Thomas Keller, chef-proprieter of Napa Valley's French Laundry, is passionate about bistro cooking. He believes fervently that the real art of cooking lies in elevating to excellence the simplest ingredients; that bistro cooking embodies at once a culinary ethos of generosity, economy, and simplicity; that the techniques at its foundation are profound, and the recipes at its heart have a powerful ability to nourish and please. So enamoured is he of this older, more casual type of cooking that he opened the restaurant Bouchon, right next door to the French Laundry, so he could satisfy a craving for a perfectly made quiche. Quiche Lorraine or as Chef Thomas Keller calls quiche, "the sexiest pie", is an immensely important subject to Chef Keller. In his enormous and lavishly produced cookbook 'Bouchon', there are no less than 11 pages dedicated to making the perfect quiche with detailed explanations for the importance of each step. Named for the region of Lorraine in northeastern France, there are various versions of Quiche Lorraine, the most basic of which being just eggs, pancetta, milk and cream. The addition of onion confit and Comté cheese are just some of Keller's decadent adaptations which are absolute magic because the flavours complement each other so deliciously well. "I love quiche, but it has to be several inches high and made right," says chef Keller. Quiche, when done right, is a thoroughly luxurious experience — eggy, cheesy, creamy, fluffy, and rich.
American restauranteur and cookbook author, Chef Thomas Keller
Covered with parchment, the onion confit is slowly cooked in butter with a bouquet garni
on low heat for 2 hours, until exquisitely soft
One pound of pancetta
The pancetta is sliced into lardons
Baked at 375°F for 25 minutes
The onion confit and pancetta are combined with fresh thyme and warmed on
medium heat for 3-4 minutes
The pastry is set within a greased springform pan and chilled for 20 minutes
Raw beans are poured into the pan to keep the pastry from puffing up,
and then baked at 375°F for 35-45 minutes
Once the pastry is baked, the beans are removed
The quiche filling is poured into the cooked pastry shell and baked at 325°F for about 1 1/2 hours
The quiche is done when the top of the quiche is browned and the custard is set
when the pan is jiggled
The excess pastry is trimmed away along the edge and the quiche must be chilled slightly before serving, to allow the custard to set completely
Recipe courtesy of Chef Tomas Keller
About 2 1/2 pounds (2 to 3 large) Spanish onions
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 or 3 pieces dark green out leek leaves (6 to 7 inches long), washed
8 thyme sprigs
2 Italian parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
For the Pastry Shell:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp sea salt
8 tbsp butter, unsalted, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
Canola oil to oil the pan
For the Batter:
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp sea salt
1/4 tsp white pepper, freshly ground
6 gratings fresh nutmeg
For the Filling:
1 lb pancetta cut into 3/8-inch lardons
2 cups onion confit
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 cup Comte or Gruyère cheese
Cut off the tops and bottoms of the onions and cut the onions lengthwise in half. Remove the peel and outer layers. Cut a V wedge in the bottom of each half to remove the core and pull out any solid flat pieces from the center.
Lay and onion half cut side down on a cutting board with the root end toward you. There are lines on the outside of the onion; cut along these lines which are the grain, rather than against them to help the onions soften more quickly. Holding the knife almost parallel to the board, slice the onion lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, following the lines of the onion. Once you cut past the center of the onion, the knife angle will become awkward: Flip the onion onto its side (toward the knife), return the knife to the original position, and finish cutting the onion. Separate the slices of onion, trimming away any root sections that are still attached. Repeat with the remaining onions. (You should have about 8 cups of onions.)
To make a bouquet garni: Lay out 1 leek green. Place the herbs and peppercorns on top and wrap in the remaining leaf or leaves to forma circular bundle; tie securely with kitchen twine in at least three spots.
Warm 1/4 cup of water in a large pot over low heat. Add the butter and whisky gently to melt. Add the onions, salt, and bouquet garni, stir to combine, and place a parchment lid on top, pressing it against the onions. Cook very slowly, stirring the onions every 20 to 30 minutes at first, more often toward the end of cooking, for about 2 hours. The onions will wilt and steam will rise, but they should not brown. Check the onions after about 30 minutes: If they seem lost in the pot, transfer to a smaller pot and cut down the parchment lid to fit. If there is a lot of liquid remaining at this point, you can turn up the heat slightly to cook a bit more rapidly.
After about 2 hours, the onions will have softened but should not be falling apart; there still may be liquid left in the pot. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Let the onions cool in their liquid. Transfer the onions, with their liquid, to a plastic container and refrigerate for up to a week. Drain the confit before using.
