Cooperative Quiche

A slice o' nice

Unfortunately, our kitchen is, while much bigger than previous ones, not really laid out well for working together 1. Unless one person’s job is washing dishes while the other person cooks and preps. Which isn’t really working together on creating something tasty. And that is exactly what Chris wanted to do on Sunday afternoon. We kind of had to tag-team on the various tasks but we made it work. And we got something really incredibly tasty out of it.

I’m not much of an egg eater. Not that I’m pointing fingers but my dad used to make ‘Army’ scrambled eggs which were pretty awful, to my six year old palette at least 2. It wasn’t until spring break my junior year of college that I willingly ordered an omelet. Actually, I at a lot of omelets that week- our hotel had an IHOP restaurant but there was no way I could eat pancakes and waffles everyday for 7 days. I needed protein in the morning because we’d have plenty of carbs later on. Since then, I will have the occasional omelet or scrambled eggs but I’m exceptionally picky and don’t have much interest in making them for myself. The omelet short list at present is really short: my husband, Sawyer’s Pancake House in Lansing. Sophia’s in Grand Ledge does a pretty good job but its way too big and sometimes not cooked evenly.

Now quiche and frittata and other egg-y pies have been way down on my list. I’m pretty sure I was subject to some spinach quiche that I found revolting both due to the eggs and presence of cooked spinach as a kid (note: don’t have a problem with spinach now). Might have even had brussel sprouts, lima beans or cauliflower associated with it- all verboten in my kid-self world3. So I don’t order them, I don’t make them, I don’t even consider them on the menu at a restaurant. If we and other people make quiche like the one Chris & I made though, I’d probably eat more quiche.

Using a combination of two recipes (one from Food Network: Quick quiche and one from Elise at Simply Recipes: Mushroom Quiche as jumping off points, we came up with this.

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Ingredients

3 eggs
1/8 cup mayo
1/8 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup milk
5 to 6 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 oz crimini mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced.
1 onion. sliced thinly
1 –1 1/2 tsp rosemary, dried
2 slices rosemary ham (Boarshead deli meat)

olive oil
butter
salt & pepper
refrigerated pie shell (or homemade)

Directions

1. Caramelize onions: if you do this right, it takes a while so you may choose to make a big batch and then just use what you want (about 1 onion worth) for this dish. To caramelize, heat 1 tabelspoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add thinly sliced onions a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar (optional), stir to coat and then leave them alone until they start to turn golden, almost brown on the edges. Reduce heat to low. Stir only occasionally. Continue to cook until browned to your liking. You may also let them get crispy, like we did. Sort of accidental.

At this point, pre-heat oven to 425.

2. Prepare remainder of filling: Remove onions from pan. Return heat to medium-high and add 1/2 tablespoon oil. Add one to two cloves garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary. Cook mushrooms until they have released all their juices and the pan starts to look a little dry. Add chopped ham and cook another 2-3 minutes. Stir in reserved onions then remove from heat.

If using a pre-made pie shell, prick with a fork several times and place in oven for about 5 minutes. This step may not be necessary depending on the brand of shell

3. Prepare egg mixture: Combine 3 eggs, mayo, sour cream and milk in a large bowl, whisking to combine. Season with salt & pepper then stir in 5-6 ounces of shredded cheese (I’m estimating, Chris did this job).

4. Assembly: After mushroom-onion mixture has cooled slightly, stir in to egg mixture in spoonfuls. Reserve about 1/2 to 1/4 cup of mushroom-onion mixture. Pour entire egg-mushroom mixture in to pie shell then spoon remaining mushrooms & onions over the top.

5. Cook: Bake in oven for approximately 35 minutes. Remove and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. May be served hot or at room temperature.


While writing this post, I started thinking about the egg-based breakfast/brunch items and realized I wasn’t sure if we’d made a quiche. What makes a quiche, quiche? After perusing the highly informative site, Mr. Breakfast4, I determined that quiche was probably right even though we didn’t use actual cream. Frittatas don’t have crusts. There are also souffles; the best (and probably only one I’ve had) one of those can be had at the Featherbed Inn near Waitsfield, Vermont. And pie which sounds a like like quiche but with far more other ingredients. Come to think of it, we may have made a pie. I don’t know that quiche requires a minimum egg to filling ratio but this was not an uber-eggy dish. But it was delish!


1Smallest kitchen I ever had was while in college, living near the Green Door in downtown Lansing. A one-sided galley, the only counter space was just wide enough to hold a microwave (hey, I was in college) so I learned to be creative with prep work. This was also my first experience with a gas stove. I lit a lot of pilot lights that year!

