Invited to a French-themed dinner party where the main event was duck l’orange and another guest had already volunteered the potato gratin, I volunteered a truffled quiche. Seemed fancy. Seemed hearty. Seemed appropriate. The thing is, I had never made a quiche. I don’t even really like quiche.
But then I saw a promising recipe on Food & Wine. It mentioned “silky custard” and “several inches high” which are the circumstances that apply when I do find myself enjoying a quiche. And once I had already obtained ingredients, I realized on a closer look that I had picked a Thomas Keller recipe. You know, he of that little-known hole-in-the-wall THE FRENCH LAUNDRY.
Perhaps I should have applied slightly more common sense at this stage. For instance, going to Whole Foods and buying a quiche. However: I did not. (In my defense, since I’m pretty comfortable with pastry and had the entire day to work, I figured I could take it slow and get it right, because apparently I have never met myself?!)
So here’s the deal, folks. Quiche is hard.
- Make a crust with so much butter you actually lie about it to people.
Note: I did like Keller’s unorthodox stand mixer method for mixing the dough. I was dubious but stuck with it and will be using it in the future.
- Let it rest in the fridge and then let it come back up to rolling temperature. Pretend like you knew this would take about 2 hours.
- Par-bake this crust, which is several inches high, until it is golden brown.
- Check it halfway through and realize that you only put in half an inch of pie weights so your crust is toppling and shrunken, hahahaha no problem you’re only three hours behind on your schedule!
- Do ignore the fact that your kludgy crust-fixes will likely not work, and think gamely to yourself, “The top edges will be sliced off anyway!”
- Slice up and cook, like, a lot of mushrooms. A lot. And some shallots.
- Make sure you use butter for this stage because you have not used enough butter yet.
Let the mushroom mix coolIn a panic, scatter the still super-hot mushroom mix over the pre-baked crust.
- Right! There should be cheese in this! Go find some and grate that s**t right in there.
- Make the first half of the egg-and-milk mixture for your custard and definitely do what I did and mix up the proportions so that then you have to retroactively mix in more milk to the sloppy mess already in the crust, carefully, with a whisk, while crying.
- Assure yourself that this is for sure what Thomas Keller does when he makes quiche.
- Scatter the rest of your thankfully delicious mushroom mixture on top of the mess you just made. Top with the second half of the custard.
- Watch the custard spill out onto the baking tray through the gaps in the crust that your kludgy fixes (see Step 3.2, above) failed to adequately stop. Crying more is okay at this stage, but personally, I recommend healthy, loud, really offensive cursing. Kick something!
- Figure you might as well bake it before throwing it away, and while it’s in the oven you can put on clothes that aren’t covered in flour and butter. Remember that dinner party you’re going to in–oh god it’s in an hour—-
- Assess the amount of cold coffee left in your cup, add an equal amount of Kahlua, and absolutely under no circumstances look over at the clock.
- Check the quiche a bit early. Experience the actual miracle of it being done! Be grateful for your friends making soothing noises at you. Transfer it to a pan not coated in a horrifying mess of custard spillover, pack it up for the ride to dinner, and hope for the best.
Turns out this tasted lovely. The bottom layer of custard did not set correctly, presumably due to my frenzied attempts to fix my proportion mistake, but it wasn’t too bad. And the top layer was in fact supremely silky and light despite having partially drained out the sides.
Keller’s method of layering the cooked ingredients and the custard layers did result in a beautiful distribution of mushrooms throughout the quiche. My black truffle salt and white truffle oil additions turned out to be right on the nose–not overwhelming (I thought) while still prominent. The par-baked crust stayed crispy and flaky and was nearly good enough to make one overlook its hideous aspect.
All in all, I was glad I hadn’t chucked this in the trash when steps 1-All of Them went wrong. A lesson in learning to love the imperfect.