Monday, April 19, 2010

Dinner Party Solution: Quiche

On Saturday night, I had a small dinner party at my apartment. I'm lucky enough to have an open kitchen, so whenever I host friends for dinner, I can cook and participate in conversation at the same time. (Technically, one can do anything in my one room apartment and participate in the conversation, but let's not go there.) The only problem is, I'd rather just relax and have fun - it's kind of a hassle to be chopping and prepping, steaming up the apartment with the burners on, and stockpiling your sink with dirty knives while you're trying to catch up with friends.

So, I've found a perfect solution - one where I don't even have to throw on my apron over my outfit - quiche. Simple, filling, and absolutely delicious when made well and with quality ingredients, this dish is ideal for dinner parties, both because of the way it is made and its flexibility - you can really fill it with anything, depending on whether your guests are vegetarians, meat-lovers, big eaters or not. There are plenty of ways to play around with it.

I made a mushroom and asparagus quiche for dinner on Saturday, and, paired with a simple green salad, it fed five of us (though we did finish off every last crumb...). With Maddie bringing appetizers, Rachel bringing wine, and Andrew bringing dessert, my preparations were a complete breeze, and we all had a great time. I had the quiche ready to go (and cutting boards, etc., put away) before they were due to arrive, and simply popped it into the oven when everyone was there. That gave us a perfect 45 minutes to one hour for cocktails, and took a load off my back with cooking while hosting!

Mushroom and Asparagus Quiche
1 pie crust (homemade - see below - or store-bought/frozen)
1/2 bunch of medium- sized asparagus, trimmed
1/2 pound of baby bella mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 eggs
1/3 cup of heavy cream or whole milk (your choice, but heavy cream is better)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large shallot
3 oz. grated gruyere cheese (approximate)

1. Set a pot of water to boil and preheat oven to 375.
2. Slice mushrooms roughly and sauté in olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes, until they are soft and dark
3. Cut asparagus into 3/4 to 1 inch slices, including the tops. Blanch in the boiling water for about one minute, then remove and add to pan with the mushrooms.
4. Mix mushrooms and asparagus together and place into pie crust, spreading out evenly.
5. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together, then pour over the vegetables until the pie crust is filled (you may have extra).
6. Thinly slice the shallot and spread on top of the quiche, then spread grated cheese on top. Add a sprinkle of salt and some fresh ground pepper on top.
7. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to one hour, until it is golden brown on top and set in the middle.

Note: This recipe can be altered in many ways. Any vegetables (leeks, spinach, broccoli, etc.) can be used, just prepare them as you would normally before putting them into the quiche. Sausage is a great addition, simply remove the casing and brown it on a sauté pan before adding it (same with ham, bacon, etc.). My mom makes the simplest and most delicious quiche with just bacon (chopped and sautéed) and multiple cheeses - some mixed into the eggs and some on top for browning.

Easy Pie Crust
2 sticks of butter, frozen or very cold
2 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

1. Cut butter into small pieces (or use a grater).
2. Using your hands, mix butter into flour, until there are only pea-sized pieces of butter.
3. Add salt and toss.
4. Slowly add ice water, mixing until the dough comes together (I usually have to add more).
5. Form into two disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or freeze the extra at this point)
6. Roll one of the disks out into a large circle (larger than your pie pan) and then place into the pan.
7. Blind-bake for about 15 minutes at 350 (I use tin foil and dried rice or beans), then for another 10-15 minutes without the weights.

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