filling the empty nest with food
This is my first Easter in several decades where I haven’t spent the Saturday before Easter dying eggs and over-indulging in jelly beans. Since no kids are at home this Easter, I’m taking the holiday off.
As I imagine you more experienced empty-nesters know, a first holiday without your children is a bitter-sweet day. The quiet and empty afternoon brings up precious memories of experiences now in the past and never to return. Toddlers plunging their hands into the egg-dying cups; 6-year-olds excited for Easter baskets and hidden eggs; teenagers kindly (or grumpily) indulging their mother in keeping the family traditions going. Ah, but now that my children are off on their own, there is the quiet and empty afternoon!
However, I still succumbed to the 2-for-1 sale on a dozen eggs at the store, and now have all these pre-dyed and pre-boiled eggs to contend with. When I’m looking for egg dishes, I nearly always turn to the classic French quiche. It’s simple, always successful, deliciously egg-y and cheese-y, and looks beautiful right out of the oven.
Of course, it’s full of ingredients that are currently out of favor in terms of what’s considered healthy–eggs, cheese, bacon, cream, butter, flour. Well, perhaps the pinch of nutmeg won’t do you any harm.
My favorite recipe comes from a 1961 cookbook published by Gourmet. It’s called Gourmet’s Basic French Cookbook and is full of classic French recipes and techniques for cooking and baking. (1961 is the same year Volume 1 of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published, which was the start of taking the intimidation factor out of French cuisine.) I’ve reproduced the recipe below in its original form–with a few notes–to give you the flavor of the book’s recipes.
Line an 8-inch pie pan or a 10-inch flan ring with pate à tourte. Broil 6 not-too-thin bacon slices and arrange the pieces over the bottom of the pastry shell. Cut 6 ounces of Swiss cheese into small, thin slices and arrange on top of the bacon. Beat together 3 eggs and 1 yolk (I use 4 eggs, which seems to work out just fine.) with 1 tablespoon flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of nutmeg and add 2 cups rich milk or milk and cream (half-and-half for us 21st-century cooks) and 1 tablespoon melted butter cooked until it is a little brown. Pour the mixture over the bacon and cheese and bake the quiche in a moderately hot oven (375 degrees F.) for 30-35 minutes, or until the custard is set and the top is brown. Serve warm.
Pate à tourte (Pastry for two-crust pies)
Cut 5 tablespoons butter and 5 tablespoons lard (or other shortening) into 2 cups flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon salt, mixing the butter and lard in with the finger tips or with a pastry blender. Add 6 or 7 tablespoons cold water, or enough to make a firm dough, handling it very gently. Chill the dough for several hours before using it. The pate à tourte resembles the standard American pie pastry. Notice that the recipe specifies half lard and half butter–lard for flakiness, butter for flavor.
You’ll only need about half of this recipe for one quiche.