2 Again, not pointing fingers but my dad (and brother) are also known for their creative versions of mac n’ cheese, when there is no milk. Or no butter. For what’s it worth, if you try to make the boxed version with just water, you get yellow wall paper paste that even our dog wouldn’t eat.

3These items, cauliflower, lima beans and brussel sprouts, are still on the verboten list. Remember Campbell’s Vegetable Soup? I used to spit out the lima beans and pile them all up on the side of the bowl. I did eat 2 baby brussel sprouts earlier this year. Still don’t like ’em.

4Neat site for all things breakfast. If I didn’t think it was criminal to get up before the last possible minute, I’d probably make and eat more breakfast items during the week. Not that I’m about to have an epiphany but this site might convince me to get up earlier, at least on Saturday or Sunday (but not both- baby steps people!).

Mushroom Risotto, v. 12,005,359,359

Down the hatch!

  

One of many variations on a theme but significantly different enough to make me want to post the recipe.   

While on Christmas vacation, Chris and I dined at a place called the Dock Cafe in Stillwater, Minnesota, overlooking the frozen St. Croix River.  It was a total guess and a lucky one in the end. Good food and it was 1/2 price wine night. After much dithering, I went for the wild mushroom risotto with pancetta. It was very good and very filling- I couldn’t get through even half of it especially as I wanted to save a bit of room for dessert.  The nice thing about this risotto was that it was creamy without a lot of added creamy fats like cream, butter and cheese.   

I did not recreate that risotto for dinner tonight but I was inspired by it.  I have made risotto with mushrooms on many previous occasions, hence the post title. I also have a nice mushroom noodle thing with ground meat that shares much in common with this dish.  

Ingredients   

1 cup arborio rice
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3-4 slices bacon, sliced in to lardons (or pancetta, maybe?)
8-10 oz mushrooms, sliced- any kind is fine, I used shiitakes and crimini
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced/pressed
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup apple brandy, from Uncle John’s Winery in St. Johns
1/4 cup shredded cheese blend (parmesan, …)
3 cups broth or water or combination
salt & pepper
olive oil (maybe) 

Directions   

1. Saute bacon in large pan until crispy. Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain. If necessary, drain some fat from pan leaving approximately 1 tablespoon.   

2. Heat broth or water to simmering in a separate pot (or in the microwave like I did)   

3. Add sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and cook over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked down and most of liquid has come out of mushrooms. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.   

4. If necessary, add olive oil or some bacon fat back to pan. This step is only necessary if the pan is pretty dry.   

5. Add onions, celery and garlic to pan, season with salt, pepper and thyme.. Cook until softened and onions have slighltly yellowed.   

6. Add arborio rice and stir to combine. Add apple brandy (or other liquor/wine or even just broth or water) to deglaze pan. Scrape bottom of pan to pick up any tasty bits.   

7. Once most of liquid from step 6 has been absorbed, begin adding 1/2 to 1 cup of broth or water to pan at a time, stirring continously until mostly absorbed then adding more liquid.   

8. Continue adding broth or water until rice reaches desired doneness. Ideally this should be al dente- with a slight bite- but its mostly a matter of personal preference.   

9.  Return mushrooms and bacon pieces to pan along with 1 teaspoon thyme.10. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese blend. This step is also optional but as this is not a very brothy risotto, I think it adds a nice punch while keeping the mix somewhat creamy.  


Okay, true confession time. I almost never stir my risotto constantly as per the usual instructions. I’m usually too busy with cooking the other parts of the meal or running in to the living room to check Facebook (or something else equally important). On the night I made this, I did stir pretty much continously.  

I’m now a convert.

At least when I have the time.  It cooked much faster and actually used less broth than usual.  


 

  • The apple brandy was a fall purchase during a visit for cider and donuts. We sampled the wines, learned that neither of us are big fruit wine people then decided to buy the brandy, mostly for cooking purposes. I was also envisioning making a sangria type thing in the future.  I had only used it once before, for an apple dessert dish that did not turn out, through no fault of the brandy.  Tonight, I used it because primarily because the bottle was already open and I didn’t want to open a bottle of white just for this dish. 
  • The apple flavor was pretty subtle in the end dish but on the whole, it felt more warm than when I make it with wine. A good pairing with the thyme and bacon.

