I hosted a brunch Saturday morning. On Friday I was kind of dreading it and wishing I had planned something simple. I have this tendency to get excited and I want to try a little bit of everything even if only 5 people have rsvp'd, I had fruit and yogurt and planned on baking both bran muffins and maple-oatmeal scones and herbed tomatoes and bacon and . . . it was just too much. Just when I had decided to scratch quiche off the menu for simplicity's sake and go with a simple fruit and muffins brunch, a co-worker suggested quiche as an easy but impressive brunch menu item. And I agreed and remembered that yes, quiche is quite simple and it needed to be the star of my brunch. And since I have a good go-to recipe, all the better. And since I know several of you out there are not believing me that quiche is easy, I'm going to show you just how simple it is. And impressive. Although I will warn you that it involves multiple steps and lots of dishes. I have layed this out so that the steps overlap which requires some multi-tasking (faster prep) but if you aren't comfortable with that, you can just chop the shallots and mushrooms and shred the cheese in advance to relieve the stress of chopping and cooking at the same time.
You can start by making your own pie crust from scratch if you would like. But that kind of defeats the whole simplicity idea. So I pulled this out of my freezer:
Pre-made pie crusts are just so much easier for brunch than the hassle of rolling out dough on a Saturday morning. You don't have to pre-bake the crust but if you like it more flaky, I would pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes before adding the filling. But don't forget to stab it a few times with a fork or else it will puff up (like mine did) as it bakes.
Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet but don't worry about turning any heat on it yet, we have some other prep work to do. By the way, I never measure olive oil, I just swirl it around a couple of times and call it good. And for this that is just fine, you don't really need a precise measurment but don't go overboard or else you will have an oily quiche.
Next, grab a couple of shallots. What are shallots you ask? These cute little miniature onions have a sweeter and more mild taste than regular onions. So, if you are adverse to onions (Liz, I'm looking at you), give these little guys a shot. They add a nice subtle flavor without overpowering the dish. And if you chop them finely enough their texture completely disappears once the dish is cooked - which is a big deal to me because raw onions gross me out a little too much. Plus, you can add more or less to taste.
Peel off the skins and then chop them up just like an onion. Normally I throw them in my little mini-food processor but for some reason I decided to use a knife. I regretted it when my eyes decided to glue themselves shut from crying. I'm pretty sensitive to chopping onions apparently.
When you are about half-way through chopping those shallots, turn the heat on high under the olive oil to get it nice and hot for the shallots. You should also pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees right about now. When the olive oil is hot, toss in the shallots and stir it all up a bit.
While the shallots are sweating it out, wash about a pound of mushrooms (1 package is generally enough) and quarter them like so:
By now the shallots should be translucent so you can drop the mushrooms into the pan.
Add some salt and pepper and stir them around so they can mingle with the shallots. You want to cook them for 8-10 minutes or until they turn slightly brown and release their liquid. Keep stirring them occasionally.
While the mushrooms are browning, grab your Gruyere cheese. This special cave-aged Gruyere was made especially for me - see, my name is on it!
Gruyere is a heavenly cheese. It is sweet but a little bit salty which pairs well with a savory quiche. When I was on my study abroad program in Switzerland I went to Gruyere and took a tour of the cheese factory and saw the giant wheels of this cheese. Unfortunately I didn't see much else because there was some sort of bad timing problem and we arrived after the full tour was over and all the workers had quit for the day so all we did was watch a little movie about cheese making that I was pretty sure I had seen on PBS once.
Anyway, you can shred it by hand or cheat by feeding it into your food processor. Don't forget to stir the mushrooms a bit while you are doing this.
Spread about half the cheese on the bottom of your crust, comme Ça (talking about Switzerland makes me wish I could still speak more French than that and that c is capitalized because it was the only one I could find quickly with the little tail thing of which I forget the name).
Your mushrooms should be ready now so you can remove them from the heat and pour them on top of the cheese.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the mushrooms.
Next up, grab a medium bowl and add a 1/2 cup milk and a 1/2 cup heavy cream. I use skim milk and I'm guessing you can play with the proportions a bit if you want a lighter or heavier quiche (3/4 cup skim milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream). but I haven't actually tried that before because I'm really not afraid of heavy cream once in a while. Not all the time, just once in a while.
Next add two large eggs plus one egg yolk.
Whisk it all together,
It will get nice and foamy, then add a pinch of nutmeg and some salt and pepper and whip it some more.
Then pour it all into your pie pan. I should have mentioned earlier that it is a good idea to put the pie pan on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil, just in case this process overflows a little - which it has been known to do in the past. Luckily this time, it fit perfectly.
I filled it to the brim as you can see.
Throw it in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the center is set and the top is nice and browned. It is important to build in some cooling time right about now. When you pull it out of the oven it still needs some time to set up and become more solid. Transfer it to a wire rack and allow it to cool for 10 to 20 minutes. Saturday I planned ahead for once and let it stand for about an hour before serving and it made slicing a lot easier than my impatient 5 minutes out of the oven usual habit. And it was still warm too.
I should mention that I have played with this recipe quite a bit with a variety of ingredients and it always turns out tasty. One of my favorite variations is to substitute pepper jack cheese and add some chilies to the shallots and mushrooms and a little bit of hot sauce to the milk and egg mix for a spicy quiche. Meat lovers may want to add some bacon or ham.
Below is the full recipe, I think I originally got it from Martha Stewart but I'm too lazy to go check so we'll just give her the credit. Give it a try and if you would like I will later share a new-found recipe for maple oatmeal scones and tell you about my ridiculous accident prone kitchen habits of late.
1 cooked (but not browned) pie crust
2 TB olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound white button mushrooms, quartered
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
pinch grated nutmeg
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups)
Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring until translucent but not brown, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms first release their liquid and then liquid evaporates and mushrooms are dark golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
Transfer pie pan to baking sheet lined with tin foil. Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with mushrooms, then top with remaining cheese. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, eggs and egg yolk. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over cheese. Transfer to oven and bake until just set in the center - 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before slicing.
P.S. If you have Gruyere cheese left over, I melted some on my baked asparagus last night and found it delicious.