A recent visit to Daydream Farm and Marcoot Jersey Creamery, both in Greenville, Illinois, provided the inspiration for this rich and satisfying quiche, featuring fresh-picked asparagus and local artisan cheeses. A good quiche can work any time of day, can be made sinfully rich (sort of like this one) or fairly light with adjustments to the fat content in your dairy. A quiche is welcome on a chilly spring day with a bowl of your favorite hot soup or on a warm afternoon with a light salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
You Shouldn’t Go in Blind When Baking
Quiche is one of my favorite dishes, but it can be intimidating for home bakers, I think. I always struggle with the pastry, no matter how much I research and prepare, so I’m forever grateful to the master bakers out there who are willing to share their secrets with the rest of us.
My first attempt at this quiche yielded a passable crust, but I wasn’t pleased with the filling—kinda bland. Enter those caramelized onions. My second attempt was a winning filling but a soggy bottom—so sad. I was on quiche three (I know.), when I discovered Chef Stella Parks, an award-winning pastry chef, who is funny, helpful, no-nonsense and a brilliant baker. I found her on Serious Eats (Here’s a website well worth your time.). Her current blog and upcoming new book is Brave Tart (LOVE IT!), and her guidance helped me blind (or pre) bake a very nice and flaky crust. I knew I needed to seal my third crust before adding the mound of onions, asparagus, cheese and cream that were going to make it oh-so-yummy. The answer was blind baking, except I’ve come away with a sort of burnt crust at best whenever I’ve attempted this technique in past…and we were NOT going to make quiche number four, which is why I sought help (never a bad thing) from Chef Parks.
Chef Parks adheres to the “low and slow” method of blind baking a pie crust, using foil to perfectly line it and sugar (not kidding) to evenly weight it. So I took my third batch of pie dough out of the frig, rolled it out and gave her method a try. Wow. I will never blind bake any other way… and next time I will be trying her dough recipe, as well. I expect to see nothing but improvement on the horizon for me and my pastry.
Give yourself a “Make-Ahead” Break
The filling for this recipe is enriched by caramelizing the onions. But caramelizing onions until they are viscous and syrupy sweet takes about one and a half to two hours; there is no rushing here. Consider doing this step ahead by a day or even two and storing the onions in a covered dish in the frig until you need them. Saves time on quiche day and is one less distraction while you are trying to get your crust done.
Also, since your crust will need to rest before it is rolled and briefly again before it goes into the oven, you can make your dough ahead, too. Just form it into a nice tight round disk, wrap it well in parchment paper and stick it in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out. You’ll need to let it soften slightly before rolling, but you won’t have to worry about making your pastry dough on the same day you bake your quiche. Again, let me suggest a visit to Chef Park’s recipe for pastry dough—her method is simpler overall (with only one resting) than the one I’ve used below. Hers just takes a little more practice, I think. But I’m giving it a try next time. I’ll share those results when I do. For now, let’s get cookin’!
- One and one-quarter cups all-purpose flour (You can find organic all-purpose white flour at your local health food store. White flour is, despite my own stubborn insistence on whole grain, the very best flour to use for pastry crust. Just surrender.)
- One-half teaspoon raw sugar or evaporated cane juice
- One-half teaspoon fine sea salt
- One-stick ice-cold, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes (keep refrigerated until ready to include)
- Three tablespoons shortening, cut into tiny cubes (My grandma used lard—a no-go for me—my mom used Crisco—uh, still no—I use Earth Balance Vegan Baking Sticks, amazing, just keep your cut up cubes very cold—even slightly frozen--until ready to use.)
- One-third cup, plus a couple of tablespoons ice water
- Two to three tablespoons olive oil
- Two tablespoons unsalted butter
- Two large yellow onions, sliced thin (You’ll want to slice your peeled onions vertically down the center and then go at them slicing from the side, working your way to the top of the “dome.” Then begin on the other side and repeat.)
- One teaspoon coarse sea salt
- One and one-half cups asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and chopped into one-inch pieces (Try for asparagus roughly the same size in diameter; medium stalks are perfect here.)
- Three large eggs, whisked until frothy
- Three-quarters cup heavy cream
- One-half cup whole milk
- One teaspoon each minced fresh sage and thyme
- About a teaspoon each, coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- One cup Cave Aged Heritage Cheese from Marcoot Jersey Creamery (This is a fruity, sharp cheese similar to Gruyere, so a good Gruyere will also work here.)
- One half cup Cave Aged Tomme from Marcoot Jersey Creamery (This cheese is similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, which will work as a substitute.)
