One of my favorites meals as a child was the Smurf Sandwich. I guess I have always empathized with Gargamel and his mangy cat Azreal, even in the tender toddler years. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but my daughter has developed a fascination with these little figurines, and thus it came back to me in a flood of nostalgia. The 80’s were something else, despite the hair bands. Even though I basically can’t stand the Smurfs TV show any more, there’s just something about these blue little guys that brings up all kinds of warm feelings. So, I thought I’d go ahead and fix myself a Smurf Sandwich for old-times sake.
The above photo is a cross-section of Brainy Smurf’s right thigh (a very satisfying smurf!) Smurfs are magical creatures so their meat is laced with all of this preternatural marbleization, but they are also forest dwellers, and lean, so they are kind of gamey. The likelihood of capturing enough of them to make a luxurious stew or braise being pretty slim, it proves necessary to create a spread from the meat of as many Smurfs as you are able to get your hands on. The Smurfs need to cook long and slow in order to adequately tenderize the meat. Cooking them with some aromatics, such as their mushroom houses (yes! cook them with their homes) is recommended. The distinct flavor of the Smurf pairs well with peanut butter. It’s really strong, in the same way a truffle is–it’s almost overwhelming. The way we would do it when I was a kid was to really break the meat up into almost a paste really, and then whip it into some fluff. Then, you would just make yourself a Fluffernutter with the essence of Smurf up in it. If you are in the mood for something a bit more toothsome, and have a few Smurfs to spare, then go ahead and throw a few on whole.
Truthfully, I never intended to do a quiche post. Based mainly on the outrageous boujieness inherent in a 2″ tall custard pie, I thought it might alienate some of my lower-brow readers, back when I might of had any. So, up until now, I’ve stuck to crass humor, and meat, mainly, but now I’m crossing over. I think I can faithfully say that there must be only like three of you out there, and I know that at least one of you is closet-boujie, so that is decent enough odds to slip in a post about a towering quiche before I trudge on and fight to regain any semblance of blog-fame that I may have had and lost. I’m still keeping it real, though! Behind the scenes. I made the shell in my draws on a Saturday, and assembled the custard and monitored the baking with a crushing hang-over on Sunday. I could prove it, but I won’t.
Admittedly, this quiche has been represented in blog-form before, but with an alarmingly low success rate. It is the quiche that you may have heard about: The Thomas Keller Quiche from his cookbook Bouchon, and the Food & Wine article Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche. They are one in the same. The problem that it seems a good deal of other bloggers have had at successfully making this quiche stems, I believe, from the lack of concrete detailed instruction that you find in the cookbook, but is largely glossed over in the article. That is, most folks try and make it from the articles recipe. The thing that pains me most about this situation is that this quiche is The Greatest Quiche of All-Time. And I mean it. Anybody want a peanut?
The true catalyst for the presentation of this post, however, is due in large part to my having finally found a 9″ bottomless ring-mold. Whereas I used to suffer through the indignities of using a spring-form pan, indeed a lesser instrument in the quiche production process, the ring-mold freed me from those bonds, allowing for a far greater degree of dough management, technique, and over-all handling. It has proved truly essential, even after only one quiche. In the following I will discuss in detail how to make the dough and the custard, a sightly modified version from the one in Bouchon, and try to explain the mistakes I have made in the past with this quiche, and how they can be avoided. It is a lot more work than pouring a bit of whipped egg into a frozen pie-shell, but come on, name one occasion when that bit of slice has incited you to stop and recount the important things in life. Like boujie quiche.
Quiche is a staple of the “French Bistro” menu, and as such follows the axiom of creating something lush and decadent from simple, unassuming ingredients. The shell is made from butter, flour, salt, and water. These four cooking staples come together to form a secure vessel, a strong wall, containing an absurd amount of eggs and cream. Getting this part right is essential to the success of the quiche. If there is a hole or a crack anywhere, you can count on a disaster. So, this is the stage in which it is important to take your time, and to not rush through. It requires a Kitchen Aid stand-mixer or similar. The measurements are as follows:
• 2 cups flour, seperated
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
• 8 oz (2 sticks) cold butter, in 1/4″ pieces
• 1/4 cup of ice water
Begin by adding one cup of the flour, and the teaspoon of salt to the mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, and on low speed, add the butter a few pieces at a time, slowly. Once it is all in there, up the speed to medium, and mix until the butter is incorporated into the flour. Then, lower the speed, and add the remaining flour, mixing just until combined. Finally, add the water, and mix until the dough shows no sign of butter pieces, and comes around the paddle. The dough should me smooth to the touch; not sticky or otherwise unsightly.