 

  • I updated my Facebook status during the cooking of this dish and received a comment from a friend to stop posting about food because I was making her hungry, even though she’d just ate.  As it happens, she’s a vegetarian and wouldn’t be able to enjoy this particular dish but, her comment did make me think about how to adapt for the non-meat eaters.  I am not a big fan of the fake bacon but if you are vegetarian and like it, then go for it. I would suggest replacing the bacon fat at the beginning with some butter though. Mushrooms cook up better in animal fats than vegetable fats like olive oil, in my opinion. Combining equal parts olive oil and butter would also probably work- I often go that route to saute onions when I’m making plain(er) risotto.  If you are a vegan, you are on your own.

Carrot Mushroom Barley Stew

Or, Mushroom Carrot Barley Stew. Or even Barley Stew with carrots and mushrooms.  Also includes kale, carrots, onions and ginger.

My Christmas Present!

Earlier this week, I tweeted about prepping for a pork stew in the slow cooker. I cut the veggies and combined things in plastic containers so that come morning, Chris could just toss things in, season the pork and set the crockpot on low. I would get home from work around 5 pm which would be the right time to take the pork out and shred it then serve.

It all worked perfectly. But.  But.

It was not tasty. Not at all.

Fatty/greasy broth and you could barely taste the aromatics (allspice and thyme plus garlic and ginger). This recipe was one of several I’d pulled from a copy of Food Network TV magazine. Last Sunday I’d made a chicken chili, using a recipe in an advertisement for crockpots and it was delicious. In fact, I’m going to make it again this week since my slow cooker is small and I had to halve the original recipe so I have extra everything.

But this pork stew was not good. We tried adding salt/pepper. We tried adding various acids to cut the fatty taste. I added fresh herbs. Nope, nada, nothing. I put the whole thing in the fridge as we were going to the movies. Now, its sitting in there, hogging my slow cooker insert with a not very appetizing layer of congealed fat on top. Mocking me.

So…. it was with great apprehension that I went forward with my plan to make this Barley stew tonight. I have been itching to use my new Le Creuset pot, I had all the ingredients and no real purpose for the shiitake mushrooms than this recipe. It was time to bite the bullet.

Now, I’m going to have to make a third recipe from the magazine to break the tie.

This soup was fantastic.

It smelled amazing in the pot, especially when I was toasting the barley and mushrooms.

This smelled divine!

The carrot added some sweetness which was balanced by the earthy mushrooms and just slightly bitter kale. This will defiinitely go on the repeat list.

Carrot-Mushroom Barley Soup

Ingredients

2 cups carrot juice
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup instant barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, including leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 medium carrots, cut in to 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale or mustard greens, leaves torn
1 tablespoon grated ginger
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Bring carrot juice, 3 cups water and mushrooms stems to a boil in a saucepan

2. Heat olive oil and two tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and barley, stirring to coat. Cook approximately 5 minutes, until barley is toasted.

3. Add onion, celery and rosemary, season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add carrots and cook 2 more minutes.

5. Increase heat to high and add half of carrot juice, omitting mushroom stems. Bring to a boil and cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes.

6. Add remaining carrot juice, kale and ginger, stirring to combine. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

7. Stir in remaining two tablespoons butter.

8. Serve!

Notes: Everything took longer than listed but that could just be me being conservative and trying to work out the best temp for my new cast-iron pot.

I added more rosemary, probably doubling to 1/2 teaspoon. I still didn’t notice it being strong in the end product but if you don’t like rosemary, stick with the original.

The recipe indicates this makes 4 servings at 333 calories each. I can’t imagine eating a full one-quarter of the pot-full of soup. Both Chris and I had big bowls and I still divided the rest up in to 3 more containers which felt like a lot of food per person. I also question the nutrition analysis based on this have 4 tablespoons of butter and two of olive oil.

Final Product- Look at those colors!

Ah-ha, I ran this recipe through Nutrition Data’s analyzer and it came back as 495 calories per serving, assuming we divide the total by 4. Thus, the calories listed at 333 are probably right for the size of serving I had and I would call the “serves 4” an error.

This was a great first dish for the Le Creuset- next up will have to be something from the newly arrived Art of French Cooking since Julie & Julia inspired the purchase to begin with.

**Full disclosure: those last two pictures are Photoshopped. I was playing with Actions and that last one, Sunshine, perfectly described how this soup stew tasted to me. Also, it counteracts the high noise levels becuase I was shooting in horrible light and had to boost the ISO.

