Real men don’t just eat quiche, they make it

by Terry B on March 3, 2010

Bacon and Leek Quiche, with two cheeses and a simple four-ingredient crust, makes a satisfying lunch or dinner with the addition of a side salad. Recipe below.

leeks-bacon-quiche

As much as feminists—myself included, the proud, vigilant father of two daughters—would like to believe otherwise, men and women are different. Equal, but different. Men are from Mars, women aren’t afraid to make pie crust.

That’s the only reason I can think of that I haven’t made quiche before now. Yeah, a lot of recipes let you cop out with store-bought crusts, but I told myself that if I was going to make a quiche, I was going to make the crust too.

While we’re at it, let’s deal with the other elephant in the room. Men and quiche. As Epicurious.com says, “Quiche made its way from France to our shores in the sixties, but it was in the seventies that its popularity soared.” By the early eighties, it became the target for a tongue-in-cheek book on manhood that apparently too many readers took seriously, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. The title became a battle cry against anything deemed sophisticated and therefore somehow unmanly.

Funny thing is, on its home turf, quiche is anything but sophisticated. It is rustic French comfort food at its most honest and elemental, pie made with dough and eggs and cheese and, often [as in this case], bacon. A Denny’s grand slam breakfast in pie form. What could be more manly than that?

Now back to the challenge. Crust. I’m not sure why baking intimidates me so, but it does. And while there are any number of men who bake and do it well, I suspect they are far outnumbered by women who do so. Still, every time I have quiche, I find myself wanting to make it. Sometimes because the quiche I’m having is so delicious and sometimes, quite frankly, because it’s not very good and I know I can do better. So it was time to man up and make some pie crust.

This post seems to keep toying with male stereotypes. A couple of ways I go against stereotypes is that I read instructions—and I ask for directions when I’m lost. I did both of these to overcome my fear of crust. First, I read lots of recipes for pâte brisée, French for “short pastry,” a rich, flaky, [usually all butter] dough used for sweet and savory crusts. There were many variations—a bewildering number, in fact. Even Deb over at Smitten Kitchen had a number of versions posted over the years, each touted as the pâte brisée when posted. But there were certain constants too.

Armed with those constants and differences, I asked for directions—from Marion, the baker of countless wonderful cakes, pies, tarts, galettes, etcetera in our household. She guided me knowledgeably and patiently through the entire process. Here are some tips on crust making, gleaned from Marion, the various recipes and my one successful attempt, in that order.

Keep things cool. This is crucial. If the dough stays cold until it goes into the oven, the butter and flour won’t completely blend—this is what makes the crust flaky and light. After cutting the butter into small pieces—about 1/2-inch cubes—I put it in a bowl and stuck it in the freezer while I measured and mixed the dry ingredients. Use the pulse button instead of the on button on your food processor—the less you work the butter, the colder it stays. Use iced water as the recipe calls for, not tap water. And refrigerate the dough before rolling it out, at least one hour. Before rolling out the dough, pop your rolling pin and pie plate in the fridge too. Sounds excessive, but it helps. Marion said that some people who bake a lot store marble rolling pins in the freezer or fridge.

Work fast. This does a couple of things. First it helps the pâte brisée stay cool; second, it keeps you from overworking and therefore overblending it.

And while I’m at it, a couple of tips on quiche in general. These were gleaned in equal parts from talking with Marion and quiches I’ve eaten, both good and bad.

Go big with the cheese. Go for sharp-flavored cheeses like Gruyère, Parmesan and sharper varieties of Swiss. And use plenty. Using bland cheeses or not enough cheese will result in your quiche tasting like very hard-cooked scrambled eggs.

Accentuate the cheese flavor with mustard. This is a trick I learned from Marion. A little Dijon, dry mustard or even whole grain mustard will sharpen the cheese flavor without adding any telltale mustard taste. Trust me on this.

Bacon and Leek Quiche
Serves 6

For crust:
9 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and chilled, plus extra
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 tablespoons iced water

For filling:
4 slices bacon
2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts
canola oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère cheese [about 1/4-pound]
1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
3 eggs
1 cup half & half
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence [optional—see Kitchen Notes]
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Make the dough. Cut butter into 1/2-inch cubes, place in a small bowl and chill in freezer or fridge. Place flour and salt in food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter butter over flour mixture and pulse several times, until it resembles a coarse, crumblike meal. Working quickly, add 4 tablespoons of iced water and pulse several times. Add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of water and pulse again, with slightly longer pulses. If necessary, add more iced water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until mixture forms large dough balls. The change will be quick and dramatic—you’ll know when it’s happened.

