Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sometimes Life Gets In the Way

I've been trying to get a complete Pizza post up, and have failed miserably.  I made pizza on Friday the 13th and filmed it all with my digital camera.  The video quality is atrocious.  Maybe it's time to upgrade that camera...

I do have an HD video camera, so next time I make pizza--probably this Friday night--I'll re-record the entire process for you all.  I will cover everything from making the dough and the sauce to that first bite.

My daughter's playing softball, and that seems to occupy at least two nights every week as well as the entire day on Saturday.  My wife's on her summer schedule, so she's working two nights a week.  In short, the amount of time I have to spend having fun in the kitchen with a camera and my laptop is dwindling.  I will try to keep posting throughout the summer but don't expect a new article every week.

So for now, a few food-related thoughts for the week.

I have discovered the beauty of boneless skinless chicken thighs.  Mostly thanks to Mark Bittman whose series of short cooking videos The Minimalist are excellent.  In particular, I tried his 15 Minute Herbed Chicken recently and it was both simple and delicious.  If you are wondering what to cook for dinner some night, check out his videos.  Most are under five minutes and every one I've tried has been delicious.

If you don't already, try shopping at some ethnic grocery stores.  Even in my small town we have a Mexican grocery, and nearly every town of any size has an Asian grocery or ten.  If you can find an Indian grocery store in your area, check it out.  They've got all kinds of foods you've probably never tried, and that means lots of chances to try new things.  Always try new foods.  You never know when you'll find the best thing you've never tasted.

Grilling season is coming, and I've got to say that I'm a big fan of lump charcoal.  If you're a propane griller, consider making your next grill a charcoal burner.  If you use a charcoal chimney to start your coals the wait time is really not long at all and the flavor is worth the wait.  One thing I'll definitely post this summer is grilled oysters.  If you're lucky enough to live where live oysters are available and affordable, an evening of grilling oysters is about as good as it gets.

Friday, May 13, 2011


As promised, I've made a quiche.  If you're old enough to remember when the book Real Men Don't Eat Quiche came out, there's a chance you've never eaten the stuff.  If you're too young to remember those days, the chances are even better you've never had quiche.  This is a travesty.

For starters, the most famous quiche of all, Quiche Lorraine, is about as manly as food gets.  It's eggs, heavy cream, bacon, cheese and a little bit of onion.  Doesn't that sound delicious already?  Even better, it's baked and looks like a pie.  It's in a pie crust that, in a perfect world, would be made with lard.  That's right.  LARD.  What could be more manly that bacon, eggs and cheese in a lard-based crust?

Sadly, I did not take the time to make my own pie crust.  I used a frozen crust.  Sue me.  They're cheap, they're better than most homemade crusts, and they're very convenient.

My wife has a pie crust recipe that is fantastic.  I'm not kidding.  This is Blue Ribbon Pie Crust.  Literally.

The recipe's written down around here somewhere but if I published it I would become Public Enemy Number One in short order.  This is a recipe that's been handed down for at least three generations and is not for sharing.  I'm not a "secret recipe" kind of guy.  I'd tell you how to make anything I know how to make.  Even my professional chef brothers seem perfectly willing to share any and every recipe and technique they've got.  Maybe it's a woman thing.  In any case, this cheap frozen crust worked great.

You can find an endless number of quiche recipes online.  Mine is no revelation.  Really, it's the concept that counts.  Don't get the wrong perception, while Quiche Lorraine might not be the most health-conscious dish you've ever had, quiche does not have to be the least healthy dish in your repertoire.  You can find quiche recipes that use loads of spinach, no egg yolks, and no heavy cream.  They won't be as rich and delicious as the real thing, but it can be done.

The first quiche recipe I ever used was from the good old Betty Crocker cookbook.  It called for four eggs and two cups of heavy cream.  For me, with an egg:cream ratio like that it's more like a savory egg custard pie than a quiche.  It's delicious, but I prefer a closer to 50:50 egg:cream mixture.

I call this Quiche American.  Basically, it's Quiche Lorraine with Tillamook Medium Cheddar instead of Swiss cheese.

1/2 lb. Bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1/4 lb. Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
5 eggs
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Salt & pepper

Cook the bacon.

You want it pretty crispy.  Certainly much more done than I prefer when eating it on its own with a fried egg or on a BLT.

Shred the cheese while the bacon cooks.  In keeping with the spirit of Chop Your Own, buy block cheese and grate it yourself.  This is a rule.  Shredded cheese has anti-caking agents that tend to mess with melting properties.  I won't lie and say I never buy shredded cheese, but I do shred my own cheese as much as I can.

Chop the onion.  The one-half cup measurement is a guess.  See the picture.  Use more or less according to taste.  As my brother Pete once told me with regard to his French Onion Soup recipe, "Use your brain.  It's not all in the recipe."

Crumble the bacon into the pie crust.

Put the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk lightly.  Add the cream.  Mix a little, but not much.  Be careful - you don't want whipped cream.  Season with salt & pepper.

I know, there are only four eggs in the bowl.  I thought that four eggs and 1 C. cream would be enough.  It wasn't  I ended up whisking another egg and 1/4 C. of cream and adding it to the crust after I realized I needed more liquid.

Add the cheese and onion, then pour the egg/cream mixture over the top.

You're going to bake this at 375 for about 45 minutes.  Put a cookie sheet under your pie crust just in case.  You don't want this stuff burning on the bottom of your oven.

The finished product:

Yes, it is delicious.

It makes an excellent breakfast the next day, too.  Some folks eat it cold but we usually heat it for 45 seconds or so in the microwave.  You can even freeze individual slices (wrapped tightly) for next week.  It won't freeze well long term.

I'm going to try to take some pics this evening as I make pizza...