April 22, 2017

Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Quiche

Since the Dane County Farmers' Market is back in full force, my weekends have transformed from midterm studying frenzies to exploring the market, overdosing on brunch, and ignoring the fact that finals are just two weeks away. A lot of my cooking has turned to using fresh farmers market finds to feed my brunch addiction, like using local mushrooms and herbs to make a velvety quiche cradled in a flaky, buttery crust.

My family always hesitates when I say I want to make a quiche because to them a quiche is a pie crust full of cream with enough egg to bind it together. If the idea of a rich, decadent quiche is getting in the way of your summer bod goals, don't worry; this quiche isn't nearly as bad for you as you'd expect. What I tell myself is that it's mostly eggs with enough half and half to make it creamy (not straight up cream like a lot of quiche recipes), and it's loaded with any vegetable you want. You could make this thing half vegetable and it would still be delicious.

For this particular quiche, I went with mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacon, and (of course) cheese. I just picked up a bunch of ramps from the farmers' market earlier, and those would be fantastic as well. You can use this recipe as a base for all your favorite in-season vegetables (try adding some zucchini and yellow squash once they're in season in a few weeks) or adapt it to your taste and/or pantry.

I kick things off with a big skillet of bacon. Even if you just add in a handful of crumbled bacon at the end (or none at all), cooking the vegetables in the bacon fat adds an extra hit of salty and savory flavor. The mushrooms soak up all that goodness, and I throw in some garlic, fresh thyme, and any other fresh herbs I happen to have on hand. Since the quiche is going to be cooked for a while in the oven, you technically don't have to cook everything through here, but it's best to evaporate off as much moisture as possible from the mushrooms so they don't leach all their water into the quiche. You worked hard to make a velvety quiche that sets up perfectly, so don't ruin it with extra water from the vegetables.

I caramelize the onions separately; it's a pretty easy process that just takes a while so I tend to make way more than I need and use it for other recipes like burgers, focacciapizza, savory tarts, or steaks. It's the same amount of effort whether you cook one small onion or a whole farm. Well, maybe not. Anyway, all you have to do is throw some thinly-sliced onions into a big skillet with a little bit of butter and oil and let it cook for as long as you can stand it. I throw in a pinch of sugar and a pinch of baking soda at the end to add an extra smidge of sweetness and a deeper color, but it's a pretty simple process for such a tasty ingredient.

When I made this recipe, I was feeling a bit lazy and just did my regular pie crust. However, it's easy to upgrade it by throwing in some extra cheese. A gruyere crust would be fantastic here, or you can use any of your other favorite cheeses. There's also more cheese in the quiche itself, so I'd pair it carefully so you can still taste the other components. Either stick with the same cheese or do one mild melty cheese in the quiche and one flavorful one in the crust, but definitely don't do two separate pungent cheeses.

Once you have all the components prepped, it's pretty easy from there. I keep my pie crust chilled to keep it flaky, and there's no need to pre-bake it since it's in the oven long enough and I haven't had any problems with sogginess yet. I combine the eggs, half and half, and all my cheese, bacon, and vegetables before pouring into the crust so it's evenly distributed. It gets baked for about 45 minutes, so you may need a pie crust shield to prevent burning, but I found that mine was just on the upper edge of perfectly golden brown. You'll need to be a bit more careful if you add cheese to the crust, though. This quiche is rich enough to hold its own in a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or breakfast for dinner, or you can throw together a quick side salad to bulk it up a bit. This is one of my favorite recipes to use up farmers market produce; it's so versatile and so simple but can easily be dressed up to impress all your brunch guests.

1 Recipe Savory Pie Crust (See Below)
2 Sweet Onions, Sliced Thinly
1 T Butter
1/4 lb Bacon
1 lb Mushrooms
3 Sprigs Thyme
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
5 Eggs
1 Cup Half and Half
1 Cup Shredded Cheese (i.e. Mozzarella or Gruyere; something melty)

Press the pie dough into a greased 9" pie plate and chill until firm.

Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook on low heat for 2+ hours or until caramelized, adding sugar and/or a pinch of baking soda as desired. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Heat oven to 400F.

Heat another large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove, leaving the fat in the pan, and dice.

Cook the mushrooms, thyme, and garlic in the bacon fat for 8 minutes or until the mushrooms lose most of their moisture, cooking in batches if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Whisk the eggs, half and half, cheese, 1/2 cup onions (or more to taste), the mushrooms, and the bacon. Pour into the pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until just set and the crust is golden, covering the crust as necessary.

Pie Crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add 1 stick of chilled and cubed butter (and 1/2 cup shredded hard cheese, if desired) and pulse until small lumps remain, then drizzle in cold water until it clumps together.
Pie Crust Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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