When I haven’t made up my mind what to cook for dinner, I usually let the vegetables in the market guide me. This week asparagus won me over. To me, it’s the queen of vegetables, and I felt that the queen deserved to be celebrated in a quiche.
Quiches are a special union between pastry and filling. A crisp, flaky pastry, cradling a rich eggy custard, works miracles on the tongue and in the mouth. I fell in love with quiches and first learned how to make them watching Julia Child. She made everything look so do-able and gave me the confidence to soldier on and make my first quiche.
The problem many cooks have with quiches is the pastry. So in my recipe I’ve made things much easier by substituting a press-in quick-mix dough for a classic pie crust. For this quiche, you just mix the dry ingredients with vegetable oil and milk and press the dough into a pie pan. That’s it. For a buttery taste you can put in ghee instead of the oil. Why ghee and not just plain melted butter? Butter is about 18 percent water. Ghee is clarified butter and, like vegetable oil, water-free. Less water means less gluten development so you’ll get a crispy crust.
Asparagus needs a brief pre-cooking before it goes into a quiche. While baking it becomes completely tender. One really quick way to prep the asparagus is in a microwave. Snap the ends off a pound of asparagus and put the spears into a microwave-safe dish helter skelter. Cover tightly with a lid or with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 3 minutes. After cooling, cut the spears as directed in the recipe and they’re ready to bake in the quiche.
All you need is a salad to serve with the quiche.
You can make the press-in crust with vegetable oil — grapeseed, sunflower, avocado, or corn — or with ghee. Ghee gives the crust a rich, buttery flavor, but the texture is crumbly rather than crisp. Great tasting, though. Serve with a tossed green salad or avocado and orange salad.
Makes 6 servings.
1½ cups all-purpose flour (6 ¾ ounces) (to measure: spoon flour into dry measuring cups to overflowing and sweep off excess with a straight edge)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup vegetable oil or melted and cooled ghee
2 tablespoons milk, any fat percentage
1 pound asparagus spears
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1½ cups heavy cream
1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano
2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1. Have ready a 9-inch pie plate. To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ghee and milk until creamy. Add to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to make a dough.
2. Press the dough into the pie plate so that it is evenly thick on the sides and bottom. It’s best to break off small lumps of dough and press them onto the sides first, going all the way up to the rim, then fill in the bottom with the remaining dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third position.
4. Line the chilled crust with a square of lightly buttered aluminum foil, pressing the foil into place. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, just until the edges of dough take on a light golden color. Remove the crust from the oven and carefully lift off the foil. Cool the pastry completely.
5. Reset the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
5. To make the quiche filling, snap off the ends of the asparagus spears. Bring an inch or so of lightly salted water to the boil in a large (12-inch) skillet. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain in a colander, fill the skillet with cold water and drop in the hot asparagus. Leave for a minute or two to cool. Remove the asparagus to paper towels to drain. When cool, cut off 2-inches of the tips and set them aside. Cut the remaining spears into 1-inch lengths.
6. For the quiche filling, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, salt, pepper and nutmeg until completely blended and smooth. Whisk in the cream. Sprinkle the pecorino romano onto the crust bottom and arrange the 1-inch pieces of asparagus on the cheese. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano over the asparagus and carefully add the quiche custard. Arrange the asparagus tips on top and place the quiche in the oven.
7. Bake about 45 minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the quiche is flecked with brown. Cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving.