Play With Your Food: Asparagus for spring

Quiche

For this quiche, I played around with both the crust and the filling by kicking up the flavor and using local, seasonal ingredients. Try to get hold of some of Catapano Farm’s award-winning chèvre if you can, but any decent goat cheese will do just fine.

As for the asparagus, this is the time of year you should try it every way you can — roasted in a hot oven with good olive oil, salt and pepper, or grilled or steamed or even tempura!  My mom used to cook asparagus until it was khaki-colored, and I hated it. Moving out here I was educated as to the seasonality and proper cooking of local asparagus, and I am a better person for it!

Even though this quiche takes a while in the oven, the asparagus flavor doesn’t suffer, and the fresh tarragon, pancetta and goat cheese really give the final product some character.

Secret of a crispy crust?  Pre-bake it until 95 percent done, then paint it with slightly beaten egg white while it’s still hot. This technique provides a barrier against the custard mix, which makes most quiche crusts soggy and sad.

All you need to complete this meal is a simple salad of fresh greens with a light vinaigrette.

Find some fresh local eggs and have a go!

Asparagus Mushroom Quiche
with Pancetta and Goat Cheese

Servings: 6 to 8

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes for the crust, 35-45 minutes for the quiche.

For the crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch cubes

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled

3-4 tablespoons ice water

1 egg white, slightly beaten (save the yolk for the filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse the flour, salt, pepper, sage and parsley for a few seconds to combine.

Add the butter and process for five one-second pulses.

Add the shortening and process for four one-second pulses.

Sprinkle in the water and run the processor for 10 to 20 seconds, or just until the dough gathers together.

Turn on to a floured surface, form into a disk, dust with flour and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (You can make the dough a day ahead, just remember to leave it out for 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling it out.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to fit a 9 inch glass or aluminum pie pan. You’ll have a bit of extra dough.  Build up the edges, crimp and trim the crust.

Line with foil and weigh it down with beans or rice or steel pie weights, and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or so, or until the crust is completely dry and nearly cooked through.  Remove from the oven and, while still hot, paint the crust bottom and sides with the egg white. Set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the crust is baking do your mise en place for the filling.

For the filling:

4 ounces pancetta, ¼ to ¾ inch dice

½ cup chopped shallots

4 crimini or white mushrooms, sliced

8 ounces fresh local asparagus, cut in ¾ inch pieces

¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

2 whole eggs plus the reserved egg yolk from the crust

Enough milk that when added to the egg mixture up it equals two cups, or about 1 ¼ cups

In a skillet, render the pancetta over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. When crisp, remove the pancetta to a small bowl, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent.

Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until softened. Stir in the asparagus and cook just until it turns bright green, a minute or two. Add the pepper and the tarragon and remove from the heat.

Whisk together the eggs, yolk and milk in a small bowl.

Spread the pancetta/mushroom/asparagus mixture into the finished crust.  Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over, then pour the egg mixture on top. Use a spoon and make sure the mixture and the cheese are submerged.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the quiche is puffy and firm. The baking time for a glass dish is going to be slightly longer than that of an aluminum pan.

Let the quiche rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.