If it weren’t so easy to make an entire one, I might succumb to ordering a slice of savory quiche at a bakery or for brunch. But it is, and no matter if you incorporate the most luxurious ingredients or leftovers in its airy, yellow mass, definitely more economical than the options above. It’s one of my favorite ways to add class to eggs.
Today’s choice ingredient was oyster mushrooms, a rare treat that I splurged on at the Greenmarket. I was surprised to find lemon-yellow hued as well as the more familiar, gray-brown varieties of this ‘shroom. Upon sight, the oyster mushrooms command a certain sophistication. They’re soft and slightly silky, and shaped like a bunny’s ear. The intricate webbing on the undersides is more delicate than most mushrooms’, and make good pools for soaking up sauce. When cooked, they have a playful chew, and an interesting flavor that creeps up on you the more that you do.
I wanted to counter the dank, musty mushrooms and rich eggs and pastry with something bright and sharp. So I went with Pecorino and the zest of a lemon, just like I might with a pasta dish. I’ve never put lemon zest in eggs before, but there’s a first time for everything. The outcome is subtle, but it’s still there, a hint. The Pecorino Romano, a hard aged sheep’s milk cheese, doesn’t usually melt well, but it dissolves into the spongelike egg filling here.
There are times when separating the green and white parts from scallions makes a lot of sense. I usually keep them together, and leave them uncooked, for fresh color and crispness in salads or stir-fries. But I didn’t necessary want to come across a firm, white round of onion embedded in a silky quiche. So I sauteed the chopped white parts in butter, quickly adding the mushrooms once they began to sizzle, and set the green shoots aside. These would be folded into the egg mixture fresh, as a stand-in for chives or other fresh herbs. Used both these ways, scallions are like two onions in one.
zest and cheese get mixed in
I think that covers all the ingredients in this quiche, besides the eggs and milk — and a basic pastry crust. If pastry-making is your foe, keep in mind that with single-crust pies such as a quiche, no rolling pin is necessary(!). I like to pat my butter pastry dough directly into the pie pan, evening it out by touch with my fingertips. It leaves a thumbprint-patterned bottom crust, but it gets filled with your egg mixture anyway. And making such a small portion of dough from scratch seems less daunting anyway. Just remember, don’t overwork it or it’ll be tough. I think that’s a pretty good reminder for life, actually.
Wild Mushroom Quiche with Pecorino & Lemon Zest
(makes one 9-inch quiche, or 8 servings)
for the crust:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut to small cubes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons cold water
for the filling:
6 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk or half-and-half
about 2 cups oyster, shiitake or other wild mushrooms, roughly chopped if desired
2 scallions, both white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon butter
To make the crust, combine flour with salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter cubes using your fingers or a pastry cutter, until butter chunks are no larger than a pea. Do not overwork; process should take no longer than 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of cold water at a time just until dough comes together to form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the 1/2 tablespoon butter in a saute pan and once it begins to bubble, add the chopped white parts of the scallions only. Cook, stirring and seasoning with salt and pepper, for about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring and seasoning with salt and pepper, for 4-5 minutes, or until juices have released and mostly cooked. Let stand to cool.
Beat the eggs and milk until frothy. Add the Pecorino, lemon zest, salt, pepper and green scallion parts. Press the dough into a 9-inch pie pan, so that its surface is covered in an even layer of dough (you may also roll out the dough and transfer it to the bottom of the pan). Crimp edges at a height of at least 1 inch above the bottom the pan (so that the egg mixture can fit without spilling over). Pour in the egg mixture. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the egg mixture comes out clean. Let cool a few moments and serve.
(for about 8 servings)
6 eggs (at $4/dozen): $2.00
1/2 cup milk: $1.00
1 stick butter: $1.25
1 1/4 cups flour: $0.40
2 cups oyster mushrooms (at $16/.25 lb): $5.00
2 scallions: $0.50
zest of 1 lemon: $0.25
1/4 cup grated Pecorino: $0.80
salt, pepper, 1 Tb butter: $0.25
Six brownie points: I love a good savory quiche, but it’s not the most health-driven meal, any way you slice it. I try to keep things light by adding milk instead of cream to the egg mixture, and go easy on cheese by choosing one with lots of flavor. Fresh vegetables are key, and with mushrooms you’ll get potassium, selenium, Vitamin D, B-vitamins, folate and few calories. The eggs provide plenty of protein, as well as not-so-great cholesterol, also in the buttery crust.
Seven maple leaves: It’s almost spring, but for the time being, there’s few signs of it at the market. Pretty soon, young scallions will be shooting up, but these were grabbed at the corner deli from California for now. That’s about the only ingredient besides the lemon and imported cheese in this dish that wasn’t sourced locally; some of the eggs, even, were from our own hens.