Give asparagus the royal treatment
Anyone looking out the window can see that spring has truly arrived. It’s time to say goodbye to those imported woody green stalks and say hello to local asparagus. Sweet and tender, they cook quickly and don’t require peeling.
My garden bed has been producing for a couple of weeks, so I have been trotting out all of my asparagus recipes. Because the season is short, I think asparagus deserve the royal treatment. A deluxe quiche fills the bill.
Although you can make a quiche with almost any kind of cheese, Gruyere is an elegant pairing with asparagus. It is a semisoft cheese that hails from Switzerland, where it’s been produced since the 12th century. The flavor is sweet, nutty and slightly salty. Gruyere is usually aged from three to 10 months, and this is reflected in its price tag. You’ll only need 4 ounces for the quiche, so try to ignore the $20 per pound listed on the label.
In keeping with the more-is-better theme, use half-and-half to step up the richness. A few grindings of nutmeg and a little fresh tarragon will round out the flavors.
Such a luxurious filling demands a first-rate crust. Unfortunately, store-bought crusts miss the mark. Butter crusts are great, but for first-time cooks, using Crisco is a lot easier. I recommend the sticks to eliminate the messy measuring. A pastry blender is a great tool to have to cut in the Crisco, but two bread knives will work, too.
One trick to make the rolling out easier is to place the crust between two pieces of lightly floured wax paper. While rolling, lift off the top paper and sprinkle a little flour to make sure the paper is not sticking. When you are finished, just remove the top paper, invert the crust into the pie plate and peel off the bottom paper.
Paired with a salad, asparagus quiche is the perfect way to celebrate springtime.
For the crust
11/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco
3 tablespoons cold water
For the filling
1 pound asparagus
2 leeks (use one if the leeks are thick)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few gratings of nutmeg
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
Mix the flour and salt, and cut in the Crisco until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the water and mix. Gather the mixture together and form a flat patty. Roll out the crust and place in a 91/2-inch deep dish pie plate. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus, then thinly slice them on the diagonal. Thinly slice the white part of the leeks, then wash them in a bowl of water. Drain well. Leeks are notoriously sandy, so don’t omit this step.
In a large skillet, heat the butter over a medium flame. Add the asparagus and leeks, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tarragon and cook for a minute more. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, half-and-half, salt and nutmeg. Add the cheese and asparagus and mix well. Pour into prepared crust.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and cook for about 45 minutes more, or until puffed and lightly browned. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting.
— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.