Monthly Archives: September 2009

Quiche Lorraine

Fall is now in full swing. I am ready for the change of seasons. The change from summer…grilling, beaches and fruity beverages into nights, hearty stick to the ribs stews and spiced laced desserts.

Right before summer ended I dragged Big Daddy to see the movie, Julie and Julia. We enjoyed it very much. The movie made me cry and think back on all of the wonderful memories I have of Cremaldi’s.

Julia Child was a friend of my mother and father. We have a 20 x 24 Polaroid picture, taken by photographer, (and friend extraordinaire) Elsa Dorfman, hanging in our kitchen. It was one of many Elsa Dorfman’s 20 x 24 photos, that hung on the walls at Cremaldi’s, for over a decade. In the photo dated, October 18, 1988, Julia’s husband Paul, my father Cosmo, my mother Catherine and Julia (towering over all of them) stand, smiling with their arms crossed, in typical Julia style.

My mother Catherine Cremaldi (left), Julia (middle) Paul Child (right)

I remember one story my mother tells about the night my parents were invited to the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University for a special tribute to Julia. They started off the evening at Julia’s house, where they were served goldfish crackers and cocktails. Then they were of to the library where my parents were seated on either side of Julia in the front row. Half way through the tribute Julia fell into a deep sleep. Everyone started whispering and staring at the sleeping icon. The evening continued without interruption even though it was obvious that the honoree was not listening! The night was over and many people clambered around Julia offering to take her back home to Irving Street. She insisted that my dad Cosmo escort her home. In the car, Julia fell back into a deep sleep in the front seat, and my mother started snoring from the back seat.

Another time Julia invited my parents to a new Italian restaurant. The chef/owner was Danish. He had super blonde hair and a thick Danish accent. Julia asked my parents to accompany her into the kitchen to meet the owner and to try to figure out why a Danish man owned an Italian restaurant! Not noticing the large “OUT” letters on the swinging kitchen door, Julia casually walked through and in her unique high pitched tone, asked the man “What qualifies you to be an Italian cook?” He responded “I took a two week course in Italy.” In her usual pleasant yet blasé manner, Julia smiled, accepted the answer and went back to the dining room.

We have lots of Julia stories. I remember one of the first times I met her. For some reason it was decided that Julia would sign thousands of copies of her new book, Baking with Julia, at Cremaldi’s??? No body filled me in on the plan and I went down to my dad’s office to grab something. When I opened the door there she was, Julia Child, surrounded by stacks of her own cookbook. She looked up and said “well hello!” I was so nervous. I am sure my mouth was hanging open. She very kindly signed one of the books to me with a big heart and arrow and her famous words “Bon Appetite!”

I decided that I wanted to honor our friend Julia and the movie. Julia’s traditional Quiche Lorraine in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is one of my favorites. In the United States we have morphed quiche into all kinds of shapes and styles. Some are thin and have pretty fluted edges, some are made with puff pastry dough, and some are even free form. The fillings in quiche have become as far out as cupcake flavors in trendy cupcake bakeries.

I want to honor tradition… the multiple sticks of butter, the numerous eggs, large amounts of heavy cream, and pounds of bacon. Characteristics that have made Lorraine the first word to pop out when conducting word association with Quiche. I want to make Julia proud! Bon Appetite!

Here we go…
I used a 9 inch pastry ring set on a cookie sheet with parchment paper

Pâte Brisée Recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

2 cups flour (3 1/2 oz)
1/4 lb chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch bits
3 tbsp chilled vegetable shortening
2 pinches of sugar
5 tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp salt
Put the flour, butter, shortening, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes .Do not overdo this step ast the fat will be blended more thouroughly later. 

Add water and blend quickly with one hand fingers held together and slightly cupped as you rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 tbsp more water by droplets over any unmassed remains and add them to the main body of the dough. Press dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight

Roll out dough 1/8 inch thick and place in pastry shell/ring. You can do this one of two ways…fold circle of dough into quarters and place in ring. Unfold dough carefully (method I used) or you can pick up dough using your rolling pin and lay over ring carefully fit down into bottom of shell.

Don’t be affraid to use your fingers. My pastry ring is 9 x 3. I would have been better off using a 9 x 2. If dough cracks don’t sweat it! Just press it back together or use a scrap piece of dough to make the repair. You don’t want your filling leaking out when you pour the eggs and cream into the shell.

