Discover more from Anne Byrn: Between the Layers
Quiche Fit for a King (or Queen) - No. 210
How to elevate ordinary quiche into something regal to bake for coronation watch parties, the Kentucky Derby, or weekend brunch at your place
AT FIRST I THOUGHT IT WAS STRANGE that King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla would choose Coronation Quiche as the signature recipe for their royal day this Saturday.
A closer look at the Coronation Quiche recipe conceived by Buckingham Palace’s chef, with its broad beans (fava), spinach, cheddar, and tarragon, had me more curious than hungry.
It seemed more hodgepodge pub lunch than regal and lacked the appeal, frankly, of Coronation Chicken, the subtle apricot and curry-infused ‘’Poulet Reine Elizabeth,’’ created by Rosemary Hume and Constance Spry of London’s Le Cordon Bleu in January, 1953 for Elizabeth II’s coronation lunch. Sir David Eccles, the Minister of Works, had asked Hume and her students to cater the luncheon for Her Majesty’s 350 guests. Whole chickens were poached in stock and wine, the meat removed, and the sauce was a mix of slow-cooked onion, curry spices, tomato puree, red wine, bay leaf, lemon, apricot puree, homemade mayo, and cream.
When I was married in England exactly 30 years ago this June, Coronation Chicken was indeed on my reception menu, and I loved every bite.
Coronation Chicken would come to the States, too, in something called curried chicken or curried chicken salad. Without the apricots, the salad was topped with toasted almonds and purple grapes. I knew that recipe well from luncheons and tea parties. Both curried chicken salad and Coronation Chicken have this warm and happy yellow sauce created once curry powder meets mayonnaise.
But quiche is a love it or hate it kind of recipe and definitely something you have an opinion about.
First arriving in the American lexicon in the 1920s, Quiche Lorraine is the most famous quiche of all including bacon, onions, and Gruyere, and written about in newspapers from Richmond to St. Louis as something French to bake at home. Actually, historians believe this quiche is more German than French, but those are just trivial details at this moment in time.
Actor and good guy Alan Alda loved quiche. Bill Clinton loved quiche, or at least before he became vegan.
And one of my favorite quiche stories is when Arkansas governor’s mansion chef Eliza Ashley served it at a fancy dinner during Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s term (1967-1970, aka the quiche years). ‘’One day we served quiche,’’ she remembered, ‘’and one of the guests said, ‘Why are we eating pie first?’ ‘’
But Coronation Quiche?
With spinach, fava beans (broad beans) and tarragon? These ingredients might work in pasta salad, but quiche? Perhaps it is a nod to the future king’s work in sustainable agriculture. And it’s gotten some ribbing in that even if being meatless, the recipe was first published with a lard-based crust.
Maybe King Charles III is just mad about quiche. Or someone thought quiche suited him and seemed practical.
I mean, many guys do love quiche in spite of the 1982 satirical book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by Bruce Feirstein. He divided the masculine gender into two camps—guys who start the day with flapjacks and the more sensitive souls who choose eggs Benedict, yogurt, and quiche. But quite possibly, the real joke was on anyone who bought the bestseller that sold more than 2 million copies and was translated into 16 languages.
My dad sliced second helpings of a creamy quiche Lorraine, which my mother made with bacon and onions and piled into a store-bought frozen crust. Essentially it was breakfast for dinner, and he was all in.
How to bake a more impressive quiche
The quiche I want to bake for Coronation Saturday is like the one I order at brunch. Unlike my mom’s thin and flat quiche right out of the Nashville Seasons cookbook, this quiche needs to look important.
So to get that tall slice, I turned to the springform pan and a crust that wasn’t store-bought.
Thanks to my friend Lou Ann Brown for pointing me to Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen quiche Lorraine as a starting point. We were having lunch yesterday as I was pulling this column together. Lou Ann ordered quiche and is a huge quiche fan because ‘’it’s a blank canvas,’’ and a ‘’refrigerator cleaner-outer,’’ she says.
The Smitten Kitchen recipe originally came from the restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien. Lou Ann told me the crust was easy to work with, and so true. I mixed it up in minutes in the food processor and then rolled it out thinly between two sheets of waxed paper for easy handling. A slight departure is that I cubed the cheese instead of shredding it for the filling, thanks to the advice of fellow Substack writer David Lebowitz. He says the cubes allow for little pockets of cheese throughout. I think he’s right.
