Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Caramelized Onion and Sausage Quiche

Since I haven't really cooked in a while,  I decided I needed a project.  This turned out to be a fun one, especially since it was my First Adventure With Pie Crust.  Mmm.  Crust.

There is definitely nothing healthy about this (eggs?  butter?  milk?  cheese?  sausage?  all here?  okay, we can start class).  But if you can use local ingredients, it veers slightly off the highway to the danger zone.  You really get what you pay for with standard factory-farmed supermarket eggs.  The hens that laid those eggs are fed a steady diet of grain, which they didn't evolve to eat, and the same is true of industrially-farmed meat.  That diet affects the egg and meat quality, meaning runny whites, pallid yolks, and fatty cuts.  Buying from local farmers, who generally graze animals for most, if not all, of the animals' lives, ensures that the meat and eggs you're eating have more to offer than cholesterol.  Free-range eggs and meat are also super-high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which would be on the current cover of Nutrient Vogue, if nutrients vogued. 

Here, I used eggs from Flora at Bluebird Farms (thanks to Aaron for hosting another successful market!  It grows a little more each week, which is encouraging), West Wind Farms beef kielbasa, swiss cheese from Fino's at the Gilmore, and some Florida Sweet onions my mom sent me (merci maman!).

This has a lot of steps, but don't get discouraged, because it is so worth it.

Caramelized Onion and Sausage Quiche
From The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Pie Crust
1/4 cup ice cold water
1 cup AP flour
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

Quiche part
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
big pinch of dried thyme
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
pinch of cayenne pepper

To make the pie crust
Mix together the flour and salt, and cut or work the butter into the flour with your fingers.  The goal is to have some pea-sized pieces and some larger pieces.  The key is to use very cold (but not frozen) butter, so the dough stays firm and pliable.  This should take about 1-2 minutes.  Pour in most of the water a little at a time, stirring all the while until the dough begins to form clumps.  Keep adding water if needed.  Bring the dough together in a ball and wrap in plastic.  Stick it in the fridge for at least an hour.  To save time, you could do this the night before.

To make the quiche
Flour a work space on the counter and roll out your dough.  Line a pie pan with the dough and fold in the edges to make double-thick sides.  Press the sides in well and prick the bottom all over with a fork.  Back in the fridge it goes for about an hour.  But don't sit down!  Get to work on the other stuff!

Cook your sausage over medium heat in a skillet; when almost all the way cooked through, remove from heat, cut up into little pieces and drain on a paper towel.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet.  When melted, add in the onions.  You want to cook them very very slowly.  So leave 'em over medium heat, go read some stuff about landlords and tenants, and check back in and give 'em a stir every 5 minutes or so.  They should be nice and golden after about 20-30 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme.

Okay, is the pie crust cold yet?  Take it out of the fridge!  Heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line your crust shell with a piece of foil (or parchment paper), and then fill in the space with a layer of dried beans.  This, Alice tells me, is called a pie weight, and will keep the dough from shrinking.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until it just starts to brown around the edges.  Take out the crust and remove the foil/beans (you can save the beans to use again, but no cooking with them).  Return the crust to the oven and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until it's an even browned color.

While all of that is happening in the oven, mix together the milk, the eggs, yolks, cheese, salt and pepper and cayenne.  Then once the crust is ready, line the bottom with the sausage, layer over with the onions, and pour the egg mixture on top of all that.  Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is puffed and golden brown.

Then it's time to om-nom-nom!  Just be forewarned, if you take this to your office/school for lunch, people you don't even know will stop to say, "That smells so good!"  And it does.

Oh, perhaps enjoy with something to remind you that yes, spring is on its way?

This was worth the effort.  It is sweet, nutty, earthy, basically all-around delish.  So get busy and make one!

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