Good stuff: Chicken, bacon, cream, wine

A week ago Sunday, Chris went to bed complaining of a sore throat. Monday, he was convinced he had strep throat and went to the doctor. Diagnosis: no strep, no swine flu, no regular flu. Most likely a cold. Now, 9 days go by and I’m good, free of illness. I think I’ve won, I’ve dodged the bullet. Tuesday night, I felt a little scratch in my throat. Dang Dang Dang!! I am in the class of employees who get Veteran’s Day off and I had a list of things to do. Not one of which I did. Instead, during my day off yesterday, I watched all the Top Chef episodes from this season minus the two I’d already seen. I laid on the couch and watched people cook some crazy stuff in some crazy environments (3 kinds of ceviche after a night spent sleeping in a teepee in the Nevada desert- really?), occasionally dozing.

Eventually, I made dinner for Chris and I but I was too beat from my hard day of lounging (really, I was exhausted) so he cooked up some boneless pork ribs marinated in chimichurri sauce on the grill while I made rice and some peppers & onions with a slight South American bent thanks to some cilantro and cumin. Then, we sat down to watch the newest episode of Top Chef. The new ep featured Nigella Lawson as guest judge. The quickfire (initial short challenge, for the uninitiated) was focused around the idea of breakfast in bed from room service. I’m not a big breakfast eater but some of those dishes had the potential to turn me around- if someone else were cooking- I’m not in to breakfast because I’m not in to mornings, in general.

The second part of the show was the elimination challenge where each chef had to cook a dish, inspired by a casino in Vegas, for 175 people. Nothing too mind-blowing here and the chef who should have gone home weeks ago finally went home. At the end of the show, we saw a preview for next week- the guest judge is Thomas Keller of the French Laundry- very big deal and all the competition chefs were visibly freaking out. This led to a conversation between Chris and I on who all these people were and I learned that he didn’t know who Nigella Lawson was. Now, Chris doesn’t watch food shows all the time but he likes a certain body type and usually picks up on that instead of one’s cooking ability for TV food celebs. Nigella is right up his alley, especially with her sensuous food talk, lots of oohing over flavors, moaning over aromas, etc.

Cutting to the chase, I brought up her website and while we were talking, I looked at some recipes and found something I thought he’d like, no matter the source. And it used a number of ingredients we had on hand. Upon further review, I ended up making a number of tweaks.

Chicken with mushroom-bacon sauce

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 slices bacon
1/2-3/4 cup creme fraiche
2-3 handfuls shiitake mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups sliced)
2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, one sliced, one diced
3/4 cup white wine (approx)
olive oil

mashed potatoes
steamed peas with tarragon

To begin, fry three slices of bacon (I used thick-cut) in a large saute’ pan. Remove bacon when done, draining on paper towels. Drain most of the fat, leaving just a thin coating on the pan. If you don’t have much fat- well what kind of bacon were you using?!? And, if necessary, add a bit of olive oil to the pan. You will probably have some crunchy bits on the bottom of the pan- leave them there. Add two chicken breasts to the pan. Cook 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.

While chicken is cooking, chop bacon in to small pieces.

After chicken has been removed from pan, add a teaspoon of olive oil, if necessary. Add garlic and rosemary to pan, cooking and stirring frequently until fragrant and garlic is turning golden brown. Add mushrooms, stir to coat then add bacon. Allow to cook until pan begins to dry then add 3/4 cup wine to deglaze. Turn heat to medium-high to bring sauce to boil. Cook until wine is reduced by 2/3. Reduce heat to low and stir in 1/2 cup creme fraiche.

Serve in layers: mashed potatoes then chicken breast then mushroom-bacon sauce. On the side, we had steamed petite peas with just a bit of butter and 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon.


If the ingredients don’t tempt you, the pictures surely will. Except I didn’t take any pictures because I couldn’t find the camera!! Of course, this is the night my plate looked perfect- great presentation with the mushroom sauce draped lovingly over the chicken breast, small amounts of sauce pooling at the bottom, lying on a bed of mashed potatoes with a nice bright green along the side thanks to the peas.

I’ll make this again. Next time, I’d like to cream up the sauce even more. I was using up the creme fraiche we had. I probably would have used more if I’d had it. The advantage of creme fraiche over heavy cream is that the creme fraiche is less likely to curdle on the high heat. You have to be more cautious with heavy cream- turning the heat down before adding and waiting a few minutes for security.

Mushroom-Sage Sauce & Squash Risotto

We are in the midst of moving right now (literally, thinks to scheduled posting). Due to my work schedule, size of some of our furniture and general laziness, we hire movers from Two Men and a Truck and they are doing the heavy lifting this afternoon. This will be my 4th move with them since March 2007 and the fifth between Chris and I- how about a volume discount.