Begin with a springform pan, make a homemade crust, add fresh ingredients, and bake the quiche in the lower third of the oven.
This recipe doesn’t have the meat of a quiche Lorraine, but if you want meat, scatter on about 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon or diced ham. And if beans appeal to you in quiche, then by all means sprinkle on 1/2 cup of soft cooked beans as well.
The cheese can be a classic Gruyere or even Manchego. Lou Ann uses Gouda or smoked Gouda, whatever she’s got in the fridge. King Charles’ quiche will contain a nice English cheddar. And I know a little Parm makes everything better.
I seasoned the custard with a whisper of nutmeg and cayenne pepper. And I dusted a little nutmeg on top. It’s like adding a bit of paprika to the top of deviled eggs or potato salad, dressing it up. (My mother would never leave the house without lipstick, and her potato salad never left the house without paprika, but that’s for another day…)
Bake this quiche on a rack in the lower third of the oven to crisp the bottom of the crust, and once the quiche is done—it took about an hour for me at 350 degrees—switch to broil and caramelize the top for…DRAMA! I do love quiche with drama, and as King Charles and the royals have had their share of drama, so should your quiche.
It’s not so much I want to tell Buckingham Palace how to bake quiche, but then, maybe, yes, that is what I am suggesting. I’m not sure why they didn’t call me to talk it through first.
But then, they’ve still got time. Live coverage of King Charles III’s coronation begins at 5 am EST Saturday, or if that’s a bit too early to get up and bake, make the quiche a day ahead. Or bake it fresh for a Kentucky Derby watch party later in the afternoon.
A run for the roses, a royal coronation, a Mother’s Day brunch, I can think of several good reasons to bake a nice quiche. And you don’t need to worry what anyone will say about quiche because even kings and queens love it.
- xo, Anne
For Thursday Subscribers: Let’s rush the season
Claudia Fleming’s eggplant and cherry tomato tart and May Wine. Last week we kicked off the Merry Month of May with an easy pizza made from store-bought dough. It’s a whole month of festive appetizers each Thursday in May.
Fresh Spinach and Sweet Onion Quiche
You need a 9-inch cheesecake - springform - pan for this recipe. Not only is the pan deep enough, but the sides can be lifted off the quiche, leaving the beautiful and buttery crust unaffected. No worry about pulling that first slice from the pan. All the slices look fabulous.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Prep: 25 to 30 minutes
Bake: 55 to 60 minutes
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (15 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
2 cups thinly sliced sweet onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 to 5 packed cups (about 4 ounces) fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup fresh chopped dill or parsley, optional
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Ground nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, diced (1 1/2 cups) or 5 ounces Gruyere and 2 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
For the crust, place the flour, cornstarch and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until combined. Distribute the diced butter on top of the flour mixture and pulse about 15 to 20 seconds or until the butter looks the size of peas. Add the egg, and pulse until the mixture pulls together into a ball of dough, about 15 seconds.
Remove the dough and place between two 14-inch pieces of waxed paper. Roll into a 12-inch circle. Peel off the top piece of waxed paper, and turn the dough upside down into a 9-inch springform pan. Press it gently onto the bottom and sides of the pan, and peel off the second piece of waxed paper. Place the pan in the fridge to chill at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the onions and butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat, and cook until soft and they take on some color, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. Add the spinach and the herbs, if desired, and stir and cook until the spinach just wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the sour cream and heavy cream in the same bowl of the food processor and pulse until combined. Add the eggs, and season with a little salt and pepper, and a little nutmeg and cayenne, and pulse until smooth, 30 seconds.
To assemble and bake, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the pan with crust from the fridge. Place the pan on a baking sheet, and scatter the onions and spinach in the bottom of the crust. Scatter the diced cheese on top. Pour the filling mixture over the top of the cheese, and if desired, sprinkle with a little nutmeg and/or cayenne. Place in the oven, and bake until firm, about 55 to 60 minutes. If desired, broil for 10 to 15 seconds for more color on top. Place the pan on a rack to cool 20 minutes, then unhinge the sides of the pan, and slice and serve warm. Or cool to room temperature, slice and serve.