Thursday, April 10, 2008

Annie Oakley Has Nothin' on Me

I did some target practice this weekend, out on my family's land near Burnet. My father bought a nifty iron contraption that has three targets hanging from it. When your bullet hits the target, it spins it around the bar. Fun, huh? But what happens when you hit it at the spot where it's welded and then hit it a few more times at the bottom? This:

Ahh, fun times. It's nice to know my little .22 Ruger pistol is capable. And now I need to kill the remaining two targets so we can get a new one!

I Love Quiche

It's true. I think it started when I used to sing along with the B-52's to their Quiche Lorraine song. "Quiche Lapoodle is her name!" I would sing the "quiche, quiche lorraine" part and while I knew quiche was a type of food I wasn't certain what it really was. Years later, I tasted quiche and fell in love. Now on each Friday at work a group of my co-workers and I participate in a “breakfast club”, taking turns bringing food for our group. After a few months, it’s easy to tire of the usual bagels, doughnuts and breakfast tacos. Last week was my turn and I decided to make quiche. I mulled it over and decided upon a spinach, tomato and mozzarella quiche for a vegetarian option. I’d been wanting to make a caramelized onion, bacon and gruyere quiche, so that settled it.

Thursday night after work I stopped by my neighborhood grocery store for supplies. Unfortunately for me, my grocery store is a smaller version of one of the two predominant chain stores in town. While they do carry a nice selection of ethnic foods such as fresh nopales and pandulce, they don’t have much else that is anything other than basic foods. I can get queso fresco and panela but other than a bag of shredded Swiss there was no gruyere to be found. While regular American Swiss is an okay substitute, it’s just that, okay. Gruyere gives this quiche a much more intense depth of flavor, so buy it if you have the choice.

Caramelizing onions takes patience. First I heated two tablespoons of olive oil in a deep, wide pan over medium heat. Next, I layered thinly sliced Texas 1015 sweet onions into the pan. Leaving the temp at medium, I used a spatula to turn the onions as the bottom layer began to soften. After 5 minutes, I lowered the heat to low-medium. During the next 40 minutes I turned the onions about every 10 minutes or so, just to ensure even cooking. They will slowly turn golden as their flavor becomes smoky sweet. Some people add sugar or balsamic vinegar to the onions at the end of their cooking time. I’ve never found the need to do so with Texas 1015 onions or any variety of sweet onions such as Vidalia or Walla Walla.
While the onions caramelized, I prepared my other ingredients, thick slices of tomato, thawing out frozen spinach and squeezing as much moisture out as possible, frying bacon and of course, whipping up the egg mixture. When it comes to quiche, I don’t try to use lower fat substitutes. I’m not planning to eat an entire quiche, just a slice, so I don’t use anything but heavy cream and whole milk in my egg mix. You can play around with the amounts but the richness in flavor is worth it to me.

I baked the spinach quiche first, layering the ingredients as evenly as possible before pouring the egg mixture. I usually pour slowly and rotate my pan as I go so that the liquid fills in evenly as well.
I did not make my own pastry crust, but I can now vouch for Mrs. Smith’s frozen deep dish pie crust. I followed the directions on the label and did not pre-bake it. I did keep it frozen up to the point when I was filling it. As an afterthought I probably will line the edges with a foil ring to keep it from over-browning but even though it was dark brown it did not taste burnt.
After the onions were golden, glistening and oh so deliciously done, I filled the second pie crust.
Smoky thick cut bacon goes well with the onions but so does diced ham and cubed cooked chicken. I use what I have on hand when I make quiche. Consequently, I’ve had some unusual yet tasty combinations over the years. And despite the “real men don’t eat quiche” yarn, once I pulled the onion and bacon creation out of the oven, my boyfriend was hovering with a plate and a fork.
I’m including the recipe for the onion and bacon quiche. If you’d like the spinach and tomato recipe, feel free to e-mail me.

Caramelized Onion & Bacon Quiche
6 eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg, plus more for sprinkling
¼ tsp. salt
Several grinds of pepper, between ¼ to ½ tsp.
¼ tsp. garlic powder
8 oz. shredded gruyere or other swiss-type cheese
2 Texas 1015 onions, sliced thinly and rings separated
2 tb. olive oil
4 slices cooked thick cut bacon, crumbled
1 deep dish pie crust

In a deep, wide heavy pan, slowly caramelize onions in the olive oil until golden brown. Preheat oven to 425ยบ. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and milk. Once blended, add spices and whisk to distribute. Place frozen pie crust on a baking sheet. Layer cheese, bacon and onions evenly in crust. Carefully pour egg mixture into pie pan, until mixture is a ¼” from top of crust. You may have leftover egg mix (great for making mini crust-less quiches in buttered ramekins). Lightly sprinkle the top of the quiche with nutmeg, swirling with a fingertip any large spots of spice. Bake until golden brown and completely set. You may want to insert a sharp thin knife or cake tester into the middle to ensure it is done. If it comes out clean, remove and cool for 5 minutes before serving. When reheating later in a microwave, less than a minute at full power will heat a serving. Makes 8 servings.