On the morning after Christmas, with the temperature in single digits, 8” of snow on the ground, and a north wind howling away at 40 knots, I got a hankering for quiche. I’ve written about and done up hundreds of recipes over the years, so I was indeed surprised to find only my legendary Potato Crusted Quiche in my recipe files.
How could I have gone this long without writing about the first iteration of this dish to storm America, the Quiche Lorraine?
First, a bit of history is in order for quiche in general and the Lorraine version in particular. Bien sur, even though France broadly claims the dish, what we know as quiche came from Germany back in the sixteenth century, from the region that was called Lothringen and is now Lorraine. In all fairness, this region has changed sides more than a few times, so the French must be forgiven this most reasonable appropriation.
What is a quiche Lorraine, then? Go there, (and truth be told across much of France), and what you’ll get is a one short-crust pie filled with a rich, savory custard and smoky, local bacon or ham. The seasoning will be salt, pepper, and a hint of freshly grated nutmeg.
So where did the version that stormed America come from – the one with the bacon or ham, plus Gruyère cheese, sautéed onions, and the same seasonings? The short answer is, right there, over time.
See, the region in question has also been called Alsace-Lorraine, even if France wants to call them Lorraine and Alsace-Moselle nowadays. Add onions to a quiche Lorraine, you get a quiche Alsacienne, me comprenez-vous?
The cheese came later, but also from the same region. Even though we’re told that Gruyère or Swiss are the proper cheese options for a Lorraine, right there they make Comté, also known as Gruyère de Comté. What this means is, you’ve got options.
For this and any quiche, there are steps you need to take to consistently produce a non-watery pie with a perfect, custardy filling – they’re outlined below, in detail. Also, just between us? You can also just buy a damn pre-made crust – truth be told, it ain’t like anybody’s gonna know, right?
For the Crust –
2 Cups Pastry Flour
1/2 Cup cold Butter, diced
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
6 – 8 Tablespoons Ice Cold Water
Crust Prep –
Remember; great pie dough is simple and minimally handled.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients by hand or with a pastry knife until it resembles rough corn meal in texture.
Add the water a tablespoon at a time and stir the dough with a fork.
When the dough holds together as a ball, but isn’t wet or sticky, stop messing with it, cover it in a mixing bowl refrigerate for 1/2 hour.
Pull your dough and hand form it into a disk about 3/4″ thick, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface, into a 12” circle roughly 1/8″ thick.
Lift an edge and carefully peel the dough free, then drape it onto a dry 9″ pie pan.
Trim the dough with a paring knife, leaving it about 1″ over the edge, then tuck the overhanging dough underneath itself to form a thick edge on the pan, and treat it as you see fit, (I like the classic thumb print myself).
Preheat your oven to 400° F, and position racks in the center position.
Put a piece of parchment paper or foil over the pie dough and fill with dried beans or pie weights.
Blind bake the crust on the center rack for 15 minutes, then remove to the stove top.
Remove pie weights and parchment from crust and set aside to cool.
Reduce oven temp to 350° F.
For the Filling –
1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Crème Fraîche, Mexican Crema, Buttermilk, or Sour Cream
4 fresh Eggs
4 Ounces Smoked Bacon or Ham, (European style is best)
1 Cup Gruyère, Comté, or Swiss Cheese
1/2 Cup Onion
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
6-8 twists freshly ground Black Pepper
5-6 shakes Tabasco sauce
Prepare your mise en place.
Portion milk and whatever sour cream variant you use and bring eggs out of the fridge as well – let them sit at room temp while you work on everything else.
Dice bacon or ham and cheese into roughly 1/4” squares.
Fine dice or thinly slice onion, as you prefer.
In a heavy sauté pan over medium heat, add the ham or bacon and fry until you have nice, crispy lardons, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer meat back to mixing bowl.
Reserve about a tablespoon of fat from the fried pork and add the onions to the sauté pan – cook until they are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Scatter cheese, bacon or ham, and onions evenly across the par baked crust.
In a mixing bowl, combine milk, sour cream, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and Tabasco. Pulse with a stick blender until fully incorporated, about 1 minute.
Pour the custard carefully over the cheese, meat, and onions.
Carefully slide the quiche into a middle rack spot and bake at 350° F until the top has puffed up and is golden brown, about 35-40 minutes.
Remove quiche from oven and allow a 5 to 10 minute rest before devouring.
It’s great for dinner with a nice green salad and glass of wine, too, by the way.