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Time for a quick quiche

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Variety Menu

Want to ruin a good thing? Just write a best-selling book strongly implying that people who eat it are unmanly.

Quiche was widely enjoyed in America in the 1970s, until Bruce Feirstein wrecked it for everyone when he wrote the best-selling book "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche."

It was a great title, but it had a profound effect. Quiche sales dropped precipitously as men everywhere immediately stopped eating the tasty pastry. But why? What type of a real man would turn up his nose at eggs and cream baked into a crust?

Fortunately, quiche is beginning to make a bit of a comeback, and high time, too. Not only is quiche an irresistible combination of custard and flaky crust, it is also exceptionally versatile.

It is unbeatable for breakfast, luscious for lunch, superb for a light supper.

Best of all, you can make one with almost any filling you want.

Bacon is a classic, because nothing goes with eggs like bacon. Cheese is great, too, because -- as with so much in life -- everything is better with cheese.

But I wanted to think outside the crust. I wanted to make quiche that you don't find at your local quichetaria.

In other words, I wanted to make Leftover Chinese Takeout Quiche. Leftover Indian Takeout Quiche would be just as good, or maybe even better, but I didn't have any leftover Indian food on hand.

But before I get to the Leftover Chinese Takeout Quiche and the other quiches I made, I want to say a word about crust.

I made my own. Using a basic 3-2-1 dough, I wound up with crusts that were impossibly flaky and rich with buttery goodness. But they did take time (the dough has to chill for an hour) and effort, and I can see why a busy cook would not want to bother with it.

So you can use a frozen or roll-out pie crust, as long as it isn't sweetened. It won't be as good as homemade, but no one will notice because the fillings are so sumptuous.

In fact, if you're looking to save a few calories, you can even make quiche without the crust. With quiche, it's the filling that matters most.

The thing about Leftover Chinese/Indian Takeout Quiche is it doesn't matter what kind of food you have left over. If you have a dish with a sauce that is served over rice, it will make a great quiche (though you don't want to use too much of the sauce).

I made mine with leftover garlic chicken. It perhaps wasn't quite garlicky enough, but that was really the fault of the restaurant that made it. The better the takeout food, the better the quiche.

And if you want a little more heft to your custard, you can even add some of the rice.

My next inspiration for a quiche came from a bagel -- that is, it came from what goes on top of a bagel.

I've had quiche with smoked salmon before, so I guess it wasn't entirely my idea. But along with minced smoked salmon, I also added sauteed onions, capers and dill.

I did not add any cream cheese, because I was already using cream (well, half-and-half) in the quiche, and it was time to be nice to my arteries. But you can put in the cream cheese if you want. It will only make it even better.

For my next quiche, I turned to one of my favorite fast dinners, sausage with peppers and onions. I chopped up the ingredients, sauteed them in butter, though oil is more traditional, and added them to my quiche.

The only problem was I had wanted to make the dish with Italian sausage. The store that is closest to me did not have any Italian sausage, ahem, so I wound up getting beef kielbasa instead.

Kielbasa most famously is cooked with cabbage, but I decided to go with the bell pepper and onions anyway, and I'm glad I did. Pepper and onions go great with kielbasa, especially when suspended in a silken custard over an ethereally flaky crust.

My last quiche, admittedly, was a little mundane: Asparagus with Wild Mushroom Quiche. Then again, when are asparagus and wild mushrooms ever truly mundane?

My neighborhood grocery store did not have any fresh wild mushrooms, ahem, aside from shiitakes. So I bought one of those packages of dried mixed mushrooms, and reconstituted about half of the package in warm water. It worked like a charm.

The key to making this quiche is sauteing the asparagus, mushrooms and onions together just long enough that they are tender but not yet soft. It takes a little patience; just five to seven minutes is needed.

The other key, of course, is cheese. A cup of shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend) is all it needed to make quiche cool again.

It was great. Screw my arteries.

3-2-1 CRUST

Yield: 2 pie, tart or quiche crusts

12 ounces sifted all-purpose flour (2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces unsalted butter

1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 cup (4 ounces) ice water, see note

Note: Set aside a bowl of ice water. When it comes time to use it, measure out 1/2 cup of the ice water, without the ice, and use that.

1. Place flour in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Cut butter into a dice, spread out on a plate, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes until cold.

2. Place cold flour, butter and salt in a large bowl. Work together with your hands until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. If the ingredients no longer feel cool during this process, refrigerate until they are chilled again. If your hands aren't strong enough to work the butter, use a food processor until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.