- Have everything as cold as possible, including your bowl, tools and board. If my kitchen is super steamy in the summer, I make the dough in my food processor, storing the bowl, blade and top in the frig for an hour before using.
- With a pastry blender, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the cold butter cubes and work the butter into the flour until you have pea-size pieces.
- Add the shortening cubes, continuing to work the two fats into the flour with the pastry blender until you have about the consistency of course crumbs. (Not all crumbs need to be the same size. Larger crumbs are OK and actually help the crust become flaky. Don’t over work. If using the food processor, only use the pulse button—very carefully.)
- Immediately start adding the ice water, tablespoon by tablespoon, while working with the pastry blender (or pulsing in the processor) just until the dough comes together and starts to form a rough ball. When the dough holds together when flattened in your hand, it’s done. If it’s still too dry, you can add a tablespoon or two more of water, but avoid overly wet dough. The dough should look rough, not smooth.
- Shape the dough into a round disk on a floured board, cover it well in parchment paper and stick it in the refrigerator for at least one hour but preferably longer, even overnight. (If storing overnight, I suggest putting it in a plastic storage bag to keep it from drying out.)
- While the dough rests, place the olive oil and the butter in a large skillet and melt over medium heat. Add the onions, sauté a few minutes to get them going and add the salt. Cook and stir occasionally until the onions begin to reduce and the liquid evaporates. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about an hour and a half, until the onions have become brown, thick and syrupy. Set aside.
- Begin by removing your dough from the refrigerator, placing it on your floured work surface and allowing it just a couple of minutes to calm down. (Note that Chef Parks rolls out her crust before chilling it, so an extra resting step is unnecessary. She’s way better at this than I am, though, and I find the freshly made dough too tricky to handle. I will keep at it, though.)
- Once the dough has become a bit pliable but is still quite cold, flatten it with the heel of your hand by pushing out, not down, into a circle and then roll it out into about a 12-inch or so circle. Place in the pie dish or tart pan and trim the sides and crimp as desired. Re-chill to relax the dough, about an hour.
- Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Once the oven has preheated and the dough is mellow, remove the pie shell from the frig and line it with a piece of aluminum foil. Chef Parks notes that you should conscientiously press it into the crust so no gaps are present and mold it over the sides—so no burning on those crimped edges! Then fill the crust with about three cups of plain old white sugar—I used the cheap sugar that goes in the hummingbird feeder food. The sugar makes a very even weight and keeps both the bottom and the sides from puffing. You will be able to reuse the sugar for other baking purposes, too, if you like. So don’t throw it way!
- Place your weighted crust in the oven and bake for one hour.
- While the crust is baking, assemble everything you will need for the filling. If you have prepared your caramelized onions ahead, remove them from the refrigerator so they can come to room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, milk, whipped eggs, minced herbs and seasoning. Shred your cheeses, keeping them separate. Prep your asparagus.
- When the crust is finished, let it cool just a few minutes on top of the stove and increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- Spread the caramelized onions across the bottom of the crust. Add the chopped asparagus and sprinkle in the Heritage (or Gruyere) cheese evenly over the entire crust. Pour in the cream and egg mixture. Top with the Tomme cheese (or Parmigiano Reggiano) across the entire top of the filling.
- Bake the quiche for 45 minutes, until firm and a sharp knife blade comes out fairly clean when inserted near the center. Allow the quiche to rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
The prep time assumes you are making the onions and pastry dough on the same day you bake the quiche. The bake time includes cooling the quiche before serving.
I am now a huge fan of Stella Parks; I hope you are, too. Her baking method for the blind-baked crust made this my best quiche ever…. Oh, I could just quiche her! (Ok, just had to.). Chef Parks certainly lives up to her name–she is a rising star in the baking world.
Green Kitchen Tip
If you were not aware, you can freeze asparagus so that you can enjoy it midwinter in a soup or sauce. Just wash your spears, let dry thoroughly on clean kitchen towels, cut into one-inch pieces and store in a sturdy freezer bag. Sometime in November, you’ll be glad you did.
Next time, we’ll be visiting my very own Goshen Community Market in Edwardsville and cooking up something super fresh using the season’s earliest bounty. And while we are all more than ready for that locally grown, fresher-than-fresh produce, we all know it’s really the people who make market day the rich experience it always is. What we are hungry for more than turnips, cabbage, beans and onions is community. I firmly believe that even if all the growers showed up with nothing in their trucks, we’d still have a great time. We might get hungry, but we’d have a great time. Luckily during market season, we can have it all if we shop local, eat healthy and always be brave in the kitchen.