the oven. You could also put it in the fridge (not the freezer) overnight and continue from this point in the morning.
In a large bowl, crack the eggs and add the salt. Whisk the mixture vigorously for several minutes until the eggs are a bit frothy and lighter in color. Add the cream, sour cream, and sprinkle on the mushroom powder. Then beat the mixture until it’s well combined and there are no more lumps.
Take the rolled-out pie crust out of the freezer and prick the bottom with a fork so that it doesn’t rise too much and spill out the filling. Then distribute the filling ingredients over the crust. When it’s all evenly spread out, pour the egg mixture over top. If you want, you can pop some of the larger air bubbles by tapping the bottom of the pan firmly on the counter or table a few times but if you don’t mind a more rustic look, don’t bother.
Put the pie pan on the foil-lined baking sheet (to catch any overflow) and put it in the oven. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then drop the heat down to 350F and continue to bake for another 40-50 minutes. If you’re not sure about the evenness of your oven, rotate the pan halfway through baking, after about 20 minutes at 350F. The quiche is down when the crust is browned, the top is lightly brown in spots, and a toothpick inserted into the quiche comes out clean, without any runny egg spilling out of the hole you just made. It will likely be puffed up when it’s done but it will flatten back down while it cools. You can serve it hot, warm, room-temperature or cold.
It’s also very good if you bake it the day before and then take it out of the fridge about an hour before breakfast to come to room-temperature. You could also re-warm it in a 200F oven but be careful not to overcook the eggs. Don’t leave it in the over for more than 15 minutes.
* This is my secret weapon to boost the flavor of vegetarian dishes. It’s just dried mushrooms pulsed in a spice grinder until it become powdery. I buy the dried mushrooms in bulk and process them about a quarter cup at a time. Then I just keep the powder around and sprinkle it on anything needs an umami boost. Using just a tablespoon at a time it doesn’t add a mushroom-y flavor but it does give the dish a little extra something.
** The combinations I made for the weekend were spinach and caramelized onion as well as broccoli, feta, and chile flake. But ham and cheese is a traditional favorite, bacon and roasted tomatoes would be excellent, and no one will sneeze at just plain cheese which is really not so plain at all.