Monday, June 5, 2017

Birthday Brunch & Picnic

     Somehow, both my daughter and granddaughter have managed to each have multiple birthday celebrations this year: family dinners, small celebrations, a couple of parties, and this final one for 2017, which was a birthday brunch picnic. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies, lots of sun, and temperature in the low 80s. There was a tent, a covered porch, and shade trees for those of us who don't tolerate sun well, but plenty of sun for those who do. Badminton, croquet, trampoline-jumping accompanied good friends and great conversations.
     My son-in-law bartended and made us all Bloody Mary's, Mimosas, and Blue Drinks. We had juice, lemonade, water, and the most delicious Hibiscus Tea Lemonade to quench our thirst. For food, we had a buffet brunch with pork link sausages, mushroom-stuffed mushrooms, chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes, chicken salad, wilted cucumbers, heirloom cherry tomatoes, olives, a cheese plate, assorted crackers, grapes, and a strawberry raspberry compote. There was pumpkin bread and a cardamom coffee cake - which disappeared very quickly! A couple people spotted the crumbs and asked if we had any more hiding in the kitchen. We also made 6 different quiches and those will be the recipes for today's blog.
     For our brunch, the 6 quiches we served were:
          Broccoli and Almond                                  Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes
          Ham and Swiss Cheese                               4 Cheeses and Fresh Herbs
          Sausage, Green Chiles, and Cheese            Caramelized Onion and Red Bell Pepper
The finished quiches are pictured at the end of this blog.

The Basics of Quiche

The Crust
     You cane make your 8 or 9 inch pie crust with your favorite recipe, or you can buy refrigerated pie dough, or even frozen pie crusts. For our party, we expected quite a few people who eat gluten-free, so we purchased frozen gluten-free pie crusts from the King Soopers Grocery store's frozen specialty freezer. We decided to make all quiches gluten-free and to instead concentrate on various type of fillings. We like to bake our pie crusts for 15 - 20 minutes in a 350º oven before we fill the pies. It's not absolutely necessary, and I've made lots of quiches without pre-baking the crust, but there's less chance of an underdone, soggy crust if you pre-bake. If you do decide to pre-bake, don't forget to pierce the crust with a fork a couple of times before baking so it doesn't puff up.

The Eggy Filling or Custard
     The filling that makes everything stick together and makes your dish a quiche is very easy to make. I use the basic proportion of 4 large eggs to 1 cup of milk. This amount is perfect for an 8" quiche with about 1 1/2 cups of filling. For a larger crust, add another egg and 1/4 cup of milk. And a note about milk: you can use milk, Half 'n' Half, heavy cream, or some combination of these. The cream, of course, will make a richer quiche (and added calories and fat), but they all work well. To make it easy, use a 2 cup measuring cup, pour in the milk/cream to the 1 cup level, add the eggs, and whisk until well-combined.

The Rest of the Filling
     Almost any type of vegetable you can think of works well in a quiche. Think of the ones you like, think of their textures and colors, and I don't think you can go wrong. Sometimes I like to pre-cook the vegetables such as potatoes, celery, rutabagas, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, beets, etc. They wouldn't cook enough during baking and would end up being too crunchy in your finished quiche. I also like to sauté some vegetables as that changes the flavor. Here I'm thinking of onions, cabbage, and the like. But you could certainly use raw scallions, onions, minced garlic, if you like that stronger flavor. Some vegetables, such as diced bell peppers and tiny broccoli florets, sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes, canned green chiles, and so on really don't need to be pre-cooked. Mostly, it's going to depend on how soft or crispy you like your vegetables or if you like the cooked flavor versus the uncooked flavors and textures.
     I like to put meats in my quiche sometimes. Cooked pork sausage, bacon, and ham - traditional breakfast meats - tend to work very well, but don't forget about shredded cooked chicken, turkey, pork, or beef. I also enjoy cooked shrimp and lobster and you can certainly experiment with other types of seafood or fish. Really - quiche fillings are totally dependent on your personal preferences.

The Cheese, etc.
     I think that any type of cheese that melts is delicious in a quiche. Not only does cheese add flavor, but it also adds to the richness and texture of your quiche. Depending on what else I'k adding to the quiche, I tend to like cheddar, Colby, jack and related cheeses such as Colby, pepper-jack, and the like. Sometimes I use a Mexican Cheese shredded blend. I also like the Italian Cheese shredded blend with asiago, mozzarella, parmesan cheeses, I also like Swiss cheese, but instead of shredding it, I cut slices into tiny squares and distribute them on top of other fillings. Don't forget your very soft cheeses such as cream cheese, ricotta, and cottage cheese. In the cheese category, I also think of dairy sour cream and plain yogurt which all add richness to the quiche.

Pre-bake the crust for 15 - 20 minutes at 350º. Place the cooked meats and vegetables in the crust. Add the cheese, if using cheese. Carefully pour the eggy filling over all. Fresh herbs can be mixed in with the vegetables, cheese, or eggy filling, or can be sprinkled on top. Transfer quiche to pre-heated oven and bake for 30 - 45 minutes. The eggs will be set and the crust lightly browned. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Quiche can be served hot, warm, or room temperature, some even taste good chilled from the refrigerator.
Pre-baked crusts filled with vegetables and
meats, ready for the eggy filling and cheese

Onion & Red Bell Pepper        Broccoli & Almond

Ham & Swiss Cheese              Spinach & Sun Dried Tomatoes

4 Cheese & Fresh Herbs           Sausage, Green Chiles, Cheese