And what better place to look for a solution than in my favorite cookbook of all time, Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"?
My wife suggested making a quiche. Now, I've never made quiche before but what the hell. Cooking is fun and I'm pretty good at it. Using recipes from this cookbook is always an adventure. I know I'll learn something, some technique that I can use in all sorts of other recipes. Turns out that this time I learned how to make a great pastry shell.
My first challenge, or stumbling block, was the need for a French pastry ring. You see, the quiche is cooked in a shell that is free standing, not sitting in a pie pan like most of us would do it. So I had to make the dough and form it into a bottomless ring that could be removed after the shell was pre-baked. We have spring form pans but they were too tall. The book said I needed something about 1 1/2 inches tall. Rooting around in the cabinets led me to the old reliable throw away cake pans. You know, the aluminum foil dealies you buy at the grocery store. They were the right size but the bottoms were not removable.
No problem. Went out to the shop, grabbed a utility knife out of my tool belt and made myself a "French pastry ring" - Missouri style!
It worked just fine. I'm going to get a real one though, or at least a real something that'll do the job. I don't want to have to make one every time I do this.
So I followed the recipe. The only change I made was substituting lard for shortening. We render our own lard and never use shortening for anything. It worked just fine. My guess is that it probably tasted better with the lard. And the crust was really flaky, something else I'd attribute to the piggy fat.
And this is how the pastry shell looked after it was pre-baked.
Pretty cool, aye? It turned out better than I thought it would. I've been messing around with dough quite a bit lately so I think I've gotten a pretty good feel for it. That definitely helped.
I made the custard as the recipe described it. I got out some of the bacon I cured last winter and simmered it in water for five minutes. This seems to be a fairly standard thing in her recipes. It takes the salt out. And you know what? When everything is said and done there's always plenty of saltiness. I've learned that, unlike most other cookbooks I use, I don't want to tamper with her basic recipes.
I fried the bacon until it was crisp, drained it and put it in the bottom of the shell. Then I put in some Provel cheese (that's a cheese peculiar to St. Louis that's used on pizza) and poured the custard on top to within about a a 1/4" of the top of the shell.
I popped it in the oven on a buttered cookie sheet and cooked it for about a half hour or so.
And here it is.
I don't think I've ever had quiche like this before. Because it's filled with a cream and egg custard it was exceptionally smooth and thick in the middle. There wasn't any lumps of eggs or anything. Just creamy , cheesy goodness with bits of bacon dispersed through it. And the crust. The crust was buttery and flaky, like the kind of thing I've had at good French bakeries. It was crispy and tender. Perfect.
I'll post a video below from Julia Child's old PBS cooking show describing the process and recipe. It varies just slightly from the book so I'd recommend buying the book if you're going to make this. Besides, if you like to cook this book will teach you how to do it right.