For me, using Two Men became a necessity after moving myself (with my parents & aunt’s help) in to a 2nd floor apartment in Charlotte: the building was 120 years old and the 2nd floor was 27 steps up. And it poured rain that day- there might have even been a tornado that night. I immediately started saving money aside for my next move so I could hire movers and I did just that a short 6 months later thanks to my hard-partying, drug-dealing upstairs neighbor. Meeting Chris and moving in with him was a wonderful thing but it also meant that most of my stuff went to storage while we finished out his lease in a 1 bedroom apartment. Our current place, while 2 bed/2 bath was still not big enough for both our belongings and things like my washer/dryer were not needed. Finally, after the dog came to live with us in July, it became glaringly obvious that we needed more room and a place with space to store things rather than pay the storage company another 100 bucks a month.

Our new house, while still a rental, is awesome. Its not huge but we have 3 bedrooms: one for us, one for guests and one as an office/craft room (for me, Chris is not a scrapbooker). A bigger kitchen, a great view of the 10 acres inhabited by deer, wild turkey and something I heard running around in the trees last night. Oh yeah, and a garden tub in the master bath plus, drumroll please: a gas stove!!!

To save time (and money) with the movers, we have been taking boxes of things over to the house, a bit at a time, since October 1. As of Thursday morning, we had the pots and pans, some utensils and most of the dishware in the house. But other than pantry foods, we hadn’t moved or bought any edibles. With Chris’s brother in town, eating out was an opportunity/excuse to eat out but that was getting expensive. So, last night, Chris bought some chicken, squash and beans before calling me on my drive home from work to ask if I “wanted” to come to the house and cook dinner. As soon as he mentioned squash, I knew he wanted the risotto so I sent him out for broth while I stopped at the apartment to load another box with things like butter, olive oil and the like. While at the apartment, I did a quick search for some kind of sauce for the chicken as I didn’t have time to marinate nor did I feel like doing the whole breadcrumbs thing.

Over at Elise’s blog, I found a recipe for Mushroom Sage Sauce. Simply Recipes is one of my go-to websites although I often end up varying from her original based on what’s on hand. While you are there, check out the pictures of her parents’ new kitchen. I’m definitely saving those links for some future reference (I hope).

As per usual, I varied but did use the main elements from this Mushroom Sage sauce recipe. I probably would have been slightly more faithful except I didn’t write anything down and did not have access to the recipe once I got to the house.

Original Ingredients
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
8-10 ounces mushrooms, cremini or shitake, thickly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (light cream may curdle, so use heavy cream)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pieces pounded to an even 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thickness
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

I only had 1/2 package of mushrooms and no parsley. I did have creme fraiche but didn’t use it here because I forgot. With less mushrooms, I used less sage, about 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped. To add liquid, I used some of the extra broth from the risotto and then swirled in one tablespoon butter at the end.

In Elise’s version, she cooked the mushroom sauce separate from the chicken. Since I already had a burner going to simmer the broth and another for the risotto, I opted to cook the chicken first, hold it warm in the oven and prepare the sauce using any pan drippings/fond to add more flavor.

Basics:

1. Season chicken with salt, pepper and seasonings of your choice. While in Vermont, we bought some Maple Pepper with Garlic so I used that (just like it sounds, pepper with maple sugar and garlic).

2. Heat pan over medium-high heat with olive oil. Saute chicken breasts until light golden, about 5 minutes per side.

3. Remove from pan, cover to keep warm.

4. Add chopped shallots and garlic to pan, plus a little more oil if the pan is a bit dry. Cook about 1 minute then add mushrooms. Allow mushrooms to soften and release their juices. Add 1/2 cup wine to pan to deglaze.

5. Add about 1 cup broth to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until slightly reduced. Just before serving add 1 tablespoon butter to thicken sauce.

 


 

To accompany the chicken with mushroom sauce, I made the squash risotto which Chris loves so much. This time, I used some butternut squash from the freezer. Chris had bought me a squash- the biggest butternut squash I’ve ever seen. Peeling and chopping that sucker is going to take some time so I was quite happy to have my freezer stash for last night!!

For this version, I used Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc which was on sale at Horrocks and received 90 points from Wine Spectator. Seasonings were sage, thyme and a little cayenne (to counter the sweet squash). I also used about 1/3 cup of Creme Fraiche instead of butter at the end. For cheese, I had picked up of chunk of their special of the week: a really nutty, easily grateable variety from D&W in Williamston last weekend. Fresh sage at the end really added to the “oomph” factor and made the whole house smell delicious!

Both boys went back for seconds so its still a hit.