The French have laid their claim to the now classic quiche, and we know it most often as quiche Lorraine. But the English, always loving to bedevil their neighbors across the Channel, claim to have been making a tart with cream and eggs since the 14th century. As is so often the case, the exact origins of a recipe are a mystery.
No matter who was the first to combine these simple ingredients, the name comes from the German "kuchen" or cake, making this a three way struggle for bragging rights.
In its simplest form a quiche is eggs and cream in an open tart-like mold. In the beginning, it was likely that the custard was placed in bread dough, although purists and bakers now use a short-crust pastry.
The first French version was country fare originating in Lorraine, but its popularity has spirited this recipe to the status of classic French cuisine and can be found in the finest dining establishments. Quiche Lorraine is made with a lining pastry and filled with bacon, eggs and heavy cream and is served hot. Cheese was later added to the recipe. Gruyère, perhaps the best melting cheese in the world, is generally used.
The quintessential French cookbook, "Gastronomique," recommends making quiche with mussels or ham and cheese. The good folks at the Food Network offer recipes for quiche made with mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini and goat cheese, leek, asparagus and chorizo.
So we see that quiche is an adaptable recipe, and we might as well make good use of it by adding local and seasonal ingredients. Shrimp has to come to mind first, but the early summer abundance of garden vegetables should be included as well. Yes, I am going to add cheese to my shrimp quiche, so turn your nose up if you must, but that's alright, I think it a good match.
As with most recipes, the results you get will depend largely on the quality of the ingredients you use. If you use a fresh local cream you will be better off. Buy the best butter you can and real farm fresh eggs (they will be irregular in size and color). But it is most important to use the best quality cheese you can. Do not use a processed cheese unless
your purse is so thin you annot justify it.
For those of you watching your waistline you can substitute 2-percent milk and part-skim mozzarella for heavy cream and Gruyere cheese. But remember that the primary component in flavor is fat; if you reduce the fat content for your health you are also reducing the flavor. I suggest that you reduce the amount you eat and keep the flavor in.
If you are a baker I encourage you to make your tart from scratch, but I will make mine with a frozen pie crust.
SHRIMP, CHEESE AND BACON QUICHE
1 already-baked pie crust
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped onion
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
2-3 tablespoons chopped green onion
2/3 cup crème fraiche, heavy cream or milk
1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the shrimp quickly in a little butter, seasoning with a few pinches of freshly ground black pepper, about 45 seconds on each side. Do not overcook as they will finish cooking in the oven. Remove them from the pan, add the onions with a little olive oil if necessary and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Remove and set aside. Line the pie crust with the shrimp, top with the cooked onions and garlic. Add the eggs, green onions and cheese to the cream and stir, then pour evenly over the pie crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until firm.
The quiche can be served hot or cold.
ZUCCHINI AND CHEESE QUICHE
1 baked pie crust
2 cups sliced zucchini, squash or a combination of the two
4 slices smoked bacon
1/4 cup chopped onions or shallots
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Gruyere, Emmental or good Swiss cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fry the bacon until crisp and remove. Sauté the onions in a little of the bacon grease (healthy option: remove grease and replace with a little olive oil) until starting to brown, then remove from the pan and set aside. Layer the zucchini in the pie crust. Mix the cream, cheese, diced bacon, eggs and the cooked onions and pour over the top of the quiche. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm.
TOMATO, SPINACH AND FETA QUICHE
1 baked pie crust
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes or thickly sliced regular tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wilt the spinach leaves in a deep pan with a little water or a tab of butter. Squeeze the tomatoes over the sink to remove most of the juice. Combine the cream, eggs and cheese. Drain the spinach and then line the pie crust with it, top with the tomatoes, evenly spaced. Pour the cream mixture over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes.
As you can see the basic recipe for quiche involves cream and eggs in a pie crust, but there are lots of options for other ingredients. The addition of sautéed onions and garlic is always a good choice as it enhances the flavor, as is crispy bacon or fried bits of ham or sausage. Crawfish would make a great quiche. Buy a package of already cooked crawfish or use leftovers from your last boil. If you want to go vegetarian a three-cheese quiche would be good. Use your imagination.