The above photo shows the difference between dough that has been adequately mixed vs. dough that could use a few more turns in the mixer. (Click on the picture for a closer view.) The picture of the dough on the left has marbleized areas where the butter hasn’t been fully integrated into the flour. There absolutely must be a complete unadulterated marriage of the two! This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest causes of quiche failure. Whilst the shell is baking, these area’s create nearly undetectable chinks in the bulwark. Avoid these at all costs! A bit of over-mixing is far less hazardous than under-mixing.
Once you are positive that your dough is sufficiently mixed, the next step is to form it into a 7 or 8″ disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour, but I recommend over night. Firstly, you want the dough to be as cold as possible (without being frozen) while working with it from here on out, and the dough must rest. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know why it needs to on a molecular level, but the word is that resting it prevents the dough from shrinking when you bake it. Secondly, it’s just less stressful to stretch recipes like this one out over a couple of days. That way your not waiting around for an hour to pick it up again; you can just get on with your day. This stage should only take about 20 minutes.
Once the round of dough has been adequately refrigerated, it is time to roll it out and fit it in to the ring mold. As I mentioned above, I found a bottomless mold (which is actually 3″ deep as opposed to the recommended 2″), and I used that for the quiche in this post. But in the past I did rely on a 9″ spring-form pan. However, instead of using only the ring part, as the F&W article suggests, I would keep the whole unit intact. I made one quiche without the bottom, and it was a real pain in the butt, because of the way the spring-form slides back and forth. You know what I mean if you have one. So I would leave it together. The quiche is pretty solid once it is finished, and you can carefully lift it out if you take like a foot and a half of parchment paper, folded into a 2-3″ strip, and lay it into the pan beneath the dough. You can also do this with any other kind of cake pan, but spring-form’s tend to have the desired depth. That just makes it easier, you can still easily get it out without that addition. Also, in the unfortunate circumstance of a leak, having a closed bottom will actually save you from losing all of the custard, producing, at worst a section of over-cooked egg crust in the leaky area. One other item that makes this stage of the shell a bit more arduous is the call to rub the ring down with canola oil. Skip that. It serves virtually no purpose other than to make things more slippery, and thus more difficult. The dough is half butter. It’s not sticking to anything.
• Preheat the Oven to 375º, with the oven rack in the middle position
OK. With the dough round on a floured work surface, and with a floured rolling pin, begin rolling the dough out, turning it at a 90º angle after a every few passes with the pin. Continue rolling until you’ve reached a diameter of about 15″, keeping the dough as circular as possible. Once you’ve got it, take your rolling pin, and roll the dough onto it, like if you were rolling up a poster or something. Then, eyeball where you think the center of the dough will end up, and unroll it over the top of your ring-mold. If you have a bottomless one, the ring mold should be placed of a piece of parchment paper. Gently, but expediently work the dough into the mold, being careful not to tear it. Work it into all of the corners, and up the side walls. There will be some over-lapping with the dough, which is fine; just work till it is as uniform as possible. There should be a decent amount of dough hanging over the edges of your mold. If you do get a crack or a tear, break off a piece and work it into the crack trying your best to fully smooth it over and work it in. Remove any dough in excess of an inch that is hanging over the edge of the ring-mold, and reserve in the fridge in case of any holes forming as it bakes.
Once you are satisfied, return the shell to the refrigerator for 20 minutes in order to re-solidify the dough. Afterwards, take a sheet of parchment paper large enough to cover the entire surface of the inside of the shell, and form it to fit in over the dough. Fill the shell with beans. Any kind will do, even rice, but you want a lot of them. You want to fill the shell all the way to the brim with beans. This will greatly reduce the chance of the shell shrinking, as the beans serve to hold it securely in place during the baking process, so the more the merrier. I know have a 3lb jar of garbanzo beans set aside specifically for making quiche shells. Who doesn’t need that in their kitchen?
