There are many cookbooks that try to teach you failsafe recipes that are so easy to make that anyone, even a cook with two left feet on their hands, can pull off. Cereal is perhaps one example, but that's not really cooking, is it? More like mixing (don’t forget: cereal first, then milk). But how about Quiche Lorraine?
Quiche is something that anyone can make, and it has the added benefit of allowing you to use whatever happens to be at hand in the fridge or the larder. If you want to get fancy, you could roll your own dough, but how often do we actually want to get fancy, if we're being realistic?
At its most basic, quiche is dough. There are numerable variations, but the most famous is quiche Lorraine. This was the first quiche that Americans learned of, thanks to Julia Child, and so it is the one most likely to come to mind.
The Origins of Quiche Lorraine
This specialty comes from the Lorraine region of France, a part of the world that has some of my favourite culinary specialties. Alsace and Lorraine hug the border between France and Germany, so that Alsace and Lorraine are both French and German and are also their own unique place. While I should save the famous Alsatian tarte a flambee for separate article, the most ubiquitous dish from Lorraine is quiche. And the specialty quiche from Lorraine features gruyere cheese, onion, fatty bacon (French lardons) and nutmeg as its primary flavours.
The history of quiche, a dish we think of as quintessentially French, is actually a liminal one, in that the dish is of German origin. The word 'quiche' comes from the German word kuchen, meaning cake. Thus quiche is a savoury cake, and Lorraine is a rather new name for a region that, under Germanic rule, was called the Kingdom of Lothringen. There are 13th century recipes for egg and cream baked in a dough crust in Italy, so it is difficult to say exactly where such a simple and ubiquitous approach to baking first began. In the 14th century English recipe collection, The Forme of Cury, there is a recipe like this with the unappetising name 'Crustardes of flesh'.
The oldest recipes for quiche Lorraine were simply an open-faced pie (that is, crust on the bottom and sides only), filled with a mixture of egg and cream and chopped bacon. The dough was simply bread dough, but in the 20th century this evolved into the more sophisticated puff pastry crust.
Quiche Lorraine: the recipe
In my adventures in this Cooking the Classics column, I have rarely had an easier time than I did preparing quiche. My quiche, I am proud to say, actually looks just as I hoped it would. Even better, no limbs were lost in preparing it. Okay, I will admit that I used store-bought dough. If you want to really get crazy, then making your own dough is not particularly difficult.
The recipe for quiche Lorraine requires just one the sautéing of the fatty bacon and onion, the whisking of the eggs and cream and cheeses (most recipes recommended gruyere plus another cheese, like parmesan or cubed Swiss), and then the pouring of the aforementioned onto the dough in a baking dish. Et voila!
Quiche is good hot or cold, so you can’t even get that part wrong. It is an ideal light meal, preferably accompanied by a salad of bitter greens with a light dressing up oil and vinegar. It will totally impress your date. I like such recipes because they are more guidelines from which you can riff all you like, throwing all sorts of crazy stuff into your egg and cream batter. Throw it in the oven to bake with almost inevitably edible results. Just be sure not to overcook it, so keep an eye out for the golden-brown crust forming on the top. Be brave, you can’t fail!
Variations on Quiche Lorraine
The most obvious way to put your own twist on quiche Lorraine is to add different ingredients to the filling. Broccoli or green onions add a nice counterpoint of colour to the recipe. Sweeten up your mixture with caramelised onions, or toss in some thyme. Or for a radical departure, make your filling from feta, zucchini, mint, pine nuts, and garlic (though at this point it would be a stretch to call it quiche Lorraine).
Another option for tweaking this recipe is to cut the crust. A crustless quiche Lorraine will have fewer carbs, and it will also save you some work. If you skip the crust, it is best to line your baking pan with parchment paper so you can get the quiche out intact when it’s done.
Beyond Quiche Lorraine
Now that you’ve conquered (and maybe even embellished) Lorraine, are you lusting to venture further out into the vast world of quiches?
Of course, you can begin your hedonistic explorations by using unexpected ingredients. Set the village ablaze with spicy tuna quiche, with searing chilli peppers that are assuaged by mellow sweet corn. Or evoke a sweet afternoon of dalliance with a pear and Roquefort quiche. Or to pair the bounty of the sea with the treasures of land, create or commandeer some salmon and artichoke quiches with gouda cheese and horseradish.
No reconnaissance of the province of quiche is complete without an appreciation of quiche’s different shapes and sizes. Try mini quiches with ham that give you the whole deal in a single bite. Or bring all hands on deck for a monster gorgonzola and tomato quiche that is even gluten free.
And to end your roaming with a salubrious balm for your palate, tuck into a vegetarian Swiss chard quiche with ricotta cheese and pine nuts.
Other classic French dishes
For a bold French main, look no further than coq au vin, with poultry steeped in wine and herbs for 24 hours before cooking. Paul Bocuse recommends using Fleurie wine to marinate. And for a sweet end to a meal, how about scooping out a mouthful of the smooth custard and spongey base of French cotillons?