Monday, April 26, 2010

Messing with Mom: Quiche semi-Lorraine

My mother's been in town, staying with us while she moves here from the Baltimore area. This week I had the pleasure of cooking with her for the first time since Christmas.

She offered to cook dinner one night, and because I married a man who could easily win the Picky Eater of the Century award, she suggested quiche. By the time I got home from work, she'd been through my kitchen bookshelf and settled on the New York Times cookbook’s recipe for quiche Lorraine.

What is that asparagus doing there? And where's the bacon?

As you may know, this recipe calls for bacon, which my lovely husband does not eat, so that was where the messing began. It continued in full force when she declared her allegiance to premade pie shells and I agreed to that semi-blasphemy because I have long been intimidated by the idea of making pie crust from scratch. And then we decided to use the pristine asparagus she'd brought home. So basically, we ended up making swiss-asparagus quiche.

Step one was a confab over whether to pre-bake the pie shell, for how long and at what temperature. Here I should explain that my mom is the eldest of nine, a former camp counselor who put herself through nursing school as a single mother of three when she was my age. Meanwhile, I went to college a year early, lived in a very small fishing and mining town in Northern Japan when I was in my early 20s, and once ordered breakfast in Poland using extremely rusty French. In short, we’re both used to doing things on our own, in our own way. But our respective mothers also taught us how to play nice, and soon enough we were laughing over our little episode of When Virgos Collide.

Once we started working with the properly pre-baked pie shell, we realized it was so shallow that we'd have enough liquid to fill at least one more. Since she'd also brought home some baby spinach, we hit on the brilliant idea of doing one pie with that, and one with asparagus. After a brief discussion about whether to precook the additional shell, we decided against it in the interest of time.

The resulting pies were tasty, though the texture of the top layer was not as dense as I expected (maybe because I’d also reduced the amount of cream and used 1% milk). We hadn’t cooked the baby spinach, so it floated to the top and acquired areas of brown crunchiness. These issues notwithstanding, the asparagus pie was gone within 24 hours (my hubs said it was better the second day).

I believe that's the pre-baked shell on the right.

Deliciousness: What’s not to love about eggs, cheese, cream and pastry?

Difficulty: Use prebaked crusts, and you won’t even break a sweat.

Do-Over: Yes, though I’ll try homemade crusts next time, and precook any spinach.


1 cup grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese (we used Emmenthaler)

¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese

1 ½ c. asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces

4 eggs

1 ½ c. milk

½ c. cream

¼ t. grated nutmeg

½ t. salt

1/8 t. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Prebake 2 pie shells according to package directions.

Prepare an ice water bath. Steam asparagus until bright green, immediately cool in the ice bath, drain and pat dry.

Lightly beat eggs, add milk, cream and spices, and whisk together. Put this mixture into something with a spout (so you can pour it more easily).

Divide the cheeses and asparagus between the shells. Open oven and pull top rack out; place shells on rack and fill with egg mixture. Carefully slide rack back into oven and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the pastry edge comes out clean. Cut and serve immediately (a spinach-strawberry salad is a nice accompaniment).

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