Once you’ve filled your shell with this massive amount of beans, into the oven it goes, for 35 to 45 minutes. Then the beans are removed, and it is baked for any addition 15-20 minutes in order to brown up the bottom a bit. After the removal of the beans and you send the shell back into the furnace, give a careful inspection to make sure that, heaven forbid, no holes have formed, and if so patch them with the reserved dough.
While the shell is baking is a good time to pull together all of the ingredients that you plane on including in your quiche. This go round, I chose Swiss Chard, Caramelized Onions and Emmentaler, a fancy cheese. No matter what vegetables you chose to use, they should be cooked until tender, and made to be as dry as possible, without, obviously, being dried out. For chard, or any other leafy green, chop it up and sauté with olive oil, diced shallot, and salt and pepper. Allow it to cool, then place into a kitchen towel, and twist the greens into a head, thereby extracting the liquid. Once this is down, chop it up a bit more. I used about a lb, and I could have easily used twice that, but it was all I had in my CSA box at the time, and I couldn’t be buggered to make a trip to the market for another bunch of chard.
Of the sheer versatility of the mighty onion, I must say that caramelization is the tops! So rich and delicious, caramelized onions work as an addition to almost anything. Slice an onion into medium thin half-moons. Heat a skillet on medium high heat, add a bit of canola, a dash of olive oil, and a pinch of sugar. Add then onion and toss it around for am minute to get it all heated up a bit, and to break up the slices. then turn the heat down to low, and just let the heat and the onion do its thang. Stir the onions up a every now and then.
For this stage you will need a blender. The ingredients you will need for the custard are as follows:
• 2 cups of milk
• 2 cups of heavy cream
• 8 eggs (my version differs from the Keller version, which calls for 6) at Room Temp.
• 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
• 1/4 ts fresh ground White pepper
• 6 gratings of fresh nutmeg
•reduce the oven temperature to 325º
Right, so I use 2 more eggs, and I have ever since my second attempt with this quiche, because my first attempt curdled a bit in places (which I now think was due to the mushrooms I made the first time being too oily, but. . .) and it was otherwise just a bit to precarious a texture for me. After I upped the egg level, everything that I would consider wrong with my first go round was eliminated, so I’ve never gone back, and I stand by this revision. Anyway, it’s up to you how you will proceed in regards to the egg count.
To begin the custard, combine the milk and heavy cream in a saucepan on medium heat, whisking the liquid a great deal as it heats up. (You do this in order to help the custard set as fast as possible once it goes into the oven; the same reason why we want the eggs at room temperature.) Meanwhile, separate the other ingredients into individual bowls: 4 eggs, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp ground white pepper, and three gratings of nutmeg. Grate a cup of cheese, preferably through a microplane, you don’t want the shreds to thick otherwise they might not melt. Transfer tthe milk/cream mixture to a large pyrex measuring cup or similar. Finally, prep whatever else you want to go into the quiche, and have it ready to use. You want everything ready to go, so that you can go through the assembly process efficiently.
For assembly, begin by adding a layer of chard, onions and cheese (or whatever) to the bottom of the shell. Move to the blender, and add 1 bowl of the eggs/salt/pepper/nutmeg and begin to blend on low. Add two cups of the milk to blender, and then up the speed to it’s highest level, and allow it to blend for a minute or two, allowing it to really aerate. Then pour the mixture over the ingredients in the quiche shell. Prepare the other half of the custard ingredients in the same manner. Meanwhile, add the remainder of your filling to the quiche shell, while the custard blends. When you add the second stage of custard to the shell, it will come right up to the brim, so it is recommended to move the quiche to the oven rack before pouring it into the shell. It all should just fit into the shell. Once you’ve added it, gently slide the oven rack into the oven, and bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Once it is finished, allow it to cool to room temperature, and then cut off the over-hanging crust from around the edges. Then refrigerate until it is thoroughly chilled. The book says a day, but I reckon a number of hours would do. If you use a bottomless ring you can simple lift it off after you have removed the extraneous crust. If you made it in the spring-form or a cake pan, I highly recommend waiting to remove it room the pan until after it has chilled as it will be much sturdier.
