Friday, May 15, 2009

Oven Challenges, Rhubarb Compote, and Quiche

I'll start by giving a big thanks to Molly Wizenberg. Not wanting to give up entirely on rhubarb, I spotted a mention of rhubarb compote on Orangette, Molly's terrific blog. There was a link to the recipe, and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it. The ingredients couldn't have been simpler: rhubarb, sugar, orange zest, orange liqueur, and butter. It bummed me out, but in order to save money I omitted the liqueur. The smallest bottle of Cointreau I could find was the equivalent of $25. It's a well known fact: hard alcohol is extraordinarily expensive in Denmark. This is not the kind of money I can justify spending on a recipe ingredient when I'm out of work. The good news is that the finished compote was sweet, tart, orangey, and absolutely delicious. I didn't even miss the liqueur, although I can imagine how good it would be with it. I loved it so much that it started me thinking about rhubarb and what a unique and incomparable fruit/vegetable (?) it is. I ate it atop Greek yogurt and it was the best possible ending to our dinner of quiche and salad.
The French know a thing or two about food. They're also more than willing to say what they think about it, no matter how direct or blunt it might sound. I should know. I'm married to one. When we met, my husband taught me how to make a "real" quiche. It's sort of like "real" soup. A quick aside: I once made a minestrone-type soup to which, after taking a bite, Alan remarked, Wow, it's good but it's not real soup. For those of you not in the know, "real" soup must be pureed. Didn't you know that?! But back to the quiche. I'd made it in my pre-Alan days, but it was the thick, American kind and always with lots of cheese. Alan's quiche contained no cheese, the eggy filling was light and much thinner than I was used to, and it was just simply good to eat.
In addition to a crust made of flour, butter, olive oil, salt, and water, the filling contained 3 to 4 whole eggs, a little sour cream or soy cream, and a little milk. After lining the quiche pan with the unbaked crust, the egg mixture was poured in and various toppings were applied, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and bacon. But always bacon, and always prepared the same, unusual (to me anyway) way: raw slices placed in a bowl, covered with water, and microwaved for 5 or so minutes until cooked through. The toppings were applied sparingly so that you could still see plenty of the pale yellow color of the egg mix.

Fast forward five years. It's me who makes the quiche now. I'm not sure why, but it's happened this way. I make it virtually the same way except sometimes I add one or two additional eggs and I always fry the bacon first to make it brown and crispy. Call me American, but I just prefer it this way. Oh, and I also put lots of toppings because to me it's healthier this way. Today's quiche contained bacon (naturally), asparagus, and cremini mushrooms. It was a hit all around the table although Alan (in his effort to help me be a quiche master. yeah right.) suggested that it might be a little too egg-heavy. He reminded me that he likes to use no more than 3 eggs. Okay, whatever. While I disagreed with his assessment, I did admit that it lacked enough salt. Although we are light salt users, and the bacon typically adds all the salt it needs, it was admittedly on the bland side. But we both agreed: too little salt beats excessively salty any day. My final comment on the quiche has to do with the third part of my headline, oven challenges.

Since moving into our rental house at the beginning of April I've struggled with the oven repeatedly. Using the appropriate setting, getting the temperature right, and realizing with great disappointment that my cookie sheet (shipped all the way from the U.S.) is too big to fit in it. Come on, Europe, get some bigger ovens...and refrigerators while you're at it! I can hear it now, "those greedy Americans..." Anyway, it will sound like a lame excuse but I attribute--at least in part--my failed enchiladas, lasagna, Madeleines, and rhubarb cake to the crappy little oven. It's not that I can't read the Celsius temps (I use my handy little cheat sheet that converts degrees F to degrees C), but instead of Warm, Bake, Broil, etc., on the other dial there are DIAGRAMS. There's a little fan, a big fan, a solid square, a hollow square, and a square with little teeth looking things on top. grrrrrr. Because I've had no luck with any of the other settings, I always use the hollow square. Meanwhile it's taking me ages to get some of my food cooked properly. Welcome to cooking in Denmark. That's a joke, and apart from the oven, I am totally in love with the kitchen.

That brings me back to my final comment on the quiche (I know, enough already). I baked the crust for 15 minutes before adding anything to it. I never had to take this step in the U.S., but it's a new day and a new country. And precooking the crust means that we end up with a thoroughly cooked quiche rather than one that's still doughy in the middle. Which is just gross.

Final thought of the day: Did I mention that we don't have a freezer? We didn't realize it until the day we moved in and we simply assumed that there was one at the top or the bottom of the fridge. I've never lived without a freezer. What will I do with myself? Seriously, it does pose a challenge. For example, the other night I made a big batch of soup (real soup) but now it's a race to finish it before it goes bad. I don't need that kind of pressure! The lesson is to make things in smaller quantities (something utterly foreign to American thinking)..but it also means that we can't buy ice cream for home. So sad.

Real Quiche

1c flour
2T unsalted butter
2T olive oil
1t salt
1/3c water (more if too dry)

5 whole eggs
1/2c sour (or soy) cream

3 slices of cooked, crisp bacon chopped into small pieces
3 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 1" pieces
4 or 5 mushrooms, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350F or 180C
1. Mix crust ingredients until shaggy. Knead for a minute and roll into a ball. If preparing right away, roll into a large circle to fit your pan or wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to use. Roll on a lightly floured surface and fit in pan. Prick dough with fork.

2. If you have a finicky oven, bake crust for 15 to 20 minutes until it looks partially cooked but not brown. If not, whisk the eggs and sour cream together in a bowl and pour into the uncooked crust. Place toppings on the surface of the eggs mix and press down lightly with your fingers.

3. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. The quiche will deflate upon cooling. Cut into slices and serve with green salad or soup.


  1. "There's a little fan, a big fan, a solid square, a hollow square, and a square with little teeth looking things on top. grrrrrr." Hilarious Stace! That would be tough. And no freezer! Whats up with that? Enjoying the blog. Take care.

  2. I know, can you believe it?! I forgot to mention that we don't have a microwave, either. Life is so rough. Thanks for reading, brother.

  3. I had no idea about "real" soup! But I did make a quiche recipe a few weeks ago that used only 3 eggs, and it was just plain strange 5 eggs for us! I think you should list your oven setting in your recipes ("Preheat oven to 350F or 180C on hollow square.") Love it!

    My SIL is microwaveless in Seattle, and has adapted, but no freezer??? Urgh.

    Hang in there! Keep those recipes coming. =)

  4. Hi Alissa,
    I saw a short video on having child #2 that you might enjoy. It's the "Momversation" on this site
    It's on the right of the page. Take care and thanks for reading!