A Quiche for Easter Brunch

March 30, 2013

This year will be the first since we’ve lived in Sonoma that we will miss the annual Easter egg hunt on the Sonoma Plaza. My youngest is 11 now and, according to him, that’s too old to be dashing about the plaza lawn, snatching up plastic eggs in the few seconds before they’re gone. I”ll admit to feeling a bit melancholy about having to sideline this fun (and funny!) springtime ritual. Time to renew my focus on another, more enduring, holiday tradition—Easter brunch.

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To our customary buffet of smoked salmon, bagels, and fresh fruit salad, I like to add some type of egg dish—usually quiche. This year, it wasn’t difficult to decide which ingredients to feature. An unseasonably warm winter and early spring along the West Coast has yielded a steady supply of crisp, green asparagus since late January. Mixed with fresh spring leeks and smoky pancetta, the slender, fresh-tasting stalks make an ideal complement to eggs. I find that if I shave them, rather than add the spears in chunks, the kids will leave fewer pieces of asparagus on the plate when their serving is gone. My serrated peeler from Zyliss is the best tool for the job.

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Once the ingredients for the filling are assembled, I prepare the same flaky pastry I use for fruit pies, but without the sugar. While it’s parbaking, I prepare the asparagus, leek, and bacon filling. When the crust is golden and still hot from the oven, I distribute the vegetable mixture evenly over the bottom then pour the egg and cheese mixture on top. This recipe yields a quiche that is quite dense, rather than one that is rich and custardy.
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To save time, feel free to substitute the homemade pastry with a storebought one, prebaking it according to the package directions. Once the crust is prepared, the filling can be made in a matter of minutes. Serve the quiche hot from the oven, or let it cool to serve at room temperature.

Spring Asparagus, Leek, and Bacon Quiche

Spring Asparagus, Leek, and Bacon Quiche

1 recipe Flaky Pie Pastry or purchased pastry for single-crust pie

1 leek (about 15 oz), white and light green part only

4 asparagus spears

4 oz thinly sliced pancetta, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 eggs

1/2 cup half-and-half

2 oz. (about 1/2 cup) shredded Gruyere cheese

Prepare the Flaky Pie Pastry as directed, but omit the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 400ºF.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board. Using a rolling pin, roll out to a 15-inch round, stopping occasionally to sprinkle flour underneath and atop the dough to prevent sticking. Fold the dough into quarters and transfer to a 9-inch pie tin, spring-form pan, or cake pan with removable bottom. Unfold the dough and press into the pan. Trim the dough edge, and flute if needed. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. Line the pastry with foil and fill with rice or beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375ºF. Remove the foil and rice or beans. Continue to bake until set and golden at the edges, about 20 minutes longer.

While the pastry shell is baking, prepare the filling. Cut the leek lengthwise in half. Rinse in water to remove any dirt. Cut halves lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside. Trim the ends from the asparagus spears and discard. Using a serrated vegetable peeler or mandoline, shave each spear lengthwise into thin slices. Set aside. Crumble the bacon into a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring to separate the pieces, until the fat turns translucent, 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small dish and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the olive oil and leeks to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until limp, 5 - 7 minutes. Stir in the sliced asparagus. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, just until the asparagus is bright green and limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in reserved bacon, season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Add the half-and-half and whisk until blended. Stir in the cheese.

When the pastry is ready, remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Scatter the asparagus mixture evenly over the pastry crust, then pour the egg mixture evenly over the top. Bake until golden and just set in the center, 17-20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8-12

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