Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Garbage Quiche

B teases me sometimes that I was born in the wrong era. I am completely incapable of cooking for two people... most of my experiments yield results better suited for 12. I get carried away, what can I say? ;) I also hate to throw out food... things will kick around the fridge or pantry until I either find a use for them or they walk off under their own power. With these two traits I probably would have made one kick-ass WWII era Quebec housewife with a brood of 12+ children.

A few decades late and 12+ children short, I am trying to learn to be reasonable in the amounts of food I cook, but still enjoy trying to use everything we buy. We do our groceries twice a month instead of once a week now and I find we spend less, strangely enough. It's also a bit more challenging to plan out, it seems I always forget some crucial ingredient, but it forces me to be flexible and creative.

I keep a few recipes up my sleeve that are good at using up leftovers of various meats and veggies. Soups, stews, pasta sauce, etc. B's mom has a rather infamous recipe she refers to as 'Garbage Cake' where she basically uses up a bunch of leftover fruits and such to make a dessert. I've started referring to some of my creations as Cream of Refrigerator soup as leftover veggies and stocks are thrown together in strange and unusual ways.

Another recipe that is extremely easy to make and can turn leftover meat and/or veg into a fantastic dish is quiche. When I lived in California, I'll admit I never really got into quiche. It was something that you only found places that were trying to be snooty and upscale, not something you routinely found on the dinner table at home. Since moving here, however, I've developed a fondness for it, especially since I discovered how easy it is to make. It's also really lovely as a warmer weather dish as you can eat it warm or cool, with a nice bit of salad on the side.

I start with the Fool-proof Pie Dough and press it into a pie dish. Throw that in a 350 F oven to bake (until beginning to brown, about 15-20 minutes) while I prepare the filling. This recipe can also be done crust-less by simply buttering the pie dish and dusting with corn meal, then filling as usual. The basics of a quiche filling are:
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk or soy milk
  • 2 cups cheese, grated (cheddar or emmenthal are good basics)
  • 2 cups total of any of the following:
    • meat, cooked and chopped: bacon, ham, sausage, deli meat, chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, shrimp, etc. (you can also use meat substitutes as well)
    • veggies, cooked and chopped: green onions, caramelized onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, fresh herbs, etc.
The amounts above fill my pyrex pie dish to the very top... if you are using a larger or smaller dish, you may need to adjust slightly. Just keep the ratios roughly the same: 1 egg for each half cup of milk, cheese and meat/veg. For meats, make sure they are well cooked and chopped in small pieces. Quiche is something you should be able to cut into with a fork without having to pry it apart in chunks. For veggies, cooking is not essential as they will cook somewhat in the oven, however be aware of which veggies release water as they cook. Things like mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, etc. These ones you should cook first, allow them to release their liquid first, drain well and then add them to the filling. Otherwise all of that liquid will be released into the quiche as it bakes and result in a soggy crust and a filling that doesn't set properly. If adding fresh herbs, do not cook them first, simply add them fresh into the filling mix.

Beat the eggs with a fork and adding a pinch of salt. Salt helps break down the protein (albumen) in egg whites and gives you a smoother beaten egg. Whisk in the milk and a third of the cheese. You can also season at this point... stick with salt and pepper or get adventurous... it really depends on the ingredients you're using. If you will be adding meats such as ham or bacon, go easy on the salt as they will add quite a bit to the dish on their own. Once the pie shell is ready, simply sprinkle a bit of cheese on the bottom, top with the meat/veg, then pour the egg mixture on top. I give a good stir with a fork to make sure the egg, cheese and veg are evenly distributed, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. All of this goes back in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes... it will depend on the type of pie dish you use (both size and material) and the filling. Keep an eye on it, you want a top that is puffy and browned, as the cheese will form a nice bubbly crust on top.

Once done, let it cool at least 10 minutes before serving, if serving warm. Much like a steak, if you cut into a quiche right out of the oven, you'll find it fairly watery. Let it rest a few minutes before cutting/serving. If making it ahead to serve chilled, simply cool completely then cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until meal time. Serve alone or with a green salad, also makes great leftovers.

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