To serve: pre-heat your oven or toaster oven to 375º. Cut a slice off and heat for 15 minutes. Or, just eat it cold. I think quiche is great cold!
Thus ends a very long quiche post. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you, but I just had to get this off my chest. If you decide to give it a shot let me know! It will probably be easier to follow the cookbook or the Food & Wine version of the recipe, but hopefully, my descriptions and recommendations will be helpful. This is just such a fantastic food, and it gets easier, and easier each time you try it.
Quiche Redux for Anger Burger: Chanterelles and Farmhouse Cheddar, made with 6 eggs:
Spinach, Scallions, and Goat Cheese: 6 eggs
I have finally had a successful attempt at baking a bit of bread! Randomly deciding to have another go at it the other day, I found that the only recipe I had on hand was the Brioche in my copy of the French Laundry Cookbook, and so that’s what I made. Above is a photo of all the ingredients required, with the exception of the yeast, which I didn’t realize had been excluded from the photo until deep into the rising process. It’s OK, though, as it was just your run of the mill yeast. In the past, I have tried and failed to make a decent loaf of bread approximately once a year, for the past five years, and have previously been so dismayed by the results that it would take the ensuing year for me to build up the courage to try again. However, that epoch has now passed. As can be seen below, it is basically perfect– the crumb, the crust–what more can I ask for? This is the bread that the Croque Madame is intended to go on, but in the past instead of just biting the bullet and making my own, I would spend hours trying to find a decent loaf at some bakery or another (a surprisingly difficult item to find.) Nevermore!
Well on Sunday, I had to come up with something to do while the bread was rising, so Gabrielle and I decided to venture on over to Mississippi Ave. (Portland, OR). We were delighted to happen upon the new food cart village, the Mississippi Marketplace that has sprung up over there. I had heard about it peripherally because a lot of folks were stoked about Jesse Sandoval’s cart Nueva Mexico being there, but I didn’t really give it much thought beyond that. However, the digs are pretty sweet. There’s a huge canopy tent down the center with tons of tables for adults and children, and the whole lot is out-fitted with some pretty incredible looking carts. I ordered the Carne Adovada Sopapilla from Nueva Mexico, because the suspense was killing me, and I just had to get it over with. Naw! The real reason was that last winter I tried to use ‘sopa’ as a word for a kind of sandwich in a game of Scattagories and was denied by a one Christy Linden who stated, if I remember correctly, that it was soup! Honestly, I didn’t know what a sopa(pilla) was either, but now I have to say that it could pass for a type of sandwich in a game of Scattagories. It’s basically a piece of fried, lightly sweetened dough that’s filled with things. It might depend on what your definition of bread is. I hear someone around here has a cheeseburger on on a glazed VoodooDoughnut, so where does that argument end? Anyway, it was a pretty good plate, all and all, but what really made it for me was the pinto beans. Those were killer. What happened was that now I’m going to have to chill out on all these canned beans and get off my duff and make some fresh beans from scratch. Simply incomparable.
Gabrielle visited the cart named Ruby Dragon. They served up a pretty awesome never-ending cup of maté, and the special that day was very tasty—ginger quinoa blueberry gluten-free pancakes with a side of yammies. However, I have to say that if circumstances dictate that your costumer will have to wait upwards of 30 minutes (1 of 3 costumers at the time), and then only receive a single pancake (for $8), thus rejecting almost everyone’s idea of the term ‘pancakes’, then in my opinion a bit of a strategic overhaul is in order. Gabrielle thinks that what happened was that they had run out of her first choice, and then she decided on the special as her second choice, and that they didn’t want to admit that they had run out of her second choice also, and therefore scrambled to make more, instead of simply admitting that they were out of the pancakes as well. My take is that if you are out of something, at least as a food cart, then that is a good thing. It means that people are buying your food in numbers greater than you expected them to, which is a totally awesome scenario for a couple of reasons, but one that stands out in these circumstances is that you will be able to exuberantly tell costumers that arrive after you have sold out that they were so popular that you SOLD OUT of them! Anyway, it was really good, but took way too long to arrive, and we were expecting at least two. That, and excellent maté.
