Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quiche It Up!

My first "Mom" recipe I ever tried my hand at was her Italian Zucchini Quiche. It was for a high school French club gathering, and man, they ate it up. I have since figured out that quiche is simply an egg-and-cheese pie, and you can throw whatevah you have on hand in that bad boy. Last week, it was bacon and shallots - little twist on the traditional "Quiche Lorraine" but I used cheddar instead of swiss. I'm calling it Bacon-Shallot Quiche. Quite original, aren't I? Oh yeah, and I used store-bought pie crusts because....that's what I had in the freezer. I don't want to hear any lip because we all know I can bust out the Pâte Brisée with the best of 'em! My secret ingredient to any quiche is Dijon mustard spread onto the pre-baked crust. It really adds great flavor.

Bacon-Shallot Quiche

One pie crust at room temperature
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 large shallot, diced
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pie crust into pie pan, pressing firmly on the bottom and sides. Form the edges into a raised crust - flute if you'd like. Place a square of parchment or waxed paper over the pie crust and fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights if you have them. Cover the edge with a pie ring or foil. (Also, DON'T use foil to line the pie crust with its weights. It tends to stick.) Slide the pie crust into the oven on the middle-lower rack and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Leave the oven at 425 degrees and set the pie crust somewhere so it can cool a bit. When it's cool, remove the parchement and weights. Spread Dijon over the cooled crust.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, brown the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Drain fat off as needed. I find it gets crispier if you take out some of the extra fat. Scoop out bacon bits onto a paper towel on a plate.

Turn the heat down a tad. Add shallots to the pan with the bacon fat, stirring often to prevent burning. Cook for 5 minutes or so. Remove from pan into a bowl or plate (they can share with the bacon, if you want) so they cool off some.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs until thoroughly mixed, then add milk and whisk until combined. Add the cheese, bacon and shallots to egg mixture. Carefully pour egg mixture into prepared pie crust.

(The crust here is a little darker than I wanted because I *forgot* to cover the edge in the first baking. Do as I say, not as I do.)

Cover the edge with the pie ring or foil. Place in the 425 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center. I usually have to bake it another 5 minutes or so, but ovens vary.

**Edit: My mom helpfully pointed out that I didn't include any seasonings. Well, duh, I did add a teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of pepper. I neglected to include that, so, sorry. ADD SALT AND PEPPER.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Apizza Scholls

After an annoying day of work, a bothersome trip to the laundromat, and a necessary application of Rain-x on my car windows, some comfort food was in order. I had my heart set of Apizza Scholls over on upper Hawthorne. For those who don't know, Apizza is the New Haven pizza style. What does that mean? Hmmm...Wikipedia has this to say: "New Haven-style pizza, also known as apizza, [is] popular in southern Connecticut. It has a thin crust that varies between chewy and tender, depending on the particular establishment. The default version is a "white" pizza topped with only garlic and hard cheeses; customers who want tomato sauce or mozzarella cheese have to ask for them explicitly. Apizza has a very dark, "scorched" crisp crust that offers a distinctive bitter flavor, which can be offset by the sweetness of tomatoes or other toppings."

While I don't know that Scholls' "default" pizza is the white pie, they have one on the menu, and the crust descriptions are certainly accurate. Imported upskirt photo from their website:

See those charred spots? They do not taste burnt - they impart a smoky, deep flavor that I haven't experienced before. The crust is this perfect mix of chewy-crunchy with a malty-sweet-smoky taste. I really haven't had better anywhere.

Two things that are always mentioned in connection with Apizza Scholls are the wait and the rules. I will mention them, too. First off, the wait can be horrendous. Don't show up on the first balmy night of the summer at 6:30 - everyone else will be there, too, and you will wait 90 minutes to get seated. Space is limited. It is *much* better than it used to be, though, since they took over the space next door and outfitted it with another bar, a private dining space, 5 or so tables that can hold parties of eight, and a nice, comfy waiting area with window seats. The best way to go is to show up right at 5pm when they open. You'll either be seated right away or very soon. Now, there are rules for your pizza and they are in place for your own good. Only three ingredients per pizza. Only one meat per pizza. No, you cannot order pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and olives. And you don't want to, really. It would mess up the delicate balance of crust+sauce+cheese+toppings. You want to taste the crust and sauce in every bite, don't you? Of course you do.

In my 3 or 4 visits in a year-and-a-half span, I've tried a few different pies. 'Margo'rita - Tomato sauce, mozzarella (whole milk & fresh), grana padano, pecorino romano, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil; Amore - the 'Margo'rita plus hot capicollo; Sausage - house made sausage!; Clams Casino - no longer on the menu, but I think it was a white pie with clams in the shell, guanciale (unsmoked bacon from the pig's jowl), garlic; and Tartufo Bianco - Mozzarella (whole milk & fresh), grana padano, pecorino romano with Truffle Oil & sea salt.

My favorite is the sausage with mushrooms, and second place is held for the Amore. Last night we ordered a half-and-half of both and I couldn't have been happier. I was glad to try the Clams Casino the one time. It's a very intense and rich flavor and I couldn't imagine eating more than one piece. Surprisingly enough, I didn't care for the tartufo. I love truffle oil, but this combination came off dry and salty for me. Some folks go ga-ga over it, so try if you think you'd like it.

[Sausage pie photo from the website]

The menu also features a great Caesar salad. Get the anchovies. If you're into it, the Barbera d'Alba Deltetto 2004 is a great match with any red-sauce pizza.

Apizza Scholls
4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Open Tuesday - Saturday 5 pm - 9:30 pm
Reservations taken for parties of 8-12 only; one per night

Monday, January 7, 2008

A New Blog I Like to Read

...is Jeff McCarthy's. He is the new Pastry Chef at Ten 01 and has been at Carlyle, Roux and Fenouil most recently. I can't wait to try his desserts. Maybe even the Irish Car Bomb will make an appearance???!!!