Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cleaning Out The Fridge Quiche

See a theme here?  Cleaning out the fridge?  I've been on a kick lately.  Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by the odds and ends in my fridge that I'm just desperate to get rid of it all.  This week I haven't shopped once, it's been all about using up the stuff I already have.  

The dish du soir is quiche, one of my all time faves.  Eggy cheesy goodness in a pastry shell--sort of like souffle but richer, and practically worry-free.  This isn't the first time I've used quiche to clean out the fridge--some of my favorite combos have been born out of this very routine, such as my "southwestern" quiche: onion and bell pepper remnants diced and sauteed quickly and tossed with some of Emeril's Southwestern Essence or just a pinch of cayenne pepper and pepper jack cheese.  Or the dregs of a box of frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, and paired with just about any cheese and a couple of dashes of nutmeg.  The list really could go on. 

Tonight's "Cleaning Out The Fridge" quiche was extra-special because I actually had pie dough that I needed to "get rid of."  If you recall, I had been planning on making mini-quiches last weekend for the Oscars, and after making the dough decided to scrap the project due to egg/cheese overload.  Usually I use frozen pie crusts for quiche (insert gasp here), but since I was going to make the mini quiches in muffin tins, I needed my own pastry dough.  The particular dough that I made, Martha Stewart's classic pate brisee, is supposed to keep well frozen for a month, but I knew if I didn't use it up soon many months would pass before I remembered I had it.  So I started thawing it in the fridge this morning, and by 6:30 it was ready to roll.  In addition to the pate brisee, I still had quite a bit of that ham left (remember, it showed up in potato gratin a few nights ago).  I also had some cheddar leftover from mac and cheese that we made about a month ago.  And, to pretend this dish had some nutritional benefit, I threw in one small onion, because I always keep onions on hand.

Before rolling the dough I assembled the custard part of the filling, which is more or less equal parts egg and sour cream (I use reduced fat), and about 1 cup of cheese, plus whatever meat/veg.  Can't you see how precise this recipe is?  Ha!  Clearly, I totally eyeball the whole thing.  So I mixed my egg, sour cream, and cheese, and on Erik's suggestion added some fresh dill and thyme that we had kicking around.  Then I diced the onion and sauteed it in a bit of EVOO until it had softened a bit, about 8 minutes probably.  Then I diced some ham in 1/4 inch dice or so.  When I was ready I sprinkled my silicone mat with flour, and rolled out the dough so it was about 18-1/4 inch thick.  After carefully transferring it to the pan and adjusting it so that I didn't have to stretch it to make it fit (apparently if you do this the pastry will shrink as it bakes), I rolled the overhanging edges and pinched around the edge to make a rim.  I kind of winged it, because actually, this is the first pie crust I've made from scratch.  But I'm happy to say, it was pretty easy!  Then I layered in the custard mix and the fillings....and realized I had waaaay too little.  I had made enough for a frozen pie crust, but my deep dish glass pan is nearly twice as big!  So then I mixed up some more custard mix, finished filling it, baked it for about 45-50 minutes, until it was set.  Erik put together a nice salad with mesculan, cuke, red bell pepper and chopped scallions dressed with a simple dijon-lemon juice-EVOO-S&P dressing (an easy classic), and dinner was served! 

I'm not going to lie, the quiche was delicious.  Although, I've never really met a quiche that wasn't.  While I will probably continue using frozen pie crust 90% of the time, the homemade crust was noticeably yummier, I thought (or perhaps I was just thinking about all that work making it...)  But whether you opt to duplicate tonight's recipe, or discover your own combination, think about quiche when you're thinking about cleaning out the fridge...or not.  It is so delicious that you should think about it next time you're having people over for brunch, or lunch, or dinner, or just whenever you want a delicious, easy dinner. 

Cleaning Out the Fridge Quiche

I had to nearly double the amounts of egg, sour cream, and cheese to make this fill my deep dish pie plate.  However, the amounts listed below are for your average sized frozen pie crust, which is what I use most of the time.

My half-filled quiche.  Oops.  If that were a frozen pie crust, it would have been perfect.

* 4 or 5 eggs
* About 1/2 a pint, aka 1 cup, of sour cream (reduced fat works fine)
* About 1 cup of grated cheese, plus and additional 1/4 cup or so to sprinkle on top. Semi-firm varieties, such as Cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack, and Gruyere work well
* Freshly ground pepper

At this point, that's all you need for a yummy plain quiche.  However, meat and veggie additions make it even yummier.  Tonight I used:

* 1 small onion, diced and sauteed in EVOO until softened
* About 1/2 cup diced ham (organic, nitrate-free, if you can find it)
* Fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
* Fresh dill, chopped

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove your frozen pie crust from the freezer and allow to thaw while you prep filling.

2. Whisk together the egg, sour cream, pepper, herbs, and 1 cup of grated cheese in a bowl. 

3.  In a small skillet, saute onions in some EVOO over medium heat until they are softened, about 8 minutes.

4.  Dice ham to a 1/4 inch dice.

5.  Place pie crust on a cookie sheet (if you're using a frozen crust in a flimsy pan).  Pour about 1/3 of the custard filling into the pie crust (it doesn't matter if the crust hasn't thawed completely).  Sprinkle on about half the ham and onions, and then repeat with another 1/3 of the custard, the remaining ham and onions, and then the remainder of the custard.  This step doesn't have to be too precise, but I do it this way instead of mixing everything together to help ensure an even distribution of the chunky stuff.  Sprinkle the top of the quiche with the 1/4 cup of grated cheese. 

 Filled to perfection.  You don't want to go all the way to the top, because the egg will bake up a bit

6.  Bake quiche, on cookie sheet, for about 35-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown and the center of the quiche doesn't jiggle if you shake it gently.  If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil.

7.  Cool quiche for about 5 minutes before slicing, and serving like a pie.  Enjoy!

If you're feeling really inspired and want to make your own crust, try of Martha Stewart's classic pate brisee, recipe below.  The quantities listed make a single crust for 9 or 10-inch pan.

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
* 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water 

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. 

3. Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  If needed, use your hands to gently press the dough together into a disc.  Wrap tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.

4.  To roll the dough, lightly flour a rolling surface and your rolling pin.  Starting rolling from the center, and rotate the dough often to create an even circle (or circular like shape)  Roll to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick, and until it reaches the correct size.  Place your pie pan (ungreased--plenty of butter in there already!) right next to the dough, and gently lift it into the pan and center.

5. Trim any overhang that's too long, and transfer the dough to a part that doesn't have much of a lip, if necessary.  Fold the overhaning dough over towards the center of the dish, and pinch the edge all the way around to create a lip.

 Behold!  My first pie crust!  The unsightly overlap will be covered with egg, so don't sweat it.

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