When I travel I am always on a budget. That can present a challenge in a city like Paris, but over time we have found excellent food in the cafes and bistros that are in every neighborhood. If you are watching your dollars lunch is THE meal to enjoy in a restaurant. Choices are good and prices are considerably less than at the dinner hour.
On our first trip to Paris we discovered this little cafe right off of rue St. Louis on Ile St. Louis, a tiny island right behind Notre Dame that is one of the oldest areas of Paris. It was busy at noon but we were seated right away and selected quiche Lorraine and a salad. I believe that all food tastes better in Paris and, despite that bias, we agreed that our quiche was one of the best we ever tasted. I tried many recipes when I returned home and could never duplicate the texture of the creamy, rich, delicate pie we enjoyed that day.
We went back to this little cafe in May while on vacation in Paris and I again ordered the quiche, bound and determined to figure out what made it different from the ones I make at home. Most quiche recipes are basically the same: eggs, cream, cheese and a variety of possible additions that are excellent ways to use up bits of this and that in the fridge. When we paid attention it was obvious and shocking…the quiche Lorraine didn’t contain cheese.
I made notes to myself about the taste and texture of this delectable custard pie so I could do a little research when I got home. Sure enough, authentic quiche Lorraine is a custard dish, cream and eggs and bacon…and no cheese. One article I read labeled the addition of cheese to the dish a “dreadful sin.” It might be a quiche but it definitely is not a quiche Lorraine. I remembered that quiche Lorraine was one of Julia Child’s signature dishes so I started my research with her. Most recipes are similar and consist of 3 eggs to 1-1/2 to 2 cups cream, salt and pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. I added a few chopped chives because I like their flavor and the little touch of color they give the custard. Originally the crust was made of bread dough but has evolved over the years into a buttery, flaky crust or puff pastry. I don’t like a soggy crust so have never been fond of using puff pastry. Blind baking a good short crust is the best way to avoid this. A soggy bottom can ruin even the best quiche. I’m working on a series of blog posts about crusts and will talk about that later. As you can see in the first photo the crust I used shrank despite how careful I was with it and it pulled away from the tin and lost its shape. Different crusts are suitable for different things and warrant several posts to do them justice. I get lots of questions about pie crust so I will tackle the subject in plenty of time for holiday baking.
I enjoyed my little research project and have concluded that a quiche can be made any way you prefer…with lots of items added to the custard or very few. I like the addition of Gruyere, but it doesn’t take a lot to add a nice flavor. Too much and the filling becomes heavy. Many recipe call for adding the additional ingredients to the empty crust and then pouring the filling over them. I do just the opposite and sprinkle the items over the custard mixture just before baking with the hope that they stay somewhat suspended as the filling begins to cook. I also like to whisk a little air into the custard mixture to lighten it up just a bit before I pour it into the shell.
- 1 single-crust pie shell, well chilled
- 3 to 4 ounces lean bacon (about 6 to 8 medium-cut slices), sliced into ¼-inch segments
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cups to 2 cups cream or half-and-half
- ½ teaspoon salt
- pinch of freshly ground pepper
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pea-sized amounts
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the pie crust with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Then remove the foil and pie weights and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more, until the shell is starting to color. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Over medium heat, cook the sliced bacon in a skillet until cooked and lightly brown. Remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Once cooled slightly, evenly scatter over the bottom of the partially-baked pastry shell. Next, beat the cream (and/or half-and-half) with the eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, until well blended. Pour over the bacon slices into the hot pastry shell, then sprinkle the butter dots on top. Bake in the 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, until the quiche has puffed up and browned. Let cool slightly; serve warm or cold.