Next we meandered down Mississippi weaving in and out of specialty shops, reading menus here and there, wandering through the ReBuilding Center (which helped us realize that we know nothing about houses, among other things) with our ultimate destination being The Meadow. Ahhh, where to begin with this one. Gabrielle is still mulling it over. We learned many things about salt on Sunday at The Meadow, a salt specialty shop, but specifically we discovered that the universal acceptance of kosher salt (an agent of dessication) as Salt was equivalent to the universal acceptance of, say, “infanticide”. When asked if that might be a bit of a stretch, Mark Bitterman, owner, Selmelier, and crusader for overexageration replied with a “hmmm. . . I don’t think so.” Later on we learned from a second source, a one General Patrick Ripton, that “people who use kosher salt are indeed not like Hitler, but in fact are Hitler.” I’d like to remind everyone that we’re talking about salt here, or rather, Salt and Sodium Chloride. Where does that leave us? From now on, every time I blanch vegetables or boil pasta will I have to face the consequences of essentially being a baby killer? That’s a lot of guilt, and I’m so desperate that I actually bought some of the fancy salt.
When we got back home the brioche was bursting over the rim of the bread pan, begging to be baked, and so I obliged its need. For the next 35 minutes I drank a cup of coffee, and did a lot of nail biting. You’d think I’d reinvented the zipper or something, I was so ecstatic to pull such an awesome loaf from the oven. To celebrate, I made this Grilled Ham & Cheddar Sandwich on it:
1 This isn’t actually the first full slice from the loaf it’s the 3rd. With the first full slice I tried something that had intrigued me when I saw it on the daily board at Addy’s Sandwich Bar: Chocolate, Sea Salt, and Olive Oil. While the bread was still warm, I broke off 3 pieces of a Chocolove Toffee & Almonds 33% Milk Chocolate bar (a brand of bar which comes packaged with a love poem), laid them out width-wise along the bottom of the slice, drizzled them in Olive Oil, and sprinkled a bit of the fancy salt, namely the Fleur de Sel de Guérande from my Finishing Salts starter kit from the Meadow, folded it in half, and ate, polishing the half-sammy off in three bites, one for each chocolate square. The experience was sweet, and savory with just the right amount of textural crunch from the toffee bits and salt. Addy prepares hers on a small baguette from Little t bakery, which I suspect is probably a better bread match for the combination, being that baguettes are much chewier and crustier than a brioche could ever hope to be, the chewiness and crustiness of which I can’t help but think would lend a textural component that would be unparelled in this paricular combination of ingredients.
2 The cheese used here is Black Diamond White Cheddar, the sharpest that was for sale at Pastaworks. It was good, but not any different than Tillamook, really, which I think I’ll stick with in the future because it has a better price point, and is a bit more local than Canada.
3 The onion slices are from a Purple Torpedo, which I could not help but try because of it’s fantastic shape. Surely, these must be a cross between a shallot, and a red onion, because indeed it resembled a shallot multiplied by a factor of 4 or 5, and sported a coat somewhere in between the purple skin of the red onion, and the bronze skin of a shallot. The flavor profile leaned more towards that of a shallot, however, being quite strong, and pungent. Recommended for those who truly love a powerful onion.
4 A good smoked ham is hard to find. I can’t even count on three fingers the times that I have eaten truly unforgettable ham, and here I’ve been able to purchase some of the best caliber from the butcher at Pastaworks, just across the street from me, and I hadn’t even realized it. In the past I have bought Boar’s Head, which is fine, I guess, but nothing special. It’s your basic deli meats. The difference is that the ham pictured above is extrordinary, and it is less expensive. It’s sourced from Voget Meats in Hubbard, OR, a mere 30 minutes outside of Portland. I’m tempted to make a trip down there on my next day off work, but I’d be hard pressed to eat a 16 lb smoked ham on my own. But still, I am indeed tempted.
