Popular in America in the 1970s, the word “quiche” likely conjures different images for different people. A French chef will think about quiche Lorraine, the classic with savory creamy custard and bacon filling inside a crispy crust. A Midwest mom, however, may consider “quiche” a brunch dish that uses up leftover vegetables mixed with eggs and a little milk.
Quiche was such a popular dish in the ‘70s that it fell out of favor quickly and by the 1980s, people were tired of it. It was too “froofy” and had an air of panache that helped its popularity wane. In 1982, the satirical book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” hit the market, furthering its demise, albeit unintentionally.
Quiche appeared in 16th century France
Dating to the 16th century, the French province Lorraine, near Germany, is considered the birthplace of quiche. As with most foods, its origin isn’t quite so simple. People from the neighboring province of Alsace argue it is the rightful birthplace. A unique French-German dialect is spoken in Alsace and its residents claim “quiche” is a derivative of the German word “kuchen,'' which means cake.
Dictionaries don’t even agree on what quiche is. In France, quiche is defined as a savory tart made with eggs and cream. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines quiche as “a tart filled with rich unsweetened custard” often with additional ingredients like cheese and meat. Poor quiche Lorraine has been reduced to “a quiche containing cheese and bacon bits.”
No matter what definition you agree with, quiche is simple and delicious — and it is okay if you “Americanize” it with leftover mushrooms and Monterey Jack cheese. After all, the original French quiche used a bread crust as a way for bakers to utilize odd pieces of dough at the end of a day. Eggs were a way to hold everything together. The original quiche Lorraine only included bacon. The addition of Swiss or Gruyere cheese came later. In Alsace, onions are added and in England, cheddar cheese is used instead of Swiss. So, go ahead and mix up the recipe a little. Nobody’s watching.
Use basic quiche as a blueprint
You can add any flavor combination to your quiche that sounds good to you! Quiche traditionally is baked in a tart pan. Most Americans use a standard pie plate, however. The basic recipe calls for one 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade), eggs, and whole milk or cream. You will, however, see variations in recipes on the number of eggs and amount of milk used. Mix in other ingredients as your desire. There are a few tips to remember.
Use dry ingredients because the moisture in items like cooked spinach will result in a soggy crust. Remove moisture by using a flour-sack kitchen towel to wring out liquid or spin wet ingredients in salad spinner.
Pre-cooked ingredients work best because your quiche won’t be in the oven long enough to cook added ingredients thoroughly.
A partially baked pie crust will result in a crispy final product. To do this with raw pie dough, place the crust in a 9-inch pie plate then pierce the bottom and sides with a fork to prevent it from puffing when baked. Bake for five minutes at 450°F then let cool before filling it with your custard.
Baking the whole quiche in a hot oven (375° to 400°F) on a baking sheet will bring additional heat to the bottom of the crust, helping it crisp up.
Just as a pie, cut your baked quiche to serve six to eight people. Serve it with a nice side salad for brunch or lunch or fried bacon or ham for breakfast. You can keep leftovers in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a week.
Today’s quiche is versatile. Custard baked in a pie shell is a simple vehicle for any number of meat, vegetable and cheese combinations. It’s good for any time of day, keeps well, and real men can — and do — eat it.
Niki Davis is the creator of Rooted in Foods food heritage blog and a regular contributor to The Southern Illinoisan's weekly Taste section. You can find her at www.rootedinfoods.com.