How to spend a day in France without breaching your quarantine

A beginner’s guide to French cuisine — simple enough for us University students stuck at home to master

mushroomquiche

This is a vegetarian-friendly, mushroom quiche variant of the quiche Lorraine recipe featured in the article. 

Lindsay Smith | Cavalier Daily

While the world is shut down for the next few weeks as coronavirus quarantines take over the social sphere, travel abroad is impossible. But fear not — in the midst of taking care of the health and safety of yourself and your neighbors, there is still a way to treat yourself to a couple bites of delicious French cuisine.

I lived in France last fall, and my diet consisted of bread, cheese and — you guessed it — wine. There was, however, one additional item that rounded out my meals and added some nutritious value to the stereotypical fare — eggs. Specifically, copious amounts of quiche. This was something I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner with no complaints. 

To answer the question I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves now, quiche is basically an egg pie. Its two elements are the crust and the filling, and it can go very right — picture a delicious, flaky buttery crust with soft but not mushy egg in the middle, something that warms your tummy at breakfast and fills it at dinner — or very, very wrong. I have eaten some bad quiches in my day, and the dense, mushy things really explain why some French people use the word “quiche” to describe someone who is idiotic rather than idyllic.

So, I have decided to share a recipe for the best kind of quiche out there — quiche Lorraine, which is just plain quiche with bits of ham and tons of cheese mixed in. If you are a vegetarian, substituting chopped grilled peppers, grilled tomato and grilled onion for the ham is possible. You could even be adventurous and try leeks inside, something I saw in many a Boulangerie. If you happen to be vegan, quiche probably is not the way to go.

The recipe that I’m sharing comes from The Spruce Eats, a comprehensive food blog that has recipes for just about everything, but I added my recommendations for substitutions based on my experiences in France. However, these are nothing more than recommendations — these are just culinary preferences I noticed abroad that I really liked, but they might not be appealing to other people’s palettes. 

Prep Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 to 50 minutes

While you keep your distance from others in the grocery store, there are only a few ingredients you will need to pick up. In all seriousness, this is a very important time to stay safe and stay home — so please, make your grocery visits as efficient as possible by reviewing this list before you head to the store.

Ingredients:

1 pre-made pie pastry dough

4 slices chopped and cooked bacon

4 eggs

1 cup half-and-half or 1 ¼ cup creme fraiche 

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon pepper

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Instructions:

  1. Let’s start at the beginning. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease a pie or tart tin with butter, Pam spray or whatever non-stick solution you generally use. Then unwrap your premade dough — I like the Pillsbury Pie Crusts, but you can use anything — and lay it in your tin. Spread it out so it covers the whole tin, then leave it to vibe on the side. If you make your own dough — which I never do — the recipe from Spruce Eats suggests that you rest your tin with the dough in the fridge for about half an hour. 
  3. Sprinkle your bacon — or, if you really want to be French, you can use lardon or diced pork belly — in the bottom of the tin. This is the base of the dish, both literally and figuratively, so make sure it’s the kind of bacon you like and that it’s cooked before it goes into the quiche.
  4. In one bowl, beat the eggs, half-and-half, salt, pepper and nutmeg together. While this recipe calls for four eggs, I prefer my quiche with two. I also prefer using a cup and a quarter of creme fraiche — sour cream — to using a cup of half & half. These are personal preferences, but what is a food article by The Cavalier Daily supposed to be if not personal and preferential?
  5. Pour in your fillings and sprinkle your grated cheese over the top. In America, you would be hard pressed to find a quiche without cheese, but in France, few of the many — many — quiches I ate had cheese inside. In this instance, I side with the recipe. The cheese is an important and delicious component of the dish.
  6. Bake your quiche. This recipe calls for 45 to 50 minutes in the oven, but if you use my substitutions — fewer eggs and creme fraiche instead of half-and-half — you can start checking at 20 to 25 minutes to see if it has begun to brown. Once it looks nice and golden, and no runny egg is spilling out when you move it, you can take your quiche out.
  7. It is important to note that the quiche will continue to cook slightly even after it comes out, so don’t let it get too crisp in the oven. But, you want your quiche to be safe to eat, so don’t take it out too soon. A soft, “fluffy and neither rock hard nor drippy” consistency for the filling and a flaky, crumbly pastry that hasn’t been burned is the ultimate goal.
  8. Don’t cut into your quiche right away. Leave it a few minutes to cool down once it’s out of the oven, and then — finally — you can cut it into quarters or eighths to serve. You might want to make two because trust me — this baby will go fast.

The recipe and my experience abroad both dictate that this should be served with a fresh green salad. A salad complimented with a dijon mustard and vinegar base would be the most French, but I know intimately the annoyances of eating salad with dressing that isn’t to my taste. So while I personally recommend the French vinaigrette, feel free to dress your lettuce however you think best.

I hope this brings a little bit of European delight into your homes this quarantine season. I also hope those of you who go through the trouble to cook this up eat it with a glass of red wine under candlelight while wearing berets and practicing your French. Why? Because the best way to enjoy this dish is to fully dive into its stereotypical French nature. Stay safe and stay healthy, et bonne chance et bonne cuisine.

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