BASIC QUICHE SHELL
Place 1 cup of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the butter a small handful at a time. When all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium and mix until the butter is completely blended with the flour. Reduce the speed, add the remaining flour, and mix just to combine. Add the water and mix until incorporated. The dough will come around the paddle and should feel smooth, not sticky, to the touch.
Remove the dough from the mixer and check to be certain that there are no visible pieces of butter remaining; if necessary, return the dough to the mixer and mix briefly again. Pat the dough into a 7- to 8-inch disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to a day. (If the dough does not rest, it will shrink as it bakes.)
Lightly brush the inside of a 9-by-2-inch-hgh ring mold with canola oil and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place the dough on a floured work surface and rub on all sides with flour. Flatten it into a larger circle using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand. Roll the rolling pin back and forth across the dough a few times, then turn it 90 degrees and roll again. Continue to turn and roll until the dough is 3/16 inch thick and about 14 inches in diameter. (If the kitchen is hot and the dough has become very soft, move it to a baking sheet and refrigerate for a few minutes.
To lift the dough into the ring, place the rolling pin across the dough about one-quarter of the way up from the bottom edge, fold the bottom edge of dough up and over the pin, and roll the dough up on the rolling pin. Lift the dough on the pin, hold it over the top edge of the ring and unroll the dough over the mold, centering it. Carefully lower the dough into the ring, pressing it gently against the sides and into the bottom corners of the ring. Trim any dough that extends more than an inch over the sides of the mold and reserve the scraps. Fold the excess dough over against the outside of the ring. (Preparing the quiche shell this way will prevent it from shrinking down the sides as it bakes. The excess dough will be removed after the quiche is baked.) Carefully check for any cracks or holes in the dough, and patch with the reserved dough as necessary. Place in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 20 minutes to resolidify the butter. Reserve the remaining dough scraps.
Put a rack set in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 deg.F.
Line the quiche shell with a 16-inch round of parchment. Fill the shell with pie weights or dried beans, gently guiding the weights into the corners of the shell and filling the shell completely.
Bake the shell for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the edges of the dough are lightly browned but the bottom is still light in color.
Carefully remove the parchment and weights. Check the dough for any new cracks or holes and patch with the thin pieces of the reserved dough if necessary. Return the shell to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bottom is a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the shell to cool completely on the baking sheet. Once again, check the dough for any cracks or holes, and patch if necessary before filling with the quiche batter.
BASIC QUICHE BATTER
Combine the milk and cream in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until scalded (meaning a skin begins to form on the surface). Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before continuing.
Put 3 eggs, half the milk and cream mixture, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/8 teaspoon white pepper, and 3 gratings of nutmeg in a blender and blend in low speed for a few seconds to combine the ingredients. Increase the speed to high and blend for 30 seconds to minute, or until the batter is light and foamy.
This is the first layer of the quiche. Once you have assembled it, add the remaining ingredients to the blender and repeat the process to complete the quiche.
Put a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the sliced pancetta on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it has rendered its fat; the pancetta will not be crisp at this point. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
Combine the onion confit and cooked pancetta in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Season with the salt, pepper, and fresh thyme, then stir together until warm, about 3 to 4 minutes, then drain on paper towels.
MAKING THE QUICHE
Scatter 1/4 cup of the cheese and half the onion mixture evenly into the cooled quiche shell (still on the baking sheet). Blend the quiche batter again to aerate it, then pour in enough of the batter to cover the ingredients and fill the quiche shell approximately halfway. Top the batter with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the remaining onion mixture. Blend the remaining batter and fill the quiche shell all the way to the top. (If you don't have a very steady hand, you might spill some of the batter on the way to the oven; fill the shell most of the way, then pour the final amount of batter on top once the quiche is on the oven rack.)
Bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, or until the top of the quiche is browned and the custard is set when the pan is jiggled. Remove the quiche from the oven and let cool to room temperature on a rack. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 1 day, or up to 3 days.
Once the quiche is thoroughly chilled, using a metal bench scraper or a sharp knife, scrape away the excess crust from the top edge. Tilt the ring on its side, with the bottom of the quiche facing you, and run a small paring knife between the crust and the ring to release the quiche. Set the quiche down and carefully lift off the ring. Return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Using a long serrated knife and supporting the sides of the crust, carefully cut through the edge of the crust in a sawing motion. Switch to a long slicing knife and cut through the custard and bottom crust. Repeat, cutting the quiche into 8 pieces. If you like, place the pieces on the baking sheet and reheat at 325°F for 15 minutes, or until hot throughout.
Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller