Julia Child—the name still brings chills to me and makes me stand up straighter, something like being in the first grade with a teacher that I’m particularly fond of…or perhaps afraid of. I have always been intimidated by this woman who, just like a good elementary school teacher, simultaneously makes me feel small and also like I want to be my absolute best self. Anyone who could cook got loads of respect from me, but anyone who could cook à la française? Ooh, la la! I can only say that I did not feel worthy to step into her shoes. Because of this, I cooked from Ms. Child’s books not all as a young woman.
But time has a way of making you both more confident and more humble. You learn more of who you are and where your limits are. And sometimes you learn that some things you always thought were limits really only existed in your mind. And so it was with me and Julia.
One day in late, late Summer, I scored a huge bunch of sorrel from the farmer’s market. I had never cooked with this spinach-y looking green, but I remembered reading somewhere that it had a nice lemony edge to it. Facing a dearth of recipes using sorrel, I decided it was time to have a look in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Lo, there was sorrel soup! And it was easy! And delicious! For a moment, I stood on the shoulders of giants, and I did not fall.
But wait, you say, we’re supposed to be talking about quiche, not soup! Yes, indeed, because I have since learned that sorrel and eggs have an almost magical affinity with one another, and I was determined to try it. Encouraged by my first success, I again consulted Julia, and I was not deterred that she actually had no recipe for Sorrel Quiche in her magnus opus. She does, however, have one for Spinach Quiche, and I felt confident enough by this time to swap out one green for another. I have never looked back.
This is a very delicately flavored quiche, one that really benefits from a tender, buttery crust. If you have a favorite recipe for such a crust, by all means use it. I’ve included one of my favorites below—it’s never failed me. And I believe it goes without saying that if sorrel is unavailable, undesirable, or just plain “not on your radar,” neither Julia nor I would mind if you pursued this recipe’s original incarnation.
Sorrel Quiche à la Julia Child
The pie dough recipe here hails from that genius over at Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt. I love it so much that I’ve renamed it “The Only Pie Dough Recipe You’ll Ever Need.” You’ll only use half here, but it freezes perfectly for several months. I handle the dough a little differently, though…I take a page out of Alice Medrich and Doria Greenspan’s book—I roll the dough out right away, chill briefly, then line my pan. There’s no loss of quality, and the dough is so much easier to roll out. Trust me, or rather, trust them! Adapted slightly from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.
1/2 recipe of Easy Pie Dough, ignoring the instructions to chill 2 hours
2 Tbls. finely minced shallot
2 Tbls. butter
3 to 4 c. raw chopped sorrel, well washed (or spinach)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 t. salt
ground pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 to 1/3 c. finely grated Swiss Cheese, such as Gruyère
1. Roll out pie dough to about 1/8” between two sheets of parchment paper (this negates the need for adding more flour). Chill the dough for about 10 to 15 minutes, still between its two sheets of paper. This will allow it to rest and stiffen, so you can line the pan without it tearing everywhere. If it’s not pliable enough to line the pan when you take it out of the fridge, wait just a few minutes—it won’t take long to soften. Line your pan, pushing the dough gently into the corners and flutes. Roll your pin across the top to cut the dough cleanly away. Freeze the lined pan at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 425°. Place a baking stone or a regular steel baking sheet into the lower third of your oven to heat. Take the lined pan from the freezer, line again with a piece of parchment that you’ve first crumpled in your fist and then smoothed out again, and then fill to the brim with rice or beans, or other pie weights. (I like to use rice, which toasts nicely and can still be cooked later.) Bake right on the stone or sheet 20 to 25 minutes, till crust begins to turn golden. Remove paper and weights, prick lightly with a fork or dough docker, and bake a further 5 to 8 minutes, till pale golden all over. Cool on a rack.
3. For the quiche, heat the butter over medium-low in a wide skillet large enough to hold all the greens; sauté shallots till softened. Increase heat to medium-high, and add the sorrel. Stir and toss several minutes till it wilts and any moisture it exudes evaporates away. Cool a few minutes.
4. Whisk together the eggs with the cream and seasonings. I like to do this in a large measuring cup, as it makes pouring easier! Stir in the sorrel and shallots. Pour into pastry shell, and top with the cheese. Bake 25 to 30 minutes till puffed, golden brown, and the center doesn’t jiggle when lightly shaken. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes to set the custard.
Note: Quiche is most ethereal soon after it’s baked, but it’s quite delicious the next few days as well. Reheat in a very low oven, or even in a toaster oven, until just warmed through. I don’t recommend the microwave—it tends to make eggs rubbery and pastry gummy: not good!