I’M ALWAYS a sucker for a dish that satisfies any of the three meals as well as one that can utilize a variety of ingredients with panache. Quiche is also a trans-seasonal dish, as it is fresh and inviting as a light al fresco supper with white wine and salad, or as part of a hearty brunch in deepest winter accompanied by potatoes or a cup of soup.
The word quiche is, as we know, French, but derives from the German kuchen—to regional kuche to kische. The origin of the dish seems obscure, but may have descended from the kingdom of Lotharingia (the modern area of Alsace-Lorraine), which though sounding Tolkeinish existed briefly as part of the 9th Century Carolingian Empire. (Tangentally, the politically active Lotharingians asserted their democratic leanings by deposing rival kings, including one Charles the Fat. We can assume that he enjoyed his kische.)
Larousse Gastronomique states that Nancy, not Lorraine, is the real birthplace of quiche, and any dish that contains the migaine (eggs & cream) and mixed with onion and other surprising items like pumpkin is called a quiche. Still others assert a Roman form of cheesecake, patinea, is the real predecessor of quiche.
Anglophilic sources claim the first written recipes for quiche in 14th century manuscripts from England. One such book is the Forme of Cury, or for you English listeners, “forms of cookery,” from the Master Cooks of King Richard the II. Ah! Humble dish, noble origins.
Whatever the geographical paternity, the primary ingredients of the first versions of our savory pie were eggs and cream cooked into a custard with various meats—bacon being the signature of quiche Lorraine. Technically Lorraine doesn’t use onions or other savories, while her sister Alsacienne is flavored a la alliums. Original crusts were bread dough or puff pastry, and one early version of Lorraine was cooked in a cast iron pan without fancy touches like a crimped edge or lattice top.
Luckily food evolves, and now quiche contains cheese and a host of tantalizing ingredients. The key to filling is fresh herbs and veggies sautéed beforehand. And please, use half and half and fresh eggs for the custard. Gourmet additions include smoked and flavored salts (try lemon), lox, or sheep’s and goat’s milk cheeses. Try anchovies if you’ve a mind to, capers, or kale and chard. Whip a little pesto or an olive tapenade into the custard. Marinated red peppers, artichoke hearts . . . you get the idea.
Crust is as essential as filling, and is traditionally blind baked. I have made and eaten many a quiche without doing so, however, so try for yourself to see. Recipes for quiche abound in almost any cookbook; my favorite basic custard formula is from the Moosewood original cookbook, and crust from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Quiche is easy to make (as pie!), and is as tasty elaborate as basic (yeh—butter, eggs, cream—say no more). Perfect for a potluck or to make for one and eat on the whole week. Simple and civilized: Bon appétit!
Nigella Lawson follows this basic rule for shortcrust pastry:
Use half the weight of fat to flour and use a liquid–egg yolk,orange juice, whatever–to bind it. Put the flour in a shallow bowl, add the cold, diced fats
and stir to coat. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes. Put the liquid with a pinch of salt in the fridge. Then by hand, with mixer, or food processor, combine the fats and flour til the mixture is sandy. Add in liquid till the mix just comes together and form into disc(s) by hand. Refrigerate for 20 minutes before rolling out.
This recipe, from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, will make more than enough:
1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed 2 egg yolks
2 Tb. ice water
1 tsp. salt
1 Tb. sugar