Custardy, bacony, buttery-crusted and warm, it’s a treat you’ll love to make — and eat.
For many cooks, making a quiche is a big deal. That’s not the way it’s seen in France, where it’s considered a simple, everyday dish. Really!
“Nothing fancy; I’m just making a quiche,” is the way a friend will issue a casual dinner or lunch invite. Often there will be more than one kind. The friend never seems to have broken a sweat.
That’s why when we set out to develop a recipe for quintessential quiche Lorraine, we wanted to keep things quick and simple as possible.
And we did! Our Quintessential Quiche Lorraine can be accomplished with less than an hour of active work — and that includes prep, making the crust, and cleaning up, which I’m able to nearly finish just as the filled quiche is going into the oven. While the quiche bakes (35 to 45 minutes) and rests 10 minutes or so, you can make a simple green salad, and voilà — a fabulous dinner or brunch.
How simple did I want to go? Not as simple as what I did a hundred years ago when I was learning to cook: Buy a pre-made crust and fill it with scrambled eggs and grated jack and cheddar and call it a day. But it had to be decidedly simpler than the majestic, lofty, ethereal version Thomas Keller offered in his 2004 Bouchon cookbook.
Here’s the way Keller described the ideal quiche:
“A great quiche has a rich, flaky crust and a custard about two inches deep. When it is sliced, the edges should be clean, and the exposed custard should have a smooth, almost liquid sheen. When it arrives hot, it should tremble as if were on the verge of collapse. It maintains its form-just-but you can see what’s going to happen when you take a bite. It collapses on the plate, molten, spreading out luxuriously.”
So what was quiche Lorraine originally supposed to be like, back when it was invented? Unlike moussaka, or butter chicken, there is no charming origin story attached to quiche Lorraine. Or at least I was unable to turn one up. In fact, I was able to find little reliable information about its history.
Larousse Gastronomique, generally accepted to be the authoritative encyclopedia of French cuisine, says that quiches in general originated in Lorraine in the 16th century, and it defines quiche as “an open tart filled with a mixture of beaten eggs, crème fraîche and pieces of bacon, served hot as a first course or hors d’oeuvre.” It points out that the word quiche derives from the German Küchen, meaning “cake.” In Nancy, the former capital of the Lorraine region, its local name is “féouse.” Originally it had a bread-dough crust.
So if once upon a time a quiche Lorraine’s filling was just eggs, crème fraîche and bacon, what is it today? It can be a few things. At its most essential, it is still just that: eggs, cream and bacon. More often there are also onions, which happen to go beautifully with the bacon. And also quite often, there is cheese.
Where did the onions come from? The entry for Quiche lorraine on Wikipedia France has a helpful clue, citing Guy Cabourdin, author of Everyday Life in Lorraine in the 17th and 18th Centuries (Éditions Hachette, 1984). Cabourdin, according to the entry, points to a kinship between the original quiche and tarte flambée — the famous onion-and-bacon tart of Alsace, Lorraine’s neighbor. So perhaps we don’t have to wonder too hard where those onions came from.
When I started developing this recipe, I naïvely assumed there was supposed to be cheese in a quiche Lorraine. Keller put both onions and cheese (Comté or Emmenthaler) in the Quiche Lorraine recipe in Bouchon. But once I dove into the history a bit — and saw that Julia Child did not use cheese, I thought I’d try it without. (Julia also does without onions.)
You know what? It’s good both ways — with cheese and without.
Paradoxically, leaving out the cheese allowed me to get the texture I was after — Keller’s “smooth, almost liquid sheen.” That’s why it is the cheese-less version that I prefer: It’s wonderfully custardy, a bit lighter and loftier.
The photo below gives a sense of its custardy texture (see the sheen on the top half of the custard?), while the photo at the top of the story shows the cheese-ful one. I think they give a sense of the difference.
Again, both are legit. Our recipe for Quintessential Quiche Lorraine is cheese-free, but a variation at the end tells you how to easily add some Gruyère (or Comté or Emmenthaller, or whatever you want.)
Our crust, inspired by one my friend Danièle Delpeuch taught me years ago, is a pâte brisée (short crust) that comes together in a snap in the food processor. Because it’s made so quickly and handled so little, glutens don’t have time to develop, and it stays tender, even if you don’t chill it before and after rolling it out. It’s really a wham-bam-thank-you-madame kind of crust.
That crust is a pleasure to work with it. It’s easy to handle, it stays together and it’s generous enough to easily fit a deep-dish pie pan without having to roll it out too thin. If you do get a tear or hole once you fit it into the pan, don’t worry — you can patch it with the trimmings.
