I don’t remember the first time I ate quiche, but I do remember the most memorable slice. Marion and I were in Paris several years ago, searching for the modest hotel where my brother and I had stayed many years before. It was walking distance from the Eiffel Tower, and even though the bathrooms and showers were down the hall, the rooms were clean and charming, and we paid $7.50 a night. In the intervening years, the neighborhood I’d remembered as working class – Rue de Passy – had become a fashionable shopping destination.
We found the hotel, a nice moment for me. We also found ourselves quite hungry. Wandering down a side street, we spotted a promising place with sidewalk tables and quiche on the lunch menu. Marion and I were picturing a quick lunch to tide us over, the kind of semi-filling slice with a probable tiny excuse for a salad on the side that is typical when you order quiche for lunch in American restaurants. Honestly, I was a little chuffed that each serving was going to cost as much as I’d paid for a night in the hotel.
Then our plates arrived. Generous slabs of quiche teetered precariously atop salades composées. Beautiful mountains of perfectly dressed mixed greens with beets, olives, potatoes, cornichons, slender green beans and, of course, hard boiled eggs. We ate lots of amazing food on this trip, much of it far more upscale than this lunch. But to me, it served as yet another reminder of how completely the French get food.
I always order quiche when I find it on a lunch menu, even when I know it will be a modest affair. And I go back to the places that serve it. So it surprises me that we almost never make it at home. In fact, quiche has only appeared on the blog here one other time.
The problem, at least for me, is the crust. Not that making crust is difficult – it’s just another process, another time-consuming thing to do to get to the finished product. Lots of people love to bake. I am not one of them. So, thinking of quiche recently, I thought of store-bought frozen pie shells.
Spinach and bacon are classic quiche ingredients, and that was what I was in the mood to make and to eat. Most recipes call for frozen spinach; perversely, even though I was using a frozen pie shell, I decided to use fresh spinach. The fresh spinach has a bigger flavor and chewier presence in the quiche than chopped frozen spinach would. Feel free to substitute frozen, if you like. And if you want to make your own crust, you could do worse than the recipe I used for this Bacon and Leek Quiche. The recipe below isn’t the quiche of my Paris memories, but on a cold Chicago evening, it was still pretty good.
Fresh Spinach and Bacon Quiche
Serves 4 to 6
1 deep frozen pie crust
4 strips bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil, if needed
5 ounces baby spinach
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cream, half & half or milk (or a mixture of these)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 cups coarsely grated gruyere
1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
Blind bake the crust. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. While the oven is heating, put the pie crust in its tin on the counter and let it thaw slightly, so you can prick it all over with a fork. Line the pie shell with foil or parchment paper, then weight it with dried beans or pie weights (does anyone actually buy these?). Bake the crust until slightly golden on the edges, about 12 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and remove weights, simply picking the foil or parchment at the corners.
Make the filling. Meanwhile, place bacon in a cold skillet and cook over medium-high heat until just crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Reduce skillet’s heat to medium, add spinach (in batches, if needed) and cook, tossing frequently, until thoroughly wilted, seasoning with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and set aside.
Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat through, but not one of those air-insulated ones. This is to catch any drips or bubbling over. Beat eggs in a large bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. Whisk in cream and nutmeg.
Assemble everything and bake. When crust has cooled slightly, spread the mustard in the bottom of the crust (this is a trick I learned from Marion—you won’t taste mustard at all, but it will sharpen and enhance the cheese flavors). Spread the spinach and onions in the bottom of the shell. Crumble the bacon slices over the spinach, then top evenly with the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over everything; it will make its way through the various layers.
Bake the quiche until it has puffed up and is set and beautifully browned, about 25 to 35 minutes. You can test with a sharp knife to make sure the middle is set.
Cool on a rack at least 10 minutes, then serve. You can also serve it room temperature, but I think warm is best. If you should have leftovers, they are best warmed in an oven for several minutes—a microwave will make the crust soggy.
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