Sunday, June 19, 2011

classic cheese and onion quiche

Quiche is perfect Fathers Day fare. It feels a little bit gourmet. It gives off the impression that one has slaved for hours in the kitchen. It's rich and tasty. It is full of things that everybody loves - butter, cheese, cream and eggs.  I'm going to let you in on a little secret: quiche is a snap. Even when you make the crust yourself. It's almost idiot proof.

In fact, it's so easy that I decided to bake a quiche for my dad because I knew I could pull it off in just over an hour, baking time included. This meant there would be plenty more time for me to create other delectables with which he would be suitably impressed. This was no small occasion. My dad lives 3700 kilometres from me, and if he's coming over for lunch on Fathers Day, it's kind of a big deal.

This is my dad when he was 18 years old (third from the right). Of course he looks much different now, but he has a well-placed mistrust of the internet, so I figured I'd let him hang on to his anonymity.

I love my dad. When I was a teenager, we didn't always see eye to eye and we had epic clashes reminiscent of the battle of Culloden. We were both strong-willed, opinionated and stubborn. I, of course, was a devious little teenager who refused to tell my parents where I was going and with whom. One New Years Eve, I lied to my parents about where I was headed, got stuck two hours from home after transit stopped running for the night, and was forced to call him from a payphone to tell him I was taking a taxi home. He came out of the house in the middle of the night and paid for my astronomical cab fare.  This is one of many stories of my teenage stupidity. The older I get, the more and more like my dad I become, and the more I understand how difficult I must have been to deal with.

We left Culloden behind us a decade ago, and in that time I've gotten to know my dad in a way that I never tried to when I was growing up. He's totally brilliant and hilarious.

Onto the food part: the quiche turned out well (miraculously). Remember when I said it was almost idiot proof? Yeah... never make a quiche in a tart pan with a removable bottom. For some reason I thought this was done all the time. Maybe it is and maybe there is something wrong with me. The crust shrunk away from the sides in the initial baking phase, then overflowed when I poured the quiche mixture in. There was egg and cream all over my kitchen. It was a nightmare, but it worked out in the end. My advice to you - bake it in a glass pie plate! That's how I've always done it, except I sold my pie plate before we moved away and now I see that it was a mistake to have done so.

My second piece of advice is to avoid trying to reduce the fat content of the quiche by using milk. I mistakenly did that for Mother's Day last year, but the texture becomes quite gelatinous and unpleasant without the fat. In the same vein, do not use heavy cream (or whipping cream) as written in the original recipe. It's far too heavy. In my experience, half and half strikes the perfect balance.

classic cheese and onion quiche
Adapted from Joy of Cooking


1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled (1 stick)
3 tbsp ice water

1 egg yolk, beaten


3 eggs
1 cup half and half
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to your taste
1 1/2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Combine flour and salt, then cut in butter using a hand-held pastry blender until it is pea-sized. Add the water and incorporate it gently with your hands. Work it in until the moisture has spread and your dough holds together. You may add another 1/2 tbsp of ice water if necessary.

Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough into a circle large enough to cover your baking dish. Try to keep the thickness consistent. Gently press the dough into your baking dish, making sure everything is snug around the edges. Bake for 12 minutes or until crust is lightly golden.

When it comes out of the oven, reduce the heat to 375ºF and brush the warm crust with the egg yolk.

Melt the 1/2 tbsp butter on medium high heat, then throw in your onions and sautee until lightly browned and transparent.

In a small bowl, whisk together half and half, eggs, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Layer the onions then the cheese in the crust. Pour the egg mixture over top, then bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until centre has set. Let sit for 10 minutes before eating!

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