Form dough into a flattened patty—again, work quickly and handle the dough as little as possible—and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Par-bake the crust. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease a quiche or pie pan lightly with butter [many recipes call for a 9- or 10-inch pie pan, or a tart pan with a removable bottom—I used an 11-inch quiche plate]. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/8-inch thickness [more important, it should obviously be larger than your pie plate]. Gently transfer it to the pie pan; Marion showed me a trick of folding it back over the rolling pin to lift it. You may also need a spatula to unstick it from the table or other surface. Gently press it into the bottom and inner edges of the pan.

If the dough is very thin, you can fold some of the excess over and press it into the sides to strengthen them. Marion will sometimes fold just a bit of dough over the edge of a pie pan to help reduce the inevitable shrinkage that happens when it bakes. Or you can trim it off. With straight-sided tart pans and quiche plates, lightly press the sides of the crust so the dough extends 1/8-inch or so above the edge of the plate, again because of inevitable shrinkage during baking.

Prick the bottom of the crust at 1/2-inch intervals with a fork [or as Marion put it, pierce the really bad word out of it]. Lightly press a sheet of aluminum foil inside the crust and fill it with pie weights or uncooked rice or dried beans. Bake for about 20 minutes, until edges are slightly colored.

Prepare the filling. While the crust is par-baking, slice leeks lengthwise and carefully rinse, fanning leeks under cold running water. Then slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp and drain on paper towel; crumble into small pieces. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and add leeks to pan. Sauté until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little canola oil if pan seems too dry.

Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl and add half & half, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. When crust is ready, place it on a cooling rack and remove foil with weights. Spread Dijon mustard in bottom of crust. Add leeks to crust, then layer on bacon, then cheese. Carefully pour egg mixture over everything, gently working the cheese with a fork to allow eggs to settle in around cheese, bacon and leeks.

Bake the quiche. Transfer pan to oven and bake until filling puffs up and browns slightly, about 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve. Quiche may be served warm—my preference—or at room temperature.

Kitchen Notes

Herbs or no herbs? I said the Herbes de Provence were optional in this dish, but I would use them—or some herbs—in it. It’s another way to avoid a bland quiche that tastes like nothing more than overcooked scrambled eggs. But use an extremely light hand. Even the 1/2 teaspoon I used here made its presence known nicely.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria March 3, 2010 at 6:17 am

Hi, Terry,
The recipe looks great–love quiche, especially with leeks!
Just a tip if pâte brisée is intimidating, David Lebovitz had a recipe for a tart crust that involves heating the butter, which is superfast and very tasty; Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini also has an olive oil tart crust that looks foolproof.

Terry B March 3, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for the tip, Maria! But as with most intimidating things, pâte brisée is only scary until you’ve done it once. Now that I’ve made it, I’m thinking, “I was afraid of that?” Still, I will check out their versions too.

Alanna March 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm

“Men are from Mars, women aren’t afraid to make pie crust.” Ha — you have me laughing out loud, and LOUDLY, at 7 in the morning.

Sounds like Marion’s a pro but even as an experienced crust-maker, I learned a lot from the “Pie Whisperer” who taught me how to make pie crust all over again, http://kitchenparade.com/2007/11/how-to-make-flaky-tender-pie-crust.php, there are lots of tips and tricks.

PS You’ve heard, yes, that we have a friend in common? Hi MB!

Randi March 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I’ve never made quiche before in my testosterone filled house. That’s always been something I’ve brought home as a take out lunch treat for me. I’m sure if I called it Formula 1 pie or NASCAR pie it would get devoured. Maybe I’ll try it that way before I confess and take them over to the dark side.

TheKitchenWitch March 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Hi! I just found your blog today. The recipes look great, but what I really like about your blog is your engaging style and voice. This isn’t a bland, pretty-looking, generic food blog. The content is actually worth reading.

I’ll be back!

ps: my husband loves quiche!

Terry B March 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Thanks, Alanna! And thanks for the pie tips. Yes, MB told me of the connection. It’s a small world, etcetera.

Randi—I say just serve it up. When they ask what it is, say, “Dinner.”

Thanks so much, TheKitchenWitch! And right back at you—the charming masthead on your blog made me laugh out loud. I’ve already bookmarked you. Oh, and good for your husband—quiche is delicious.

Mellen March 4, 2010 at 1:16 am

Hi, Terry. That’s one mouth-watering-looking quiche.

And count me among the women who are totally intimidated by crusts (though one thing I’ve learned along the way is that with baking, you Just Follow The Directions – which is contrary to every cooking instinct I’ve ever had, but it works).

