Mushroom & Spinach Quiche

Mushroom Spinach Quiche

Consecutive days of blue skies and sunshine coupled with warmer temperatures undoubtedly signal the return of spring, and the dark cloud that seemed to be following me everywhere is finally starting to dissipate. For the past several months, I had succumbed to what my friend has coined a professional depression, which extinguished my curiousity, motivation, and creativity. Living in France was starting to wear on me as well. It’s not easy being so far away from family and friends, especially since it’s been an uphill challenge trying to establish an equally strong social circle here. Consequently, I started to withdraw from pretty much all activities that brought me any sort of pleasure, including cooking.

champignons

Since last autumn, my work situation has been slightly difficult and the possibility of finding an exit was rather slim, given the stagnant economy in France that is only further depressed by its rigid labor laws and astronomical taxes that are crippling innovation and the job market. However, things started to look up around the Vietnamese New Year. Though I was enduring what was bordering on harrassment since last fall, I had to bide my time. Here in France, most job announcements typically appear around the beginning of the year. As the new year rolled around though, I was starting to feel a bit antsy because there weren’t a ton of job postings. I was afraid that I would have to succumb to accepting whatever offer just for the sake of leaving my job. Fortunately however, I received an offer that actually interested me. The only downside is that I won’t get to start the new gig until next month, since I currently have a permanent contract, and in France, that usually means that the préavis, or required notice period, is 1-3 months.

Pâte brisée

Without a job search consuming all of my time and energy anymore, I can finally focus on other things again! My husband and I had signed up to take the CAP de Cuisine exam this June, which is geared towards students who would like to puruse a culinary career. Though I am not looking to change careers, I thought that this would be a great way to immerse myself in French cuisine and to learn proper culinary techniques. Instead of the traditional educational route towards obtaining the BAC and continuing on to college, students who take the CAP de Cuisine exam usually follow a 2 year program that prepares them for working in the food industry. Not only do they learn culinary techniques and the French classics, they also learn about the science of ingredients, how to manage a kitchen (e.g., ordering ingredients) and a restaurant as well as food safety.

pâte briséepâte brisée

Part of my exam preparation consists of learning basic techniques and mastering the classic French dishes from Cuisine de Référence, which is the quintessential teaching/reference book for French cuisine. I started by learning the various types of French pastry dough, such as pâte brisée, pâte sablée, pâte feuilletée, etc. As a first dish, I chose one of the easiest dishes to prepare, a quiche. Quiches are incredibly versatile and you can add essentially whatever ingredients you like. They are typically made with a pâte brisée, which is a cinch to make. I’m not sure what the equivalent dough is in English, but the closest translation that I found is shortcrust dough, which I’ve never heard of before.

The reference book is great in that it presents base recipes and indicates how they could be modified. The quiche lorraine is the most basic of quiches, so I used that base recipe to inspire my own. Instead of adding bacon, I used some tasty mushrooms and fresh spinach that I had bought from the weekly outdoor market in our neighborhood. They were a perfect combination and it couldn’t have possibly been easier to throw together. Now, I just can’t believe that I have been living in France for this long without having ever made a quiche before!

IMG_6931

By the way, if you don’t already use a scale for cooking, I highly recommend making the switch from measuring cups to a scale to measure ingredients. A scale became an integral part of my kitchen years ago when I started dabbling with French pastries while I was still living in Austin. Since then, my results have been much more consistent, particularly when making pastries, which generally require a high level of precision.

Quiche aux champignons et epinards
serves 6-8

Pâte brisée
250 g flour
125 g butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
5 g salt
50 ml water

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, water and butter. Mix the ingredients with your hands and knead the dough a few times, being careful not to overwork the dough. Form a ball with the dough, cover it with saran wrap, and place it in the fridge for about an hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
3. Remove the ball of dough from the fridge and place it on a work surface dusted with flour. Flatten the dough so that it is in the shape of a disc, and with a rolling pin, roll from the center away from you towards the edge. Lift the dough up and turn it about 45 degrees. As with the first roll, roll from the center towards the edge away from you. Continue turning the dough and rolling it until you have a decent sized circle about 3-4 cm thick. During this process, flour the dough and work surface as needed.
4. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin so that the whole sheet is wrapped around the rolling pin, and then unroll it carefully over a 28 cm quiche pan. Press the dough into the pan and cut off the excess.*
5. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pastry shell and cover the surface with dried beans.
6. Bake in the oven just until it begins to color, about 7-8 minutes.

Quiche
200g mushrooms, sliced
200g spinach, blanched
1 medium-sized shallot, thinly sliced
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
250 ml milk
250 ml heavy whipping cream
100g grated gruyere
thyme
salt
pepper
cayenne pepper

1. Reduce the oven to 180°C.
2. Sauté the shallots with some olive oil over medium-high heat until fragrant and then add the sliced mushrooms. Continue to sauté for another 6-8 minutes and season with salt pepper and thyme. To speed up the cooking of the mushrooms, I add a few drops of water at a time. Set aside
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and then mix in the milk, cream and gruyere. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, thyme and cayenne pepper to your taste.
4. Cover the bottom of the baked quiche crust with one layer of the blanched spinach, followed by a layer of mushrooms. Continue alternating between layers of spinach and mushrooms. When layering with the spinach, be sure to unfurl the leaves so that they lay flat, instead of leaving them as clumps.
5. Pour the egg mix over the spinach and mushrooms. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Once cooked, the surface of the quiche should be brown and its volume increased from puffing up. Verify doneness by inserting a knife into the center. If it comes out clean, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve with a side of salad.

Bonne dégustation!

*Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking has a fantastic illustrated section demonstrating how to properly roll pastry dough and to place it onto a pan.

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Mushroom & Spinach Quiche

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