Quiche Cluster

I have a set of necessary essentials for a city: it has to have a good bakery, good coffee, a bookstore, and a good place to exercise. Bakery Lorraine makes San Antonio a livable place for me. There’s a rainbow array of pastries and macaroons executed well enough to rival Paris’ best patisseries.

img_7800Whenever my best friend and I go for lunch, we get the quiche lorraine. It comes with a mixed green salad tossed in a light, tart vinaigrette. This is not just any quiche Lorraine; I found that out after trying to make my own. The bakery’s quiche is 2″ tall and dense, set in a crispy pate brisee. I can taste the butter in this crust, which I always try not to eat, but then end up finishing off, piece after piece, during our conversation. The top is browned to perfection, and there’s a delicious oniony savoriness to the egg custard filling which is also infused with bacon’s intense, smoky deliciousness.

One weekend, when we had friends to our ranch, I made a quiche lorraine for breakfast that tasted so gross it made me embarrassed. It was soggy and flat and didn’t rise up and brown like Bakery Lorraine’s quiche. And the eggs tasted like eggs! Bad, yucky eggs that didn’t absorb any of the bacon and onion that I knew was inside.

GOOD eggs (thank you, Debra Lee)

So I’ve been looking, and I’ve found it–the recipe that must have inspired my favorite quiche. I know that Bakery Lorraine’s owners used to work at French Laundry, and this recipe is by its chef, Thomas Keller. I decided to make it last Thursday for a business lunch meeting on Friday. Ha! What I thought would be a simple lunch choice turned into a major cluster; I even broke my rolling pin on the dough, but I made some good discoveries along the way, so much so that I feel like a convert. When a chef’s recipe doesn’t work out well, I wonder if he is holding back just a little, but Keller is generous with his secrets.

My cooking mistakes come from  impatience: not reading all the way through the recipe, or not taking the dough out of the refrigerator in time so it can soften before I roll it out. I should have known that a recipe by Keller wouldn’t be simple, but I didn’t scroll down far enough to know that the onions needed to cook for two hours; the dough should rest overnight in the fridge; and that the quiche should be cooked one entire day ahead so that it can firm up. I needed a leek. I needed slab bacon, neither of which I have lying around my house. Keller’s recipe is so complicated that it is broken down into segments: the crust, the basic quiche batter, the onion confit, and the bouquet garni for the confit. But all of these components add to my recipe possibilities; you can use them for so many things. Now I know how to really make a good pate brisee. I know the quiche batter which opens up so many possibilities of flavors–cheddar poblano or roasted veggies with chevre.

Here are the lessons I learned:

  • The crust: Keller explains that the butter must be fully mixed into the dough or it will melt and leave holes. I have found this out the hard way, making a quiche in a ring mold and having it leak out all over the oven. Keller’s instructions work. Also, whenever I make a pie crust (which is usually only on Thanksgiving, but maybe now a bit more often), I’m always bummed that it shrinks. In his instructions, Keller explains that the dough needs to rest for at least an hour or more to keep it from shrinking.
  • Now I know how to make a confit: butter, water, a low fire and a lot of time. The onion confit is the most delicious thing that I have ever tasted.
  • I learned how to make a bouquet garni which I never do because I don’t have cheesecloth. Keller uses the skin of a leek. That’s a lot easier than picking out the peppercorns and herbs, one by one.
  • The quiche batter can be used to make any quiche. For this recipe, I bought a 2″ ring mold and still had lots of batter left. I could have made another, smaller version, so it might be worth it to make two batches of pate brisee.
  • Slab bacon tastes better than regular bacon, but I didn’t like the size of the chunks that he designates. I will dice it next time and trim off most of the fat.

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