Big box of Meyer lemons in the mail = Meyer lemon in EVERYTHING. For a few precious weeks, at least. This year is no exception: aside from the usual Meyer lemon in tea, in fizzy water, and in various boozier concoctions, I’ve roasted cauliflower & fennel with a couple of sliced Meyers, marinated chicken breasts in Meyer juice then broiled them with still more sliced lemon, perked up a chicken, black bean & vegetable soup, and made a Meyer version of Mom’s famous pound cake.
Yesterday I wanted something savory, but carb-y, rich, but light, and saturated with Meyer lemon flavor. Quiche: quiche was the order of the day.
It’s strange how hard it is to find a basic quiche recipe: I tried Martha, I checked on Simply Recipes, I looked in Twenty and Fannie and even my new Professional Chef. All of the quiche recipes were packed full of stuff: mushrooms and bacon, spinach and broccoli, ham and potatoes and caramelized garlic, if you will. And I get it: normally I’m a way-more-stuff-than-egg sort of girl myself. But this time, for the Meyer lemon to shine as brightly as the California sun, I just wanted… quiche. Plain old, simple quiche.
As usual, Rose had the answer (I should have just looked there first). While her recipes are as action-packed as the rest: quiche Lorraine, caramelized onion, roasted red pepper & poblano, spicy crab, and Spring morel; buried in the head notes of the quiche chapter is this helpful tidbit: “The basic proportion of liquid to egg for a custard to set nicely is ⅓ cup liquid to 1 large egg. If there is a large amount of ingredients, then a softer custard of ½ cup liquid to 1 large egg also works.” Eureka! The basic ratio was all I needed to get the ball rolling; I guesstimated how many ramekins I could line with one batch of pastry, and how much filling I would need to fill them (with some additional help from Rose), and then started pulling things out of the fridge: eggs and heavy cream, the last couple of wispy fennel fronds, a fresh block of Parmesan.
Despite all of the guesstimating, the research paid off: these little quichelets were light & fluffy, golden on top, creamy on the inside, flaky on the edges, and jam-packed with sunny, floral, Meyer lemon goodness. The fennel gave it just the right note of grassiness without overwhelming the lemon flavor, while the heavy cream & Parmesan balanced richness and saltiness perfectly in the simple egg custard. As you can see in the pictures, my pastry did shrink quite a bit on baking (because I was impatient and didn’t let it rest long enough either before or after rolling), but it didn’t impact the flavor or flakiness of the cooked pastry. All in all, this was a home-run as experiments go: I’m tempted to make another batch or two and freeze them for the long, Meyer-less months ahead.
- 6, 12-oz ramekins
- 5 oz (a generous 1 cup) whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 4 oz butter (1 stick), cold and cubed
- 3 tbsp ice water
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp minced fennel frond
- large pinch sea salt
- few grinds black pepper
- 2 small Meyer lemons
- Make pastry. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixed. Add butter. Process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 1 minute. Add ice water. Pulse about 30 seconds, until dough just begins to clump. Turn into a plastic bag, knead once or twice into a tight disc, then close tightly in the bag and refrigerate to chill for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
- Roll & shape pastry. Remove pastry dough from refrigerator and allow to warm slightly before rolling. On a lightly floured board, roll pastry to ⅛-inch thickness. Cut out circles roughly double the diameter of your ramekins (mine are 3 ½ inches across, I used a cereal bowl as a template to cut out 6-inch circles). Fold gently into your ramekins, allowing dough to relax and leaving room in the bottom for shrinkage. Fold edges back along the top and press dough into the sides of the ramekin, standing the edges up about ½-inch above the rim. Freeze at least 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight, prior to par-baking. Be patient with this step: this pastry has a high butter:flour ratio, so it needs to be very well chilled prior to baking.
- Par-bake pastry. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place pastry-filled ramekins on a baking sheet and bake, on the bottom rack, until puffed, golden and mostly cooked through, about 20 minutes. If the bottoms puff aggressively, poke down with a fork about halfway through the pre-bake. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
- Prepare & bake quiche. Leave the oven on 375 F. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, cream, Parmesan cheese, fennel, salt and pepper. Zest both lemons and add zest to the egg mixture. Juice one of the lemons, and add the juice (about 2 tbsp) to the egg mixture. Whisk until thoroughly combined and frothy. Pour into cooled par-baked pastry shells, leaving about ¼-inch of space at the top (quiche will puff slightly). Bake until tops are golden brown, and a knife inserted into the center of a quiche comes out cleanly (165 – 170 degrees F), about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot or at room temperature.
Serves 6 as an appetizer.
- You could make this in a single 9-inch quiche or tart pan (for the most beautiful presentation, use a tart pan with a removable bottom); if so, increase the amount of filling by about a third (i.e. 3 eggs, 1 cup cream, etc.).
- Honestly, this was dreamy: I wouldn’t fuss it up too much with additions. A small amount of rosemary or thyme might work well in place of the fennel, but I would avoid anything too strongly flavored or chunky, like mushrooms, bacon, stinky cheese or spicy greens.
- Once completely cool, you can pop the quiches out of the ramekins if you wish.
The pastry is at its best when eaten on the same day, but it rewarms nicely in a 350 degree oven. Store refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days. Cooked quichelets can be stored frozen, either in or out of the ramekins, for up to 6 months.