Undaunted by the blizzard, a few intrepid souls made it to our annual Christmas party on Saturday night. Luckily for them, there was no shortage of yummy food on hand. My kitchen counter was groaning under the weight of this sausage bread, made with linguica and local smoked mozzarella, Wild Hive rosemary bread crostini with olive oil, garlic and basil, a selection of local cheeses, curried apple chutney, sweet cherry chutney, cranberry apple butter and cranberry sauce, homemade stuffed grape leaves from my friend Nadine, chicken vindaloo and mini swiss chard quiches.
There is something about a mini tartlet that everyone loves. It’s more work, certainly, than preparing a single-crust quiche in a standard tart pan; but the amount of extra effort seems to be outweighed by the delight people take in eating the minis, hot from the oven with their beautifully fluted pastry shells. They disappear like hotcakes and the entire recipe can be prepared well in advance and frozen, then popped into the oven for less than 30 minutes on the day of your event. These are stand-by party food for me, and with the exception of spices and evaporated milk, can be made with entirely local ingredients. Try them out and see how popular your holiday parties become!
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Adapted from Spicy Spinach Quiche in The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 2 recipes Rose’s Flaky Pastry Crust, Whole Wheat Cream Cheese version (see Options for cream cheese version)
- 1 lb (16 oz) swiss chard (or other leafy green), frozen
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 small onion (tennis ball), finely chopped (about 1/2 cup or 2 and 1/4 oz)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 heaping tbsp or 1/2 oz)
- 3/8 cup (3 oz) evaporated milk
- 3 large eggs (6 oz by weight)
- 3/4 tsp celery salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- a healthy dash of local chile powder or cayenne pepper
- 1 and 1/2 cups (4.5 oz) grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, for garnish (optional)
Make the Tartlet Shells
- Make the dough, preferably one to two days in advance, or at the very least, 3 hours prior to baking. Allow the dough to rest for a minimum of 1 hour, and up to 24 hours, prior to rolling out. When ready to roll and shape, remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to warm up enough to roll; dough should not crack at the edges when you press a palm into the center of the disk (about 20 minutes in my slightly cold kitchen).
- On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness (I love these rolling pin rings to make rolling easy & accurate). Brush off any excess flour on both sides of the dough (as it will be bitter upon cooking). Cut as many 4-inch circles as you can fit with your cutter; remove the scraps, roll into a ball, and refrigerate briefly, wrapped in plastic wrap. Lift each circle of dough (remove with a small, metal, angled spatula if your dough is sticky) and form into basic clover shape with your fingers (see picture below); drop the center of the dough circle down into the center of your fluted tart mold, being careful not the rip the dough on the edges of the mold. Press gently into the bottom center of the mold, then work the dough into each flute by pressing with the flat edge of your pinky finger. Press the dough gently, as the fluted egdes can rip the dough (if this happens, simply press it back together with your fingers). Leave about 1/8 to 1/4-inch of dough rising above the top of your fluted tart pan to account for potential dough shrinkage. (In the pictures below, I lined the molds with Saran wrap to see if I could bake frozen minis without a pan; it did not work, as the dough spread, and while it held the quiche, it was not as pretty as when baked in the mold). If you do not have mini tart molds, use the same basic procedure in molding the dough into mini-muffin tin pans; push or trim the dough until it is level with the top of the pan.
- Once you have shaped each of your circles, roll out the scraps and repeat the process until you can’t cut another 4-inch circle (you can freeze this scrap for later use). Cover the minis with plastic wrap (I store them in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours to relax the dough and prevent shrinkage.
Make the Quiche Filling
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (400 degrees F convection).
- Thaw the swiss chard at room temperature or in the microwave until it can be roughly chopped. Cook, briefly, either in the microwave on high for 1 minute, or steamed over boiling water for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a cool bowl and set aside.
- Heat butter in a small saute pan until bubbling. Saute the onions until just translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute. Remove to a cool bowl and allow to come to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, evaporated milk, celery salt and black and chile peppers. Stir in the cooled onion mixture, the swiss chard (including any liquid), and the cheese. Spoon the filling into each prepared tart mold, leaving about 1/4 to 1/2-inch room at the top of each mini quiche (the eggs will puff up, like a souffle, upon baking, and will settle back down again once cooled). At this point you can freeze the mini quiches for up to 1 month.
- Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree F oven, on a lower shelf in the oven or by placing the pan directly on a baking stone, for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the eggs have become puffy, slightly browned, and a small knife inserted into the middle of one quiche comes out clean. If the pastry begins to burn before the eggs are done, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (325 degrees F convection). Garnish with toasted pine nuts and serve hot or at room temperature.
Yields about 24 mini quiches.
- Kale, spinach and other leafy greens would be a fine substitute for swiss chard. You can use fresh greens, instead of frozen, but they will need slightly increased cooking time prior to incorporating into the filling.
- Any soft, mild, local cheese would work here. Muenster is a nice substitute as is a lightly aged goat cheese.
- The quiche can be made completely local by omitting the pine nut garnish, celery salt, pepper and evaporated milk; however, celery salt is really the key spice in the souffle and adds a particular taste that I’ve not been able to duplicate using local ingredients. I think it is worth the exception. I’ve been unable to find a local source of evaporated milk. I’ve tried the recipe with heavy cream, which works, but the souffle is not as light and airy and the flavor of the cream tends to stand out too much. One of these days I will try it with a local whole milk.
Unbaked & unfilled, the tartlet shells will last up to 1 day refrigerated or 3 months frozen. Unbaked and filled, the mini quiches can be frozen for up to 1 month. Baked, the quiche will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator, but will be best on the day of cooking.
Technically year round, but the flavors say “winter” to me.
- Flour: Wild Hive Farm, Clinton Corners, NY
- Sea salt: Kenyon’s Grist Mill, Usquepaugh, RI
- Butter: Ronnybrook, Ancramdale, NY
- Baking powder: Rumford, an exception, from who-knows-where
- Swiss chard: Ryder Farm CSA, Brewster, NY (blanched & frozen in late summer)
- Eggs: Holbrook Farm, Bethel, CT
- Monterey Jack: Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, ME
- Onion, garlic: Madura Farms, Goshen, NY (from Gossett’s South Salem farmer’s market)
- Evaporated milk: Meyenberg goat milk, Turlock, CA (away)
- Celery salt, pepper, pine nuts: Away