Wine With Bacon and Cheese Quiche
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
In these few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas-the great national holidays of overindulgence--our instincts are to eat relatively simply on the nights when we're dining at home. But 'simple' doesn't have to mean boring, and of course for us, it doesn't mean going without wine with dinner. We haven't made a quiche-the epicurean's mainstay of the 1970s and '80s-in years; but the other day, the idea of eggs, cheese, and a little bacon tucked into a buttery pie crust suddenly seemed to offer a tasty, and comforting alternative to the baked birds, robust roasts, gourmet gravies, and truffled trifles that characterize the holiday season.
We found that providing wine partners for classic bacon and cheese Quiche Lorraine was not particularly challenging-indeed, most of the bottles (both red and white) that we opened were pretty good with the tart. But the best matches depend on several factors. For example, the rosé we sampled with the dish would have been a festive and flavorful accompaniment for brunch or on a warm summer evening, but on this dark and chilly night it proved a less interesting fit than some of the other options in our glasses. Also, a more heavily smoked bacon than the milder, almost pancetta-like one we used might produce somewhat different results. In our tasting, Sauvignon Blanc and an otherwise luscious Riesling each got a little lost in the tangle of bacon and cheese flavors. A reasonably hearty Merlot was accused by one of us as 'killing the nice cheesy-ness of the dish,' although the other liked the savory way it connected on the palate with the bacon. We both agreed that the subtle flavors of the Pinot Noir in our lineup faded into nothingness under the richness of the dish. And both of us independently picked a Moulin-a-Vent Beaujolais as our number one red, and an Italian Pinot Bianco as our first white wine choice, with the two wines being about equally delicious with the quiche.
So, in general, our experience showed us that Quiche Lorraine is tasty with wines of any color as long as they are neither too slight nor too robust. The best vinous partners for it have well balanced fresh fruit flavors unfettered by aggressive oak, tannins and/or acidity. Another lesson we learned was that now that we've brought quiche back into our kitchen, we'll revisit this simple savory dish more often in the future.
For color and extra color and depth of flavor (and also because we wanted to enjoy the last offerings from the herb garden before it shuts down for the winter), we added a generous amount of minced fresh chives and parsley to the more austere traditional dish. We baked our tart in a classic French removable-bottom tart pan, but a regular 10 to 11 inch pie pan would also work (cooking times would have to be adjusted). We made our crust from scratch, but there are plenty of good ready-made crusts available in most markets today.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable shortening
¼ cup ice water
1 cup chopped bacon (about 4 strips)
1 shallot or small onion, minced
2 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon each minced fresh chives and parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups shredded Gruyère or Emmental cheese, or a combination of both
Making the dough: In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and butter until the mixture looks grainy (do not over-process). Add the oil or shortening, pulse very briefly, then add the water and pulse again until the ingredients are blended. Add a few more drops water if necessary, but do not pulse any more than you have to. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, place it on a lightly floured work surface, and press it into a disc. Roll the dough out into an 11 or 12 inch round, and fit it into the tart pan. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes.
Making the filling: Over medium high heat, warm a skillet and add the chopped bacon and the onions (if the bacon is very lean, add about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter). Cook about 5 minutes, or until bacon is slightly crisp and the onions are soft. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, herbs, salt and peppers. Reserving about a quarter cup of the cheese, distribute remaining cheese over the bottom of the crust. Add the bacon mixture, then ladle in the egg mixture as evenly as possible. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top, and bake in a pre-heated 370° oven for 20 minutes; decrease the heat to 350° and bake another 15 minutes or so, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.