Food, Lifestyle

Hats off for the magic of quiche

(Rosalie Harrington)

Remember when real men didn’t eat quiche? Broccoli with Fontina cheese. Crab meat with roasted cherry tomatoes. Bacon or pancetta with caramelized onions and Swiss cheese. Even the old-fashioned Quiche Lorraine. All were favorites with both genders at Rosalie’s, back in the day. The rich, creamy and custard-like texture of quiche turns the usual collection of breakfast staples — eggs, cream, butter, flour and cheese — into something elegant and impressive.

My granddaughter turned 16 recently and we hosted an intimate Sunday brunch, just the four of us, for her and her boyfriend. He had two servings of the Quiche Lorraine, so he got off to a good start with me. I think his taste in food is indicative of how creative and smart he is, not to mention charming and handsome. Of course, his taste in girls is impeccable. We were both struck by how “lovely,” to use Todd’s word, they both were. We were especially impressed how, more than once, David seized on opportunities to offer flattering observations about Maddie. She recently attended a week of art classes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and we were looking at a photo of one of the pieces she had created, complimenting her work, when he jumped right in to confirm that she’s a wonderful artist. Can a 17-year-old lacrosse star really be so smart, sweet and supportive? I’m thinking that all of those stereotypes about jocks, well, maybe they’re a bit unfair.

If ever I finish the book that I have been working on for the past two years, I would write the next one on Table Talk. During my restaurant career, I was a great observer of how people related during dinner. The antique hat rack given to me as a present when I had the little storefront in Marblehead was decorated with a wonderful selection of hats. Oft-times, when a couple seemed too quiet for the evening to be a success, I would make my way over to their table and plop a hat on one of them. It always seemed to do the trick, breaking the malaise that had hovered, replacing it with laughter and a festive spirit.

The hats became well-known around town. Over 25 years, with the help of the local thrift shops who would save special ones for me, I developed a collection of about a hundred hats. Garden variety hats, a beekeeper’s hat, others for fishing and hunting, and many Victorian ones with plumes and feathers. On New Year’s Eve, the hats really took over at the restaurant, as I would walk through handing them out as midnight approached. It was a sight to behold and so much fun. The ability of such a simple prop to loosen people up and ratchet the fun up a couple of notches is really quite remarkable.

Even today, when we entertain more than a few people, I will pass a basket of hats that I collect in my “thrifting.” It is a great photo op. But it has me thinking about things we can do to loosen and liven up small get-togethers. In the case of our granddaughter’s birthday, it was easy to personalize the event. A rock from the beach with a painted pink heart next to a painted “U” was on her placemat. Leftover dough was scripted with a shortened version of her name, which I baked separately and then placed on the quiche at serving time.

Nicely wrapped gifts accompanied the dessert, which was a chocolate-dipped cookie sandwich with coconut ice cream. It even had a candle so we could sing “Happy Birthday,” which didn’t seem to embarrass her. It’s always a pleasure to see these small steps in maturity that kids go through, and it made us proud to spend time with Maddie in this setting, with her boyfriend, celebrating a birthday, as she is quickly becoming such a lovely young woman.

Todd is very good at music selection, which is important, I think. Also, a party that goes from one place to another creates a nice mood. We sat on the patio for appetizers before moving into the dining room for the meal, which lends a certain sense of importance to the different stages of the morning. I always set my table way in advance, so I can add a few things here and there as they come to me, like an old photo or poem for the occasion. Next time we get together with Maddie and her beau, I might bring out a few hats, but I’m not sure. He doesn’t know yet that I am from the “anything worth doing is worth overdoing” school of living. So far, on this first encounter, he has learned one thing for sure — that we ask a lot of questions. He even admitted that he had been briefed on this before they got in the car to come over. And still, he showed up on time and created the strong impression that he enjoyed himself. My kind of guy!

QUICHE with BACON and SWISS CHEESE

Prepare the dough in advance. Allow it to rest for 30 minutes before rolling it out. Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle and fit it into a tart pan with removable ring.

To make dough:
In a food processor place 1½ cup and ½ cup of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. salt and pulse to combine.
Add 1 stick of chilled butter, cut up into 8 pieces and pulse for a few seconds.
Add 1 tbsp. vegetable shortening and pulse to combine, until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
With machine running, pour 4½ tbsp. ice water into the top of processor and pulse on and off for a few seconds.
Immediately turn machine off as a ball forms. Don’t overwork the dough, as it will produce too much gluten. (Gluten is good for pizza and bread, but for quiche we want a delicate crust.)
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Food prep
In the meantime, cut ¼ pound of bacon into small pieces and place on a grill; cook till crispy. Move to a paper towel to degrease.
Dice ¼ pound of Swiss cheese and set aside.
In a deep bowl, beat 4 eggs well and then add 1½ cup and ½ cup of whole milk, ½ cup of heavy cream, ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, a little white pepper and 1 tsp. salt.
Scatter the bacon over the bottom of the rolled-out pie dough, add the egg mixture and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for one hour.

Let cool for a few minutes before removing the ring. Serve warm or lukewarm, after it rests about 15 minutes.

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