I think Steve and I will make that for Sunday brunch. We’ve got some bad-ass thick grass-fed bacon from the farmer’s market last weekend that would just be wonderful in that, and it’s been an age since we made quiche (though we’re all about salmon and asparagus frittatas in recent weeks).

altadenahiker March 4, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Oh right, that’s gonna happen. Nevertheless, a VERY entertaining post.

Terry B March 4, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Hi, Mellen! I think this would be great for brunch, if I say so myself. And it reheats beautifully in the oven—350ºF for 10 to 15 minutes will do it. Don’t microwave, though, or the crust will go soggy. Of course now you’ve got me wanting a frittata!

Thanks, Altadenahiker. And I don’t believe for a second that you couldn’t and wouldn’t tackle this dish.

Carla and Michael March 4, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Beautiful looking quiche. I have made this many times in the past and never once thought or heard of adding the Dijon to punch it up. What a wonderful idea. Thanks to the both of you. Now I’ll have to try that next time.

Dani H March 5, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I thought I was an expert on quiche, Terry, but I’ve never heard about adding the mustard ~ it sounds delicious! Many of my family’s gatherings are for brunch because they want me to make quiche. {And they like the bacon, fruit salad, coffee cake, etc. that comes with it.} I love quiche for lunch or dinner with a side salad. I have a very basic recipe that I work around with the additions of meats and veggies, and, of course, changing the cheeses. Never less than three in any quiche I make. I also make it sans crust sometimes. As far as pie crust goes: a) I’m proud of you~I know how you feel about baking b) I have an 18″ square piece of marble that I got decades ago and use solely for making crusts (it was a sample “countertop” from a kitchen remodelling company) and c) I spewed a mouthful of coffee out when I read Marion’s “pierce the really bad word out of it” ~ too cute! I’m going to have to come back to read your other post on Sunday. Right now I’m baking a Martha Stewart 32-layer chocolate crepe cake IRL for a Twitter bake off tomorrow. I know, I’m nuts. It also has candied hazelnuts. Since you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see the tweets of our finished products on Saturday. Um…. I’d forgotten you follow me ~ sorry for the occasional foul language and I hope you didn’t witness my performance in last week’s Twitter Dance Off. Don’t watch the next one either, okay? ;-) Love this post, and I hope everything’s going well with you and the family.

Terry B March 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Carla and Michael—Thanks! And the mustard won’t add any mustardy taste at all—it just intensifies the cheese flavor.

Dani—a) Thanks! b) I totally covet that slab of marble—for a photo prop as much as anything. c) Don’t worry about any foul language on Twitter—I was paraphrasing Marion. As we say, we like to use all the words. And I don’t just drop F-bombs—sometimes I carpet bomb.

Dani H March 6, 2010 at 6:36 am

a) you’re welcome b) great idea, thanks! It’s a beautiful dark green, and I’m getting ready to start taking pics for the recipe section of my blog c) I forgot the meaning(s) behind YOUR blog title. ;-)

Jennifer Hess March 6, 2010 at 10:28 pm

You know why I’ve never made quiche? I’m afraid to make the crust :) But this looks too good not to try!

Terry B March 8, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Dani—Yep, it’s called Blue Kitchen for a reason!

You know, Jennifer, one thing I’ve always respected about you is your simple, honest Twitter bio: “I don’t bake.” But this simple quiche might be a good enough reason to break that rule on occasion.

Laura [What I Like] March 9, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Terry – You’ve done the menfolk proud with this one! Looks beautiful, I would eat it any day. I share your frustration with the multitude of pate brisee recipes out there, and finally my mother told me that Martha Stewart’s was the absolute definitive version. Made sense given how ahem, detail oriented, the woman is. By the way, should you find yourself in New York (or Napa for that matter) in the mood for quiche, Bouchon’s version will blow you away. It actually quivers.

Terry B March 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Thanks, Laura! We’ve not been to any of Chef Keller’s establishments, but we may be in NYC late this spring. Bouchon just might make it on the list of places to eat [BTW, Rai Rai Ken is already on the list, thanks to a post you did].

kitty March 21, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Broccoli and cheddar quiche has been our ‘go to’ quick weekend breakfast lately. Your recipe is much more fancy and probably takes a tad more time, but it already sounds like a keeper. Can’t wait to make it!

Courtney March 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

I found this recipe via Pinterest and made it for brunch today. First quiche I’ve ever made and it was a showstopper! This will definitely be going into the regular rotation. Thanks for the great recipe!

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