Just relax. I nodded, complied, but knew perfectly well that there would be many more guests before March rolled around.
Last weekend, I did take Jeannie's suggestion though. Instead of staying in, we went out for sixteen dollar hamburgers, specialty drafts, and the company of our friends, Bill and Meghan. The hot spot was Vie, which besides coming over to our house, is the reason you should make the trip to the Western Suburbs for dinner. It's a Michelin rated gem with an impressive seasonal menu, excellent wine list, and a preservationist's dream walk-in. They also offer a whole hog butchering class, which was the highlight of our summer a couple years ago.
However, amongst the smartly casual crowd, I became (at least in my mind) the thing that didn't belong. Party due to my frugality and partly due to the way I've been carrying this baby, I've resorted to stretch ware's finest, which is just what I wore out last Friday night. I quietly hoped that the sassy suburbanites would focus on my new Frye boots instead of the Lycra-wrapped upper quartiles of my body. But I could sense the spandex haters all around me. Or maybe it was just me, hating myself in spandex. Regardless, the food was great, the company better, and the lack of dishes to wash, much appreciated.
This weekend though, I decided to return to my comfort zone and invited the party to come to us. That is, two of my cousins, two of their friends, and the showpiece of the evening, Ellen's new beau. (Uncle Mike, not a jagoff. Two thumbs up from us.) To fend off the frigid temperatures, there were platters of bruschetta served fireside, followed by Thomas Keller's filling and seemingly mile-high quiche, a roasted beet salad, and freshly baked biscotti for dessert.
Thomas Keller's Over the Top Mushroom Quiche
Adapted from Food and Wine
Buttery Pastry Shell
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small container oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 big container white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 small shallots, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup shredded Emmental cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly grated nutmeg
Prepare the crust. This can always be a challenge, and stepping up to the heights of a spring form pan to create Keller's crust can be very challenging. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you chill the dough enough before rolling it out and right before you put it in the oven.
- Roll out the dough enough that you have excess hanging over the side of the pan and press the top firmly around the edges. It seems inevitable that the crust will collapse inward, so being prepared in this vain will help.
- If you are aiming for Keller's perfection, save some excess pie dough to fill in the cracks.
- Use pie weights.
- Bake almost the full hour that it calls for before adding your custard mixture and the rest of the ingredients.
Scatter 1/2 cup of the cheese and half of the mushrooms evenly over the bottom of the pastry shell. In a large bowl, mix together the custard: eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour half of the mixture over the cheese and mushrooms. Top with another 1/4 cup of cheese and the remaining mushrooms. Then add the rest of the custard. Finally, scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese on top.
Now, there is a reason this is called an 'over the top' quiche. Sure, it's 'over the top' in that it's a higher, fluffier, quite impressive quiche. But it's also 'over the top' in that the egg mixture quite literally went over the top of the (and under) the pan for me. That is why I reduced the custard proportions a bit. I don't like wasting eggs in this house. Depending on how well you did with your crust, look out for the lowest lying crack, and try to fill the shell past that point.
Bake the quiche for more than 1 1/2 hours. I say more than, because at 90 minutes, it wasn't quite set yet. I needed an additional 15. It should be richly browned on top and barely set in the center. Let it cool in the pan until still very warm, but set. Pop out the bottom of the springform pan and serve in wedges.
(Barely) adapted from Smitten Kitchen
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Preheat to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Mix sugar, melted butter, eggs, almond extract, orange juice and zest in large bowl. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with wooden spoon until well blended. Mix in almonds.
Divide dough in half and shape each half into logs on the prepared baking sheet. Depending on how long you want your biscotti, vary the width of the log. (You will be cutting them on the horizontal.) Brush egg log all around with prepared egg white.
Bake logs until golden brown about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely on sheet, about 25 minutes, but maintain oven temperature.
Using a serrated knife, cut logs horizontally into slices. Again, based on preference, cut them thinner or thicker. We prefer a 3/4 inch slice. Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, turning the slices over about midway through the bake. In the last five minutes, watch carefully, because they turn color quickly. Transfer to rack and cool.