Quiche seemes so…fussy. Like the meeting point of suburbia and elegance, a choice of certain shoulder-padded power-lunchers in 1980s New York and possibly the breakfast food doppelganger of Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. It seems part museum café, part country club, part frozen food aisle.
But of course, more than any of this, quiche is delicious: It’s the lovechild of pie and frittata, after all. And if you are considering making one or the other, you may as well make quiche instead. It’s breakfast! It’s lunch! It’s eggs inside pie crust! And as with nearly every good egg or pie recipe, it greets riffing and reinterpretation with open arms. It’s exactly the sort of thing to make when you feel like you have nothing in the house: All you really need is eggs, some kind of milk, butter, and flour. Just add whatever leftovers you have. It’s as homely or sophisticated as you want it to be.
No matter what ends up in your quiche, here’s a rough guide for what you’re gonna need:
First, you’ll fiddle with the pie dough. This is where having a disk of dough you made back on that icy Saturday in January and tucked in the freezer for later comes in handy. If you do have one of those, pull it out and let it thaw in the refrigerator; if not, make up a batch of dough—maybe a recipe that makes two crusts, so that you can stash one for next time.
If you’re making it fresh, consider zinging up the recipe a little: Add more cracked black pepper than seems like a good idea, or some grated Cheddar or Parmesan, or chopped fresh thyme, or lemon zest. Keep in mind the vision you have of your Dream Quiche while deciding what or whether to add; if you don’t have a Dream Quiche yet, throw caution to the wind, blend in whatever the spirit moves you to, then let that steer you towards fillings while the dough chills.
Once you’ve made the dough and chilled it (at least an hour in the fridge), treat it just like you would the usual pie dough. Roll it out on a floured surface, maneuver it as confidently as possible into a 9-inch pie dish, trim the edges, and crimp up the sides however pleases you. (A little inspiration from the one, the only, the great Erin McDowell.)
What’s that! You want to make a bunch of extremely adorable quiches in mini tartlet pans instead of in one big pie plate? Be my guest! All of the following still applies, except that they will bake more quickly than a larger quiche—the exact time will depend on the size of your tartlet pans. Just keep a careful eye on them, and set the pans on a large baking sheet so that you can pull them in and out of the oven together.
Pop the whole thing into the fridge for a few minutes while you preheat the oven to 425° F and recall the details of parbaking crust, which will pre-cook (and crisp) the crust before the egg custard goes in. It should chill at least 20 minutes. Prick the cold dough with a fork a couple of times, then set a sheet of parchment paper inside, fill with pie weights (or dried beans), and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges of the crust are beginning to turn golden. You’re doing great so far!
While the crust parbakes, grab a whisk and beat together the eggs and whatever kind of dairy you like, as long as it has a good bit of fat in it. This is no time for skim—we’re going for a custard here: Half-and-half is a classic choice, but a mixture of whole milk (or goat’s milk! Or buttermilk!) and half-and-half would also be great.
Pull the crust from the oven and brush a bit of the egg-dairy mixture you just made over the base of the crust, then pop it back into the oven for another minute or so. This is a trick the aforementioned Erin McDowell the Great taught me, and one that helps to keep the crust crisp by acting as a sort of rain slicker, a barrier between the golden crust and the wet egg custard.
Let the crust cool to lukewarm while you prep your other fillings. This is your chance to really go wild: Alliums! Vegetables! Herbs! Cheeses galore! Sausage or bacon or what-meat-have-you! Last night’s leftovers! There are only two rules: The first is that meats, vegetables, and alliums should all be cooked before they’re piled into the pie crust; anything that you’d cook before putting it into an omelet should get the same treatment here. The second is that the fillings should be almost entirely covered by the eggs. If you prepare more filling than seems to fit inside the crust, toss them together in a little bowl to eat as an amuse-bouche while the quiche bakes.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities, here are a few ideas to get you started:
Once the crust is cool, drop the oven temperature down to 350° F, layer in the fillings, and carefully pour the egg custard over them. (Save any final fillings—like the last sprinkle or herbs or the dollops of cheese—until after you’ve poured the eggs in.) Into the oven again, this time for 45 minutes to an hour. The eggs should appear juuust set, even a little soft in the center. If the crust seems to be browning too quickly, carefully, lovingly tent the edges with aluminum foil.
The hardest part about cooking is always waiting, and this is where you will be glad that you made a little too much filling and saved it to snack on: Let the quiche cool on a wire rack until lukewarm before cutting into it. This lets the custard really set up. Luckily, quiche is most delicious at room temperature, so it’s truly all for the best. Dream Quiche, realized.