Instead of a traditional roll-out pastry dough (which I've been known to butcher a time or two) I attempted a quick and easy shortbread crust, minus the sugar. It's so simple in fact, that all you have to do is pat it directly into the pan. Hallelujah! I was nervous of the outcome at first, but it in the end it worked like a charm, yielding flaky goodness almost as light as air.
I wanted to use produce in the filling that really showcases the season; I can't think of two better examples of spring in the South than sweet Vidalia onions and salty country ham. For the custard, I tripled (!!) my favorite tart recipe. It includes a tip I learned from Thomas Keller: the batter gets a whirl in the blender to create lots and lots of bubbles, which help suspend the filling ingredients instead of letting them sink to the bottom. Oh, he's a clever one, that man.
I'm excited to say that everything came together to create a sublime quiche—a beyond buttery crust, a creamy custard, and flavor bursts of onion and ham. It definitely feeds a crowd, so make sure you have some hungry mouths to feed.
Country Ham and Onion Quiche
For the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups (2 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
For the filling
Olive oil, to taste
1 cup chopped sweet onion, preferably Vidalia (about 1 large)
1 cup chopped country ham (or cooked bacon or pancetta)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
White pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
For the crust, add the flour, Parmesan, butter, salt, and cayenne to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Pulse until the mixture just starts to resemble coarse cornmeal; there should still be some visible pieces of butter. Gently pat the mixture evenly into the bottom (but not up the sides) of a 12-inch x 18-inch half sheet pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until pale golden in color, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while making the filling.
For the filling, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent and tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle the onions, ham, and Gruyere evenly over the baked crust.
Add cream, milk, eggs, salt, and pepper in a blender and mix until frothy. Remove and discard any foam from the top. Pour the custard evenly over the onion-ham-cheese mixture, directly into the crust.
Bake the quiche until the custard is set, about 33 to 38 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for a minimum of 15 minutes, or wait to serve at room temperature (Thomas Keller serves his chilled). Cut into 12 large rectangles or small squares; serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with sprig of Italian parsley for color.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)