5 I try not to buy too many products sourced from other countries (with the exception of salt, haha), but in the case of this avocado, I was hoodwinked. The sign said it was of Californian variety, but later on as I peeled off the ‘Purity’ tag I read there in tiny font that the source was instead Chile. I’m don’t feel as much guilt about this misstep as I do about my decidedly suspect support of infanticide, but there is a pang, meaning that I think about it, but then let it fall from concioussness, and try to do better next time. I did a search in order to try and find the correct term for the outer layer of the avocado, be it the skin, or peel, or what have you, and came upon this page, hosted at avocadosource.com, “dedicated to the dissemination of avocado knowledge” (this being the type of statement which always kills me, because it never ceases to amaze that there is always someone to disseminate any information that you could ever dream of.) In the article they refer to the avocado as a berry, which surprised me a great deal, and that the scientific term for the outer layer is the exocarp, but the skin or rind are acceptable for layman’s terms. What struck me most in the article (from the 1940’s) was that there was a participant by the name of Haas A.R.C., and what I thought was, well, Haas, that is the leading seller of avocado’s right? The Haas Avocado. But right now, I’m having trouble coming to terms with the idea that a ‘Haas’ Avocado doesn’t exist, and that I am just one of many, many people who have fallen for the common misspelling, as the ‘Hass’ Avocado wikipage, and website are leading me to believe. There is an incongruity here that I need to solve, and only close observation at the grocery stores will be able to solve this for me. In any case, I web searched the ‘Haas’ avocado, a search I made because the study lists 5 varieties of avocados that were included in the research, and in my mind, I can only think of one variety by name (the Haas), and the first hit was the Hass site, a company whose flippant motto (for any one who cares about seasonality, or at least the grossly absurd idea of a winter tomato) , or slogan, is “Always in Season.” Is it? Are they. . . always in season? They can’t possibly be, and if they are, at what cost? The avocado season is spring. That means that in the Northern hemisphere they fruit and ripen sometime around April, give or take a few months. I just learned that myself, so we’re together here, unless of course you are a seasonality wonk. For the normal, everyday grocery shopper, the idea of seasonality doesn’t exist. If it’s in the store, it means that it’s growing somewhere, and that’s the end of the thought process–it’s available, so lets eat it. Which brings us around to the fact that the avocado I bought was shipped here from Chile, a distance of 5,500 miles by sea, where it is Spring now, so that I, and many others in this hemisphere, could eat one in the fall. Is all that matters is that it is in season somewhere?
6 More cheese, with a sprinkling of fancy salt.
7 I butter the bread before it goes in the pan. I did the same with the first slice, too. I used to heat the pan up and butter it just before I laid the sandwich into it, but those days are gone. It always led to inconsistent toasting, and to rebutter the pan in between the flip was always a pain to me. Once I discovered the joys of spreadable butter, that antiquated technique fell from the repertoire.
8 The consistent result of pre-buttering is pretty evident in this photo
9 Sometimes I have trouble deciding what I’d like to go with my sandwiches. In this case, I went with a handful of Kettle Chips, and fresh black radish chips paired with a sprinkling of Turkish Black Pyramid salt. I think that in reality it should be one, or the other. Choosing both is a product of my inability, at times, to make simple, sound decisions, instead opting to bounce between one option and the next until they become so blurred and indistinct that the only course is to choose either all or nothing. So I’m left considering all my choices in an interminable debate with inconsequential results. Gabrielle thinks that this carries over into a lot of my blog posts, her prime example being the one concerning our cat, Rigel. In other words, she called me long-winded. So in response, I decided to footnote this post so that I could further articulate some of the things that were on my mind without them impinging on the general trajectory of the post-prime. I think that there are readers who read footnotes, and readers who don’t, which is surely an important distinction in readers, and an important decision that those individual readers have made for themselves. I had a roommate who read Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and skipped all the fancy parts, and loved it, where as I found the book an unreadable bore, and I’m a fan of footnotes. One of the reasons that I’m doing this, I think, is that I just read The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker, and it renewed my admiration for the footnote. I had been living under a false assumption (perhaps the second that I’ve recognized this week!) that David Foster Wallace revolutionized the use of footnotes, but how untrue. While he certainly didn’t invent the footnote, it would seem that Baker is reponsible for elevating them to a higher status as a literary devise. DFW simply took it and went fucking crazy with the idea.