3. Add ice water and mix with your hands until you can press it together into a ball. Do not overwork the dough, which will make it tough. You do not want any dry or crumbly parts, but you do want to see streaks of butter.

4. Divide into 2 equal parts, flatten each into a thick disc, and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before using, or overnight. The dough can also be frozen at this point and thawed in the refrigerator before using.

Per serving (based on 16): 180 calories; 12 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 16 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 1 g fiber; 147 mg sodium; 7 mg calcium

LEFTOVER CHINESE TAKE-OUT QUICHE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade (see recipe for 3-2-1 crust)

3/4 cup to 1 cup leftover Chinese or Indian food

1/2 cup leftover rice, optional

4 eggs

2 cups whole milk, half-and-half or light cream

Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Take leftover food out of the refrigerator to allow it to warm slightly while you prebake the crust.

2. Poke holes all over crust with a fork, or line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes. If using the pie weights or dried beans, remove the liner and the weights, and return crust to oven until bottom is dry, 3 to 5 more minutes (it may puff up, but it will go down again as it cools). Remove crust from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

3. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add milk or cream and whisk or stir until thoroughly mixed. Season lightly with salt and pepper (remember, Chinese and Indian food is often salty and spicy). Stir in leftover food, including optional rice. Pour into crust and bake until set and the center does not jiggle, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Per serving (based on 6): 389 calories; 9 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 139 mg cholesterol; 13 g protein; 32 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 413 mg sodium; 180 mg calcium

One cup of kung pao chicken was used in analysis.

SMOKED SALMON QUICHE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade (see recipe for 3-2-1 crust)

1/2 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

Salt and pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped smoked salmon

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

2 tablespoons capers, optional

4 eggs

2 cups whole milk, half-and-half or light cream

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Poke holes all over crust with a fork, or line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes. If using the pie weights or dried beans, remove the liner and the weights, and return crust to oven until bottom is dry, 3 to 5 more minutes (it may puff up, but it will go down again as it cools). Remove crust from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

3. Melt butter in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender, 5 minutes.

4. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add cream and whisk or stir until thoroughly mixed. Season lightly with salt (remember, the salmon and capers are salty) and pepper. Stir in the onions, salmon, dill and optional capers. Pour into crust and bake until set and the center does not jiggle, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Per serving (based on 6): 364 calories; 23 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; 178 mg cholesterol; 12 g protein; 27 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 435 mg sodium; 126 mg calcium

SAUSAGE, PEPPER AND ONION QUICHE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade (see recipe for 3-2-1 crust)

1/2 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup cooked sausage, such as Italian or kielbasa, diced small

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup red or green bell pepper, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

4 eggs

2 cups whole milk, half-and-half or light cream

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Poke holes all over crust with a fork, or line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes. If using the pie weights or dried beans, remove the liner and the weights, and return crust to oven until bottom is dry, 3 to 5 more minutes (it may puff up, but it will go down again as it cools). Remove crust from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

3. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add sausage, onion and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and saute until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add cream and whisk or stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the sausage mixture and pour into the crust. Bake until set and the center no longer jiggles, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Per serving (based on 6): 392 calories; 26 g fat; 14 g saturated fat; 185 mg cholesterol; 12 g protein; 28 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 389 mg sodium; 127 mg calcium

ASPARAGUS WITH WILD MUSHROOM QUICHE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade (see recipe for 3-2-1 crust)

1/2 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup finely chopped asparagus

6 to 8 asparagus spears for garnish, optional

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped wild or ordinary mushrooms (rehydrated is fine)

4 eggs

2 cups whole milk, half-and-half or light cream

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Poke holes all over crust with a fork, or line crust with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes. If using the pie weights or dried beans, remove the liner and the weights, and return crust to oven until bottom is dry, 3 to 5 more minutes (it may puff up, but it will go down again as it cools). Remove crust from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

3. In a skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add asparagus (including optional asparagus spears), onion and mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Saute until asparagus and onions are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove asparagus spears if using, and set aside.

4. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add cream and whisk or stir until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in asparagus mixture. Pour into crust and bake until set and the center no longer jiggles, about 30 to 40 minutes. If using asparagus spears, place them on top in an asterisk pattern, 1 per serving, after 25 minutes.

Per serving (based on 6): 378 calories; 24 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; 175 mg cholesterol; 11 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 302 mg sodium; 129 mg calcium

(c)2017 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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