Line shell with parchment or foil and fill with dry beans or baking weights
400 8-9 minutes
Remove parchment and beans bake 2-3 minutes
It is now ready to fill with filling!
Here is the recipe from the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck:

6-8 slices bacon
1 quart of water
8 inch partially cooked pastry shell placed on baking sheet
3 eggs
1 1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of Pepper
Pinch of Nutmeg
1-2 Tbsp butter cut into pea sized dots
I added Emmenthaler Cheese to my Quiche Lorraine making it Quiche Lorraine au Fromage de Gruyere. I also decided to add sliced onions
2 onions – light coat the bottom of a saute pan with canola oil. Cover onions low flame and let onions release water. Uncover and sweat for 30 mins until tender

Cut bacon into pieces about an inch long. Simmer for 5 minutes in the water Rinse in cold water, dry on paper towels and brown lightly in a skillet
(this step is optional)

Layer bacon on bottom of par baked pastry shell
At this point I covered bacon with 1/2 cup of grated Emmenthaler and the onions

Beat eggs, cream, milk and seasonings in mixing bowl until blended. Pour into shell.
I covered the top with another 1/2 cup of grated Emmenthaler

Set in upper third of preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until quiche has puffed and browned. Remove ring. Let cool before slicing.

Just found joy
I’m as happy as a baby boy
When he’s playing with the choo-choo toy
When I’m with my sweet Lorraine…
-Frank Sinatra

You Say "Shirred" I Say "Sheared"

Going to the S&S deli for brunch was one of my favorite pre Rose and Iris, fall/winter, Sunday morning activities. I ALWAYS order their Eggs Benedict, hot coffee, fresh orange juice and a newspaper…aaaahhhh those were the days! We haven’t tried taking the girls to the S&S for brunch. Something about the thought of having to gulp down my Benedict in between wrestling Iris into her seat and picking up sugar packets, isn’t appealing to me. I miss brunch so this week, with the slight feel of fall in the air (why, WHY,WHY???) I had no desire to rush off to the beach. Instead, I thought it would be nice to have a Labor Day family breakfast at home. The girls got homemade Mickey Mouse waffles.
And Big Daddy and I had Shirred Eggs with spinach and cream!
Shirred eggs are my new favorite meal. Just break an egg into a shallow custard dish with some melted butter and set under the broiler for mere seconds. DONE! They are so easy and fast to make, but look so fancy and taste…well just make ‘em and you’ll see!!!!
My first introduction to shirred eggs was many many years ago. I was in NYC having my hair done at Kenneth’s Salon at the Waldorf Astoria. I bet you are wondering what shirred eggs have to do with getting my hair cut…well keep reading…I had read about Kenneth in Jaclyn Smith’s beauty book when I was 8. Kenneth had worked on the heads of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy and I needed him! I was always very unhappy with my thick, curly, Roseanne Roseanne Adana hair. I begged my mother to make an appointment with Kenneth in hopes of turning my hair into Jaclyn Smith’s! I never stopped going! When I got to college my mother stopped paying for my trips so I was forced to come up with the money on my own. I would take “junkets” to Bally’s in Atlantic City, with a friend, and play blackjack or craps. I would save the money that I had won and spend it driving to NYC for the day to visit Kenneth (ok I am really off track now!). BACK TO SHIRRED EGGS… One trip I was having breakfast at Balthazar killing time before my appointment with Kenneth and ordered Shirred Eggs with Soldiers of fresh hot Brioche. I will never forget how amazing they tasted!

     Please don’t focus in on my soldiers of toast-they should be standing at attention and not

Literally 60 seconds under the broiler and they were absolutely perfect! The yoke was running and the whites were tender and delicious. I sopped up every morsel with my toast.
I was so excited about my breakfast that, OF COURSE, I had to call my mother! I told her about these eggs I made and that they were called “sheared eggs”. My mother said “Aren’t they called ‘shirred” Gen? They have been around forever.” Well who knew! Not me! You are talking to the daughter of a hill billy, who when asked to cut up an avocado for a salad, at a friend’s house, one evening when I was 10 left the peel on!!!! I was mortified! I didn’t know what those green bumpy things were let alone how to serve them!         I have gone on waaaaaaay too long…sorry… Here is the recipe.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a sauté pan. When hot add ½ cup sliced onions or leeks and sauté until golden. Add two cups fresh baby spinach and stir until wilted. Turn off heat and set aside. (you can add any seasonings you would like-I fried bacon to go with the eggs and used a light coating of bacon drippings to sauté my onions and spinach-YES that is correct-BACON FAT!!! So I didn’t want to add any other flavors such as fresh herbs)