And the crust is good — super buttery and pretty flaky. Is it as fabulous as the one that takes an entire giant page, a heavy-duty stand mixer with a paddle attachment, several trips of the dough in and out of the refrigerator to chill and 50 to 65 minutes of blind-baking before it is filled? Um, no. But it’s so easy to throw together that it puts us in the mood to make a quiche every couple of weeks. With a little practice, you can have it in the oven in 20 minutes.
I hope you like it as much as we do at our house. In normal times, with all that cream, it might seem like a ridiculous indulgence. These days, it has been one of those special treats that make the current state of the world just a little more tolerable. I’d say that you could just have a thin slice and focus on the salad, but that would be dishonest.
I’m pretty sure you’ll want a second piece.
Quintessential Quiche Lorraine
Note: The butter needs to be chilled hard, so if it gets soft while you’re cutting it up, chill it in the fridge a few minutes before starting. If you prefer to make this crust by hand, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, it would be best to chill it 30 minutes before rolling it out.
Unlike the original quiche Lorraine, whose filling only included eggs, cream and bacon, ours also includes lightly caramelized onion. A variation at the end of the recipe offers simple instructions for adding cheese.
You’ll need a pie pan that’s 9 to 9 1/2 inches in diameter, and two inches deep.
For the pâte brisée crust:
180 g all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups, 6.5 ounces), plus additional for rolling the dough
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
9 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water
For the quiche:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves (optional)
4 or 5 slices bacon, thick-cut or regular (6–7 ounces)
6 large eggs
1 2/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1. Heat the oven to 400 F, with the rack in the center of the oven. Make the pâte brisée: Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse (for one second each pulse) about 8 or 9 times — until the mixture resembles coarse meal and there are no big pieces of butter.
2. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour mixture, then process continuously until the mixture forms a ball. It will take about 15 to 25 seconds and happen all of a sudden. Lightly flour a work surface, remove the ball of dough from the food processor and press it into a thick, round, flat disc.
3. Place the disc on the work surface and, working quickly, roll it into a large round 1/8-inch thick. Fold the sheet gently into quarters or drape it around the rolling pin, and transfer it to a deep 9 to 9–12 inch pie pan. Ease the dough gently into the corners of the pan; you don’t want to stretch the dough at all or it will shrink when baked. Trim the circumference so you have about a 1 1/2 inch overhang, then fold the overhang under (leaving about a 3/4 inch overhang) and crimp the edges. Line the shell with aluminum foil, fill it with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and weights and set the shell aside to cool briefly. Turn down the oven to 375 degrees.
4. While the shell is blind-baking, prepare the onions. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan, add the onions, stir to coat with the oil, and stir in the thyme (if using). Lower the heat to the low side of medium-low, and cook slowly, stirring somewhere between occasionally and frequently, until they are lightly caramelized, and just starting to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. While the onions are caramelizing, cook the bacon. Line a rimmed sheet pan with a Silpat if you like (it’s not necessary), lay the bacon strips on the sheet and bake 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the thickness of the bacon), until the fat is mostly rendered but the bacon is not yet crisp. Remove from the oven, drain the bacon briefly on paper towels, and cut it into smallish bite-sized pieces. Set aside. Raise the oven heat to 400 degrees.
6. Make the batter: Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk well. Add the cream, salt and white pepper and whisk well again, until the mixture is light and uniform.
7. Now we’ll assemble the quiche. Scatter half the caramelized onions in the bottom of the pie shell (I use my fingers, so it’s easier to distribute them evenly). Scatter half the bacon pieces on top of them, then pour half the batter over all. Scatter the rest of the onions on top of the batter (it’s OK if it falls down into it), followed by the bacon, then pour the remaining batter on top. Place the filled shell on a baking sheet and bake until the center is set (jiggle the pan; when it doesn’t look jiggly, it’s set), and the top is golden-brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. (I always start checking after 30 minutes.) If you take it out when it is just set, the center of the quiche will be a little more custardy than the edges; if you like it more cooked in the center, leave it in another 5 minutes or so, till the center puffs up a bit like the edges. Remove from the oven and set the quiche on a rack to cool slightly for 10 minutes. Serve immediately, or eat later slightly warm or at room temperature.
Variation: Quintessential Quiche Lorraine with Cheese
If you’d like to include cheese, grate 2 1/2 ounces of Gruyère, Comté or Emmentaler on box grater. When forming the layers, sprinkle half the grated cheese on the first layer of onions and bacon, and the rest of the cheese on the second layer of onions and bacon. Otherwise follow the recipe as written.
Originally published at https://cookswithoutborders.com on January 8, 2021.