Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ham and Spinach Quiche

If you have leftover cheese, vegetables and cooked meat, you have another delicious meal in the making. Quiche is a great way to use up leftovers and make a fabulous new dish your family will love. 

Frankly, the piecrust deserves a post of its own.  It is versatile and works just as well with savory and sweet fillings. It is the piecrust of my quiches, as well as my banana cream pie and apple pie and pecan pie and so on.  I am asked for the recipe often, but I cannot take credit. I come by it honestly: The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, 1980 edition, Zoe Coulson, ed.  This cookbook was a gift from my mother-in-law on our first married Christmas in 1986 and it has been so well-used (read: falling apart) that I am on my second copy now, purchased on Ebay.  I had to have the same edition!  Perhaps later editions have all the same recipes. I’ll never know. But in the 1980 edition, I know where everything is. 

I could wax eloquent about the Before You Cook section, amply used by my newlywed husband to cook wonderful meals for me upon his return from offshore, with its illustrations of kitchen tools and pots and pans and equipment, essential for a newbie. Or the Color Index with photographs of every one of the more than 900 recipes. Or the illustrated, step-by-step instructions.  Suffice to say, this book is one of two we have taken in the luggage to every new overseas posting in 25 years of marriage.  The second book is a binder of photocopied and handwritten recipes I have amassed over the years from friends and family. 

But time to get on to the recipe at hand!

Pastry for a one-crust pie

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (Good Housekeeping says only 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco is my preferred but I have had to use butter in some countries where Crisco is not available. It works but the crust is not as flaky.)
2-3 tablespoons of cold water

Put the flour, shortening and salt together in one bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the flour into the shortening until you have small crumbs.

Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time, blending with the tines of a fork, until the mixture forms a soft dough which can be rolled into a ball.   

Flatten the ball into a patty and wrap it in cling film and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

When you are ready to bake, roll the dough out into a circle to fit your pie pan.

As you can see from the photos, I cheat. I discovered these miracles of plastic and zipper more than 15 years ago in a bakers’ catalog and I have not been without them, if I can help it, since.  (Mind you, this was before the days of Al Gore’s Internet, so we ordered from a printed catalog by FAX! And I have once again dated myself.) You can, of course, roll it out the old-fashioned way but I would suggest at least using a piece of waxed or parchment paper to make transferring the dough from the counter top to the pie plate easier. If it helps, you can even draw your circle on the paper with a permanent marker.

Put your pie plate on top and your hand under. Flip!

Poke the crust with the tines of your fork to keep it from puffing up in the wrong places.
And now, the quiche filling.

Quiche is like an omelet. You can put anything and everything in it.

1. Choose a cheese (Cheddar, blue, Brie, Camembert, Gouda, Emmental, Swiss, etc.)
2. Choose a vegetable (Broccoli, tomato, cauliflower, asparagus, potato, onion, etc. Quick cooking vegetables can be added raw, for instance, tomatoes. Others, like broccoli and asparagus, should be parboiled. Still others, like potatoes or carrots, should be fully cooked.)
3. Choose a cooked meat (optional) (Ham, bacon, chicken, beef, lamb, fish, shrimp, etc.) All of these should be fully cooked, of course.

Then you have eggs, milk and cream. Your quantities of everything will depend on the depth of your pie plate.

For this quiche in a normal pie plate, I used about 4.5 ounces or 125g of cheddar, 2 ounces or 55g of frozen spinach (thawed, then drained), and about 3 ounces or 85g of leftover, previously frozen ham. (Am I the only one who buys ham that the family eats for a day or two and then abandons?  I pop it in the freezer when it’s still good and, while you cannot thaw it and still make decent sandwiches, it is perfect for quiche or omelets. You are welcome.)

To those I added four whole eggs, 3/4 cup or 180ml cream and 1/2 cup or 120ml milk, black pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Pour this mixture into your piecrust and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. The first 10 minutes should be at 400°F or 200°C and then turn your oven down to 350°F or 180°C for the rest of the time.

I usually serve each slice of quiche with a tomato salad or even a green salad on the side but truly, it is a meal all by itself.  Any questions, leave me a comment.


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