For every egg you will need an individual shallow, fireproof custard dish. Preheat the broiler. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter over a very low flame, when it is hot and starting to bubble, carefully crack an egg into each dish. Pour 2 Tbsps of heavy cream over the egg (If you would like to have a plain old Oeufs sur le Plat-shirred egg do not add the cream and put the dishes directly under the broiler at this point)

Place the individual dishes onto a sheet pan and place under the hot broiler. Now you have a choice. You can put your sautéed spinach on before or after the broiler. I put my spinach on top BEFORE I put them under the broiler. I bet some cheese on top of the spinach would have been delicious too. Gratinés style! Oh well next time. Set a timer for one minute but check after 45 seconds. That’s how fast they cook. You don’t want to over cook the egg. Keep in my that it will continue to cook slightly after you take it out of the oven. If you did not add the cream or spinach than you want to take the dish out after 30 seconds and baste with the butter. Then put it back in for another 30 seconds. You don’t have to do that when you add the cream.
Yummy! Enjoy!

Fresh Pasta and My Chitarra

I was not planning a post on making homemade macaroni because it is boring and unoriginal. I couldn’t resist after using my chitarra macaroni cutter last night.

A chitarra (pronounced key-tahr-rah and translated to mean guitar) is a wooden box, with wire guitar like strings, which are secured from end to end. It is believed that the chitarra was invented in Abruzzi Italy around the 1800’s. My chitarra was brought all the way from L’Aquila, Italy, by a friend. It is an amazingly simple invention of pure genius! Sheets of fresh macaroni are laid across the top of the strings and rolled with a rolling pin. The strings cut through the dough and perfect strands of linguini fall to the bottom of the box. You tilt the box and the cut macaroni drops onto your table top! It is so easy and perfect if you are craving a bowl of homemade macaroni without having to attach anything to the counter or your Kitchen Aid mixer. It is also very fascinating for kids to watch and safe enough for them to help.

I got out my Cremaldi Cookbook (Doubleday, 1988) and made a batch of fresh macaroni.  I wasn’t going to be using any machinery to roll and cut the pasta, so I decided to make the dough using just my countertop and a fork. The old fashioned well method.
I used just plain old unbleached flour, but you could substitute semolina. I made the well big enough to accomodate the 4 eggs in the recipe. I held my breath because I thought it would over flow, but I just used my fork to push the flour back and the last egg fit into the well. I  scrambled the eggs with my fork and then gradually started to pull in the flour from my well walls.
Once I got to a point that it looked more like dough than scrambled eggs I switched out my fork for a pastry scraper. I didn’t want to get my hands too covered with mucky dough because the girls were around. I never know when I will hear a blood curdling scream and have to drop everything to…turn the TV channel…or fetch a sippy cup that rolled under the couch…or pick up a screaming Iris who just got her fingers twisted because she touched the blue crayon. By using the scraper I can keep at least one of my hands relatively clean. When the majority of the flour is incorporated in, use your hands to give the dough a few minutes of good kneading

  Then form a ball. Wrap the ball in Saran Wrap© and put in the fridge while you clean up your work space for the next step. Keep any extra flour you will need it when you start to roll out the dough.

I cut the dough in quarters and floured my work surface with a generous amount of flour. I also floured my rolling pin. The dough is VERY soft. I thought it might be too soft for the chitarra. I was pleasantly surprised that it WORKED BEAUTIFULLY! Roll the dough out to the thickness that you like. I like my macaroni on the thick side but not super thick.
NOW if you do not have a chitarra or it hasn’t arrived in the mail and you are dying for macaroni than at this point you can also cut the sheets by hand. You take a sheet of dough and roll it into a jelly roll.
From there you take a knife and cut strips as thick or thin as you would like. If you want Pappardelle then cut the strips wide. If you want Spaghetti than do your best to cut the strips thin. Once your strips are cut then unroll them and give them a good flouring. Be careful to not pile them because they might stick. I always have a floured sheet pan close by and as I unroll I flour and lay them out giving them lots of space on the tray.
I used my chitarra!
I rub my fingertips along the strings to finish getting the macaroni to fall through. It is so beautiful.
How about some sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and olive oil mixed in! Or try the Cremaldi Cookbook 15 minute Tomato Sauce recipe!
The Cremaldi Cookbook Basic Homemade Macaroni (p. 23)
makes 1-1 1/2 lbs
2 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs