Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mushroom and Leek Quiche

Take a leek.

Being able to make that joke each and every time I make this may in fact be the only reason I like leeks. It’s hard to dislike food that so easily lends itself to 12-year-old humor. In fairness to the leek, though, this is quite good even without the lame jokes. Leeks are milder and sweeter than onions, and are a great way to impart an onion-like flavor without the tears and inevitable halitosis. They also contain less of the sulfur compounds that make onions difficult for some people to digest, and thus make a good substitute for people who don’t tolerate them well. And that is why the leek shall inherit the earth.

Okay then. Now that I’ve indulged my insatiable need to pun, let’s move on. This quiche is a weeknight staple for us – although the total prep-and-cook time is close to an hour and a half, it’s easy and extremely satisfying. And I’m saying this as somebody who isn’t really a quiche person – my general rationale is along the lines of “if you’re going to throw a bunch of eggs together and call it dinner, why not make an omelet and save us all the hassle?” But this isn’t a quivering three-inch-high egg pile like some quiches. The rich flavors of the roasted mushrooms and leeks are the real stars here – the eggs just quietly hold it all together. Serve with a simple green salad and as many bad leek puns as you can think of.

Mushroom and Leek Quiche
1 pound mushrooms, quartered or diced (I use a combination of cremini, shiitake, and portabello)
1 bunch leeks, washed and sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup half and half or milk
1.5 cups grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
3 eggs
1 9-inch pie crust
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine mushrooms, leeks, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a large bowl and toss to combine, making sure everything is well coated with the oil. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Return to bowl and stir in cheese.

Prick pie shell with fork and prebake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove and lower oven temperature to 350 F.

Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add the half and half and thyme, and more salt and pepper to taste. Spread mushroom mixture into the pie pan in an even layer and pour half-and-half/egg mixture on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until lightly browned and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Homemade Creme Fraiche

Creme fraiche, in case you’re not fluent in French like I am, translates roughly to “outrageously overpriced soured dairy product.” In its pure form, by definition, it is nothing more than unpasteurized cream left to culture at room temperature for anywhere from a few hours to several days. Yum, right? But it’s actually kind of amazing. It has a hint of nuttiness and a bright tang, and is perfect in all of its many applications – it makes a great pan sauce because it doesn’t break down and curdle like milk or regular cream, it can be sweetened and whipped to be dolloped on fresh berries, or it can be added to mashed potatoes for a rich flavor that buttermilk can’t quite hit. But since we’re in Amurrka, you can’t just buy unpasteurized cream and let it sit out all willy nilly – you have to either go buy a 6 ounce container of premade creme fraiche for approximately one zillion dollars, or you have to culture it yourself.

Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I have an iron gut and a fearless appetite. I’d be proud of that, if it wasn’t for the fact that those qualities are born entirely from a pathological hatred of wasting food. I eat week-old leftovers, I stretch the five second rule beyond recognition, and I consider expiration dates to be merely arbitrary suggestions. And yet even I found myself cringing in mild disgust at the idea of setting a jar of heavy cream on my radiator and letting it just sit there. Intellectually, I understand how it works – yogurt and buttermilk are staples in my kitchen – but there’s just something about watching a jar full of souring dairy sweating and culturing right in front of you that just seems like an intimate evening with the porcelain god waiting to happen. On top of that, if you’ve ever bought creme fraiche at the store, you’ll be concerned about how you’ll be able to mix the ingredients without the arm and leg you left at the cash register. But I can honestly tell you that this will be the easiest recipe I’ll ever post, and it has a lot of upsides:

1. People will think you’re some sort of domestic genius when you tell them you made your own creme fraiche.
2. You can put the money you save in your kids’ college funds, or just use it to buy something frivolous online.
3. It tastes like the patron saint of dairy descended from the heavens and laid his hands upon it.
4. It has zero calories (okay, this is just a lie. A huge, huge lie).

Creme Fraiche
2 cups heavy cream (not ultrapasteurized, if possible)
3 Tbsp buttermilk
No, seriously. That’s it.

Pour heavy cream into a glass jar. Stir in buttermilk. No, seriously. That’s it. If your kitchen is dust and bug proof, leave uncovered. If you’re a normal person, cover with a paper towel and secure with a rubber band. The good bacteria you’re cultivating needs to breathe, so you don’t want an airtight lid. Put the jar in a warm place until thickened – this can take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours. I have trouble finding cream that’s not ultrapasteurized, so I often leave mine for 36.

Refrigerate for up to two weeks. Your creme fraiche will continue to thicken and culture in the fridge and will only get more delicious with time. Enjoy on fresh berries, in pasta sauces, or in giant heaping spoonfuls applied directly to your mouth.