Friday, March 26, 2021

attack of the quiche

The quiche came off fairly well, but the bottom of the pie was overcooked in some parts, and once again, my Korean coworker drew the short straw and got what was apparently the toughest part of the crust, which he didn't eat.  Also once again, it's not that the crust was burned:  there was no smoking or charring going on while the quiche was baking; it's just that that part of the crust was a little too well done for my coworker's taste.  I would've eaten the offending crust as if it were a nice, crispy, buttery cracker, but that's just how I roll.  My boss's verdict, by contrast, was a rare "This is really good"; his addition of the adverb "really" got my attention since he's normally not very lavish with his praise:  generally, he grunts, "S'good," and that's about it.  The man isn't wired to talk descriptively about food.

I had started prep the night before, and I ended up finishing prep this morning.  My original intention had been to finish everything last night, but a mistake made me reevaluate my strategy.  I'd been eager to put my new 9-inch springform pan through its paces, but when I tried making a huge amount of pie crust and blind-baking it without pie weights, the crust shrank and collapsed into the pan.  Duh.  This catastrophic failure was both predictable and avoidable, and I learned a valuable lesson:  it's not enough merely to hang extra dough over the pan's edge in the hopes that the overhang will prevent shrinkage.  Nope:  you have to use pie weights.  As Chef John on YouTube likes to joke, dough can sense fear.  In other words, if you do things in a hesitant, half-assed way, you'll pay for your laziness and folly (and fear).  Anyway, the disaster was demoralizing, so I decided I'd finish the pie in the morning.  All the other components were ready to go:  the pie's meat-and-vegetable filling, the custard, and the extra Gruyère cheese to be spread over the bottom and top of the pie.

Come morning, I made more pie dough and was about to try the springform pan again when I re-watched one video about giant quiches and discovered that a deep-dish quiche needs four fucking hours to cool down before serving.  I realized I hadn't woken up nearly early enough, so I switched tactics and went with my other B&C Market purchase:  a standard 9-inch pie tin.  I'd be baking a normal-sized pie, which was a bit disappointing, but sometimes, you just have to cut your losses.  I reasoned that, if I stuffed the pie with enough hearty filling, even a normal-sized pie would be plenty for the office crew.  So I put the pie together, sprinkling Gruyère on the bottom of the tin, ladling in the filling (homemade sausage, regular bacon, smoked duck fried up as "bird bacon," shredded cheddar cheese, spinach, button mushrooms, onion flakes, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, thyme, and a bit of garlic powder), pouring in the custard (a mixture of 3 cups' heavy cream and seven eggs plus various seasonings—more on that later), and topping the whole thing with more Gruyère.

I baked the pie at about 350°F for thirty minutes before cranking up the heat to close to 400°F for the final half hour.  I guess next time, I simply won't crank up the heat:  I'd been paranoid that the buttery pie crust might be too soft after even an hour of baking.  I did blind-bake the crust this time; every single quiche video I watched insisted on a blind-bake before putting the filling into the pie shell.  I should have listened to my instincts and skipped the blind-baking, But Oh Well.  I took two pics of the prep, one pic of the pie as it baked, a pic of another pie-in-waiting that I'd made with the extra dough (I have three more quiches), and a pic of the completed pie.  The smell, as the quiche baked, was absolutely incredible.  I need to make quiches way more often than I do.

Alas, I failed to take any pics of the quiche when it was being served, so the following pics will have to do.  As I wrote above, my Korean coworker didn't eat part of the bottom crust because he thought it was too hard (I feel bad about that, but as I said, I'd have eaten it), but he said he liked the quiche overall.  My American coworker gave me a happy thumbs-up (he said my pie's crust was better than his wife's from back when she had made a quiche), and my boss gave me his "really good" imprimatur.  I'm probably going to bring in a "redemption" quiche next week; of the three quiches in my fridge, two are personal-sized and one is standard-sized.  I guess next week's meals are all planned out.

Here are the pictures.  First up:  the filling:

The spinach and mushrooms needed to be cooked down; when you're making a quiche, you don't put the veggies in raw.  I thought that adding the duck was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself.  I had been pondering buying some thick-cut bacon when I remembered I had sliced smoked duck in my freezer and a bit of leftover regular bacon in my fridge.  So I cooked down the veggies and fried up the duck and bacon; the sausage had been done days before, so it was simply a matter of dumping it into the mix.  Next pic:  the custard:

Is the above a true custard?  Some YouTube cooks call it "a neutral custard," which sounds awkward, but I guess it describes what's going on.  Normally, a custard is sweet:  its main components are cream, sugar, and eggs.  Variations on custard involve switching out heavy cream with milk or half-and-half while also possibly adding crème fraîche, softened cream cheese, etc.  A "neutral custard" has no sugar in it.  Instead, it's seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg, garlic powder, etc.  You also need enough eggs in your custard to guarantee that the final product will be firm, not runny.

Below:  the quiche bakes while emanating a wonderful aroma.

Next up:  a peek inside my fridge, where you see another full-sized quiche, waiting for its turn in the oven.  The only thing this quiche needs is its custard bath, and I'll be giving it that bath tonight.  Not visible:  the two personal-sized quiches that are off to the side.

Finally, a pic of the finished product:

The quiche smelled even more amazing once I pulled it out of the oven.  I had enough time to make only the one quiche, alas, but the above pie came out early enough to cool down significantly before I bagged it up for transport to the office.

Lesson learned:  don't get impatient and crank the oven too high.  Have faith in your idiot-proof pie dough, and let physics do the heavy lifting.  It'll all turn out well in the end.

Oh, yeah:  I have enough quiche filling left over to make several more quiches.  It's safe to say that my meals for next week are mostly set.  I hope I don't get sick of quiche by the end.


John Mac said...

I am always amazed at just how much work goes into pulling a dish like this together. Well done! (no pun intended)

Kevin Kim said...

Yeah, this was labor-intensive in terms of prep, but the result is worth it.