Quiche has a reputation as a complicated dish. And I'm not sure why.
Home cooks worry about the crust. They angst over the fillings. Do they have the right mix of meats or veggies? Which type of cheese? And how much is too much? And then there is striking the balance of egg and dairy, never mind determining the best way to season the mixture.
Which makes it all sound so very troublesome. And yet quiche really is such a simple dish that is both versatile and forgiving. Not even the least skilled home cook has an excuse for skipping it. Especially come Mother's Day. Quiche is perfect for breakfast in bed. It's easy enough for the kids to help with. It even can be prepped the night before.
So let's demystify it step-by-step, starting with the crust. Homemade is fine, but I just don't bother. Purchased pie dough won't win you any baking competitions, but it's completely respectable for a quiche crust. I try to always keep a package of rolled crusts in the freezer. They thaw quickly and are simple to unroll and fit into a pan.
As for the pan, I prefer a tart pan with a removable bottom. It is easier to slice the quiches and remove each serving, and it's attractive. But a pie pan works fine, too.
Next up, the fillings. I like to keep it simple with ham or sausage. But whatever meat you use, keep the chunks small. Veggies should be at least partially cooked before they go into the crust. This isn't just to ensure they are fully cooked, though that's important, too. Roasting or sauteing the veggies first helps remove excess moisture so you don't end up with a waterlogged quiche. Whatever mix you use, aim for about half a pound.
Cheese should be grated or shredded. Cheddar and gouda are nice, as is Gruyere. Robust cheeses are good, too, such as feta or Parmesan, but in general these work better as accent cheeses. In other words, combine them with a good melting cheese. Aim for a total of about 1 1/2 cups of cheese.
The final step is the eggs and milk. For a large quiche, you'll want about 8 eggs and 1/3 cup of milk. Don't have that many eggs? Use what you have and up the milk. Don't have milk? Up the eggs and add a splash or water or half-and-half. Whisk it.
Seasonings? Keep it simple. We don't want to work too hard here, or overshadow our fillings or the eggs. I usually use salt, pepper, dried thyme, maybe some fennel seed, and nothing more.
I don't pretend that my what-have-you approach to quiche making would make Julia Child proud. But the nature of quiches means they tend to be delicious almost no matter what you do. And that is plenty good enough for me.
HAM AND CHEDDAR QUICHE
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1 prepared uncooked pie crust, room temperature
8 ounces deli-sliced ham, chopped
6 ounces (1 1/2 cups) grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 425 F. Coat an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. Alternatively, use a 9-inch deep dish pie pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet.
Unroll the pie crust and set it into the prepared pan. Gently push the crust into the corners and up the edges of the pan, crimping and trimming as needed.
Scatter the ham and cheese evenly over the crust.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, thyme, fennel, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the ham and cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until puffed and set at the centre and lightly browned at the edges. Cool slightly or completely before slicing and serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 360 calories; 210 calories from fat (58 per cent of total calories); 24 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 220 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 18 g protein; 840 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch