While living in Europe for almost four years, we’ve grown quite fond of cheese and bread. Sometimes, it’s all we have for dinner, with a nice bottle of wine of course. A nice steinofen baguette (stone oven baguette), a bottle of Corbières, and a variety of cheeses, such as brie and camembert. On August 3 we celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary in Strasbourg France. My husband Jason planned the whole trip as a surprise. He entered the address into the GPS and I was instructed to follow the directions. When we crossed the French border, I started to get excited. I had been hoping our destination was in France but he was trying to mislead me by telling me we may be meeting another form of transportation; ferry, airplane, train, etc. When we arrived, in Strasbourg, I was thrilled!
We unloaded the car, went to our apartment to drop everything off and then Jason said, “I think we should go across the street to the grocery store and pick up a few things”. I can spend all day in any grocery store but a French one… look out! We walked in and the first thing we saw was an array of baguettes. Warm, soft yet crunchy, we couldn’t help picking out a few. Next, we headed for the cheese department, which is easy to find if you follow your nose, and picked out a camembert and a brie. Then, we were off to the wine & champagne section. Where we picked up a few bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne from Champagne. We headed back to the apartment where he wouldn’t let me help prepare anything, he told me to go out on the balcony and relax. He made us a nice spread of sliced baguette, sea-salted butter, and cheese, and we popped the cork. We toasted to our eleven years.
After we took our time and enjoyed the ambiance from the balcony, we decided to venture out and explore the town. A new place for both of us with no plan in place other than to take in the scenery of old cobblestone streets that are typical of many small towns and villages through Europe. After passing the town church, which is more of a tremendously massive Gothic cathedral, we walked down a side street and wandered upon a bistro/tea room called La Part Thé. This little cafe had baguettes, eclairs, tarts, macarons, croissants, kugelhopf, tarte flambée (flammkuchen), and quiche. The only menu available was written on a chalk board outside. Being close to Lorraine, we had to try their quiche alsacienne, a bacon, onion, and gruyère flavored local specialty. Jason thought the salad was delicious and we immediately started naming flavors we could identify so we could later try to re-create it at home. It was a complex yet subtle walnut vinaigrette, the best we’d ever tasted. The quiche was delivered to us a few moments later…. oh, the quiche! The quiche was perfect – a lovely, buttery, and flaky crust, rich and smooth egg custard that had just the right amount of bacon and onion. If only I could begin every day with one of these.
Today I decided what better time to pull out Joël Robuchon’s The Complete Joël Robuchon and make his quiche aux oeufs et lardons (egg and bacon quiche, aka quiche lorraine). Although, I’ll be adding onions to the recipe, which will make it a quiche alsacienne. According to Joël Robuchon, the French took the word quiche from the German word for cake, kuchen. Quiche is a traditional specialty of Lorraine, the eastern region closest to Germany, which was served on the holiday tables of the dukes of Lorraine, in their capital city of Nancy, as early as the 16th century. During that time, the crust was made of bread, not pastry. Quiche Lorraine does not contain gruyère or any cheese for that matter. Gruyère is a Parisian addition, not a tradition.
adapted from The Complete Joël Robuchon by Joël Robuchon’s
for the crust: pâte brisée
this makes a 400 gram pie crust (25 cm/10-inch) tart for the quiche
250 grams (2 cups) sifted flour
5 grams (3/4 teaspoon) salt
1 egg yolk
115 grams (8 tablespoon) butter, diced and at room temperature
74 milliliters of water (5 tablespoons)
Place the flour in a large bowl. Make a well and add the salt, yolk, and butter. Mix gently with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together. Add the water and keep mixing til the dough becomes a smooth ball. Work as quickly as possible before the dough becomes tough. Flatten the dough, using the palm of your hands and then wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight before using. After the hour is up, flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 3mm
(1/8 inch). Lay the dough in the tart pan, fit it in, and cut off any dough hanging off the edges. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling
for the filling
3 eggs plus 2 yolks
250 ml (1 cup) milk
250 ml (1 cup) whipping (heavy) cream
1 medium yellow onion
200 grams (8 ounces) smoked lardons or thick bacon slab cut in small chunks
dash of cayenne pepper, sea salt, white pepper, and nutmeg
butter for sautéing
flour for dusting
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F
Whisk together the eggs and yolks. Add the milk, the cream, a dash of Cayenne pepper, a pinch of salt and grated nutmeg, then whisk. Preheat a skillet over low heat and add a little butter. Cook the lardons (note: if using bacon, butter is not necessary) for 3 minutes while stirring. Drain the lardons on paper towels.
Remove the dough-lined tart from the refrigerator. Put the lardons in the dish and pour the egg mixture on top. Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 180°C/350°F and cook for about 25 minutes more or until the quiche has become golden brown.
Arugula & Fennel Salad
1 bulb of fennel
1 bag or bunch of arugula
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Trim the fennel bulb. Cut the stalks and the bulb in half. Remove the tough inner core. Using a sharp knife, cut the fennel into very thin slices and put them into a large bowl. Add the arugula. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, season it with salt and pepper, and toss it again to coat all the ingredients. Immediately plate.