Monday, April 16, 2012

Spinach Quiche

Quiches get baked several times a year at my house, because they are tasty and very easy to create.  The only difficult part when assembling one (and I say this lightly) is the tart crust itself.  It's well worth the effort to make your pâte brisée from scratch, which to my mind, makes or breaks any quiche; your tart or pie will only be as good as its crust.  Imagine a buttery crust that is flaky, tender & delicious holding together a smooth, creamy custard that just dissolves in your mouth.  If, however, you happen to have a gluten intolerance simply omit the crust & bake the quiche in a glass pie dish.  A crustless quiche is just as good. 


The fillings vary depending on my mood or what I find at the market whenever I set out to make this savory tart.  Asparagus quiche is always delicious during the spring, as is the famous French Quiche aux Poireaux (leek quiche), but I also like tomato, goat cheese or mushroom quiches too.  At the top of the list, in my opinion, is one made with spinach.  Over the years I've varied what I put into my spinach quiches, but certain things always remain the same.  Fresh, tender baby spinach is sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, along with some finely minced shallot for added flavor.  The mixture then gets added to a basic custard and voilà!  For this recipe, I decided on a whim to add a chopped plum tomato for flavor as well as color.  I have to say that by the end of our meal, there wasn't a crumb left.  Would you like to try it?       


Spinach Quiche


The Ingredients
  • 9 oz. fresh baby spinach, rinsed well
  • 1 medium shallot (about 2 tablespoons), diced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded & chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 disk pâte brisée
Equipment: 9 1/2" diameter, 2" deep fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
A pie pan (glass or tin) can also be used.

Yields: 8 slices.

Remove the disk of pâte brisée from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes.  This will make it easier to roll out without any cracks.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry with even pressure to a diameter of about 3 inches wider than the tart pan.  Flour your rolling pin and sprinkle flour over your pâte brisée as you roll it.  Keep a pastry brush handy to remove any excess flour.  At no point do you want your tart crust sticking to the surface, so make sure you can move it around quite freely.
   

When you've reached the desired diameter, either roll the crust around the rolling pin and unfurl it or lift the entire pâte brisée and drape it over the pan.  Using your fingers, tuck the crust into the fluted edges and all around the bottom so that it makes contact with every part of the tart pan.  Be careful that you don't tear the crust at this point.  If for some reason you do have a tear, simply patch it up with a piece of excess pastry.

Chill the tart crust in the pan for 30 minutes in the freezer (my preference) or in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  This is important because you need to relax the gluten in the crust.  If you were to put the crust straight into the oven without chilling, the dough would contract & shrink on itself.  Not a good thing!

Place racks in the lower half of the oven
 & preheat to 425° F.

While the pâte brisée is resting in the freezer, saute the spinach.  Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.  Add the minced shallot and saute for about 2 minutes or until it becomes translucent, then add the entire 9 oz of baby spinach.  Saute the mixture until the spinach begins to wilt & shrink down.  Add salt & pepper to taste and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until all of the excess moisture has evaporated.  Remove from the heat & pour the contents into a bowl; let cool completely.  

Note: if there is excess liquid in the spinach when you're done sauteing, place it in a sieve set over a bowl & let it drain as it cools.  Discard the liquid.


 

While the spinach mixture is cooling, blind bake your tart crust on a parchment-lined or silpat-lined rimmed baking sheet.  You don't want to put the tart pan directly onto the oven racks, because butter does seep from the crust (you would end up with a burned mess if you did), so use a baking sheet underneath. 

Follow the instructions I've laid out in my Blind Baking a Tart Crust tutorial. 

The crust should blind bake in the 425° F oven for 20 minutes with the pie weights.  There is no need to dock the crust when it comes out of the oven.  Simply remove the crust from the oven & empty it of the pie weights. 

~ Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F. ~



Combine the chopped tomato and the cooled spinach mixture in a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk the 4 large eggs well & combine them with the 2 cups milk.  Add the custard mixture into the spinach mixture, salt & pepper well (to taste), and combine thoroughly.  Pour the entire mixture into the hot, partially-baked tart crust & promptly return it to the 375° F oven.

Bake the quiche between 45-50 minutes.  When testing for doneness, open the oven door and give the quiche a few quick shakes.  If the center wobbles, it is NOT done.  A fully baked quiche will be set in the center (no jiggling) and may even puff up.  The tart crust should be a rich golden color.


Voilà, the quiche is done.  Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before slipping the fluted ring off the pan.  At this point you can place it on a nice platter & take it to the table for slicing (first picture).  The quiche can also cool to room temperature & be served that way.  This will serve between 6-8 people, depending on how you cut it.  I always make 8 wedges.


This is good brunch for me on the weekend.  A slice of quiche, some steamed petit pois and an escarole salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette.  A nice glass of Beaujolais also helps.


A well made tart crust will be golden, flaky & irresistibly tempting. 


A delicious quiche with the flakiest of crusts and the creamiest of custard fillings is always welcomed at my table.  I make quiches to have for lunch during the week or for a weekend brunch if I plan ahead of time.  Any quiche can be baked one day in advance and get reheated in a hot oven, or it can even be eaten cold.  It's up to you.  For me, every component of a quiche has to be of the highest quality and the proportions of eggs to milk (or cream) have to be just so in order to make a smooth custard and a quiche that tastes extraordinary.  Buy the freshest produce whenever possible, because it's going to make a big difference.  Bake one soon and Bon Appétit!  

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