Sincerely the best quiche ever

A few years ago my team at work held a bake-off. I pretty much had it in the bag betweenIMG_9532 a bread pudding (that I have yet to write about) and Sherry Yard’s Triple Silken Pumpkin Torte. And then in walked…this other person, carrying her entry, a large pan of macaroni and cheese. She won. I came in second and third. And I have never gotten over it. Mac and cheese is baked, yes, but the spirit of a bake-off is sweets. I mean (as I have said countless times), you wouldn’t bring a baked chicken would you? Would you? Harrumph. Pffft. I’m still peeved. But as it’s going on 5 years ago now, let’s consider this post a healing. Because here I am, presenting to you on my very own baking blog, a recipe for quiche.

I’ve been serving this Ham and Potato Quiche for nearly 10 years. From the first time I made it (using a recipe that Russ Parsons wrote about in the LA Times), it has been my go-to quiche. Before then, I used to make up my own combinations and was rather known for my wild mushroom and smoked gouda tart. But then this happened.

The article focuses on Thomas Keller and the precise, military-cornered recipe he serves at Bouchon. I love Chef TK and Bouchon, but…ham, potatoes, cheese…. The recipe is IMG_9530attributed to Josie La Balch, chef/proprietor of Santa Monica’s Josie and Next Door by Josie (both faves). You can find the complete recipe by following the above link to the article. Below is my ever so slightly tweaked version (no crust and diced ham) – it’s easy, but as ever, make sure your ingredients are impeccable and be prepared to make no other quiche again. Ever.

Ham and Potato Quiche (Adapted from a recipe by Josie La Balch)

9-inch or other quiche pan, bottom and sides rubbed lightly with butter

1/2 c. diced raw potato

1 Tbs. butter

1/2 c. finely diced onion

1/2 c. creme fraiche

Generous 2/3 c. diced Fontina cheese

1/4 c. grated Parmesan

1 c. diced Black Forest ham, plus 1-2 whole slices reserved

3 eggs

3/4 c. heavy cream

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. white pepper

Boil potatoes for 4-5 minutes, until cooked but still firm. Drain and reserve.

Saute onion in butter until soft, 5 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and add creme fraiche, potato, diced Fontina, Parmesan, and diced ham, being careful not to break up the potato cubes. Set aside to cool for 10 mins.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and heavy cream, and gently stir into the potato-cheese mixture. Add salt and pepper.

Pour filling into quiche pan, laying reserved ham slices over top (I try to go for decorativeIMG_9531 here).

Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes. Filling should be set.

A note about no crust: I was having a gluten-free friend for lunch one day (with fava beans and a nice chianti, ha ha ha) and, once tasted, realized I’d never miss the crust again.

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How to spring forward…with lemons and blueberries

I do not spring forward well.

I was born in winter, in the late evening. I’ve beenFullSizeRender accused of reverse seasonal affective disorder (or, as I call it, “Seasonal Ugh-stop Neurosis” aka SUN). I have, as one astrologist poetically put it, a lunar affect. I am a Fall/Winter by anyone’s measure.

So daylight savings time in March is a tough row for me. It will take weeks to re-orient, especially this year when spring seems to have missed its stop, what with knee-deep snow in New York and blazing 80-plus temps in Los Angeles.

So this DST day called for a homemade remedy. It called for lemons. And blueberries. And cake. So I called for Martha, specifically her Blue Belles recipe. (I find Martha a great friend in the kitchen because her baking recipes rarely call for ingredients I don’t have on hand.)

Full disclosure: I made this yesterday in order to have it as I slunk forward this morning.

I made the single large loaf using Meyer lemons (plus an orange to round out the juice measure) and Trader Joe’s frozen wild blueberries. There’s a prodigious amount of sugar (next time I’ll reduce the amount in the cake), but the cake itself is not too too sweet. Likewise, there was a lot of the lemon syrup. I don’t like my lemon cakes too wet, so I used only about a third of it. (Because it was sitting there, though, I did add a bit to hot tea and to seltzer later in the day – nice! So I froze it.)

IMG_9390Like most tea cakes, this was very easy. My dodgy apartment oven doesn’t always hold a temperature (dropping at random from 350 to 300), so I needed an extra 20 or so minutes on the bake, giving me a browner cake and thicker “crust” than desired.

No matter, this thing is delicious. Much better the second day. I will say, though, if you’re looking for a tea cake that is bursting with a kind of fruity, zesty freshness, this isn’t it. The sugar doesn’t help, but fresh fruit will obviously make a big difference, especially backyard lemons and farmers market blueberries. (I’m also thinking a Tuscan cornmeal base would deliver a stronger fresh-from-the-garden experience.) That said – this was fast, easy, good, and very welcome on this DST day.

The perfect accompaniment is this Tazo tea I’m obsessed with: BerryBlossom White. It’sIMG_9412 the Jo Malone of teas: Floral and fruity but not at all overwhelming.

PS, Trader Joe’s has had these roses for a couple of months, $4.99 per bunch of 13. $10 a week for a pop of color.

Happy spring!

To brownie or not to brownie?

Brownies: I make them. I eat them. But I don’t know that I really, sincerely, truly like them. IMG_9343

Chocolate craving at home? Brownies are fast, easy, and I know I’ll always have the ingredients. (My go to recipe is Supernatural Brownies from Nick Malgieri’s Chocolate, reduce sugar to ½ cup.) But take me to a restaurant, café or bake shop? I will never order a brownie.

Kids bake sale or potluck in the office? I will always pass up the brownies.

I will say it’s because they are usually dry or too large or have nuts or whatever – when really, I’m just not sure I like brownies all that much.

Yet, I found myself standing in front of the fridge the other day, trying to remember why I bought that tub of mascarpone. It’s like cream cheese – maybe now’s the time to try making a swirl brownie?

Never had one, never made one. I Googled recipes but none appealed or they had an ingredient I didn’t have like buttermilk. So I kicked it old school and went to my baking library, taking down Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies. Et voila, Espresso Swirl Brownies. Coffee + chocolate = good thing, so I dove in (using the variation for cakier brownies).

Note: Mascarpone is not really “like” cream cheese. Who knew some slight overbeating would render a curdled liquid? But since I was already in for a quantity of chocolates and butter, I proceeded. Sure the mixture looked more like grainy mustard and the whole effect was not appetizing and I needed to add another 20 minutes to the cooking time and…. I should’ve stopped at curdled.

I’d thrown down my own gauntlet, though, so the next day I met Alice again in the kitchenFullSizeRender_2 with 8 oz. of Philadelphia braFullSizeRender_1nd in hand. The recipe and techniques are simple and easy, the results picture perfect.

And the brownies? Really delicious. The base is moist without overdoing the chocolate; the espresso cream cheese is light and perfectly balances the chocolate.

FullSizeRender_3Next time, I’m going to add some cinnamon to the cream cheese since the recipe calls out for the Aztec treatment (referring, natch, to Alice’s Aztec Layer Cake from Cocolat, my go-to party cake.)

As for brownies in general, though, the jury’s still out.

The recipe Espresso Swirl Brownies can be found here, attributed to an earlier Alice Medrich cookbook.