May 8, 2013 by Meg G.
Confession: I have never made a pie. Nope. Not once.
I always assumed that making pie crust was not for the faint of heart. I’m not sure why… perhaps because it has been at the heart of American home cooking since the pilgrims brought their meat-based recipes to New England? Whatever it was, I just assumed that homemade pie crusts required the time and skills of days gone by.
Well, color me mistaken.
Once again, the marvelous Mark Bittman put me in my place: right in front of the food processor. As Bittman writes in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, “pies, tarts, cobblers, and crisps are far from difficult, and they’re not even that time consuming” (863). His assurance that you can, in fact, produce a really great crust your first time out was just the encouragement I needed to break out the rolling pin.
Since I thought better of serving up an apple pie for dinner (score one for self-restraint!), I went for a savory quiche. We had some beautiful farmer’s market kale, a few leftover potatoes, and half a red onion in the veggie drawer. Ta-da! Dinner. Here goes!
Potato, Kale, and Leek Quiche in a Savory Whole Wheat Crust – adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Pie Crust Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces
- 3 Tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary
- Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.
- Put the mixture in a bowl and add three tablespoons ice water; mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or so if needed. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate for up to a couple of days or freeze for up to a couple of weeks.)
- Sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, put the dough on it, and sprinkle the top with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure, from the center out. If the dough is hard, let it rest a few minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour (if it continues to become sticky after a few minutes of rolling, refrigerate or freeze again). Roll, adding flour and rotating and turning the dough as needed; use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press the patch into place.
- When you’ve rolled the dough to a diameter of 2 inches larger than that of your pie plate, move it to the pie plate by draping the dough over the rolling pin. Press the dough firmly into the plate all over. Refrigerate for about an hour before filling (if in a hurry, freeze for about 30 minutes).
- Trim the excess edges to about 1/2 inch all around then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes or refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F and set the rack in the middle.
- Prick all over with a fork. Bake the chilled crust for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown. Remove and cool on a rack while you prepare the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 2 small potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 cup kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 eggs
- 1 2/3 cup milk (we used almond milk), heated until just warm
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Add potatoes to a medium pot of salted water. Boil until fork tender, about 5-7 minutes. They should be tender, but not falling apart. Strain and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, onion, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper and sauté until starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the kale and cook until starting to wilt and turn bright green, about 5 more minutes. Taste to be sure that the kale is tender and not bitter. Turn off the heat and let sit.
- Combine the eggs, milk, and salt and beat until blended. Stir in the cheese and kale and potato mixture until combined.
- Put the partially cooked shell on a baking sheet and pour in the egg mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until almost firm and lightly brown on top. Reduce the oven heat if the shell’s edges are browning too quickly. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
A few things to note.
-You may take one look at the length of this recipe and give up. Don’t! The crust does require some lead-time, but you can always put the dough together the day before or in the morning. The flaky, flavorful crust (not to mention the satisfaction of watching butter and flour come together) will make it worth it.
-Bittman is great about giving you all the information and possible scenarios that may happen (dough that is too sticky, too hard, etc.). I found that none of this happened during my inaugural try; but it’s nice to know that you’ve got someone coaching you from the sidelines in case things don’t go perfectly.
-This recipe is actually quite forgiving. I didn’t realize until halfway in that I forgot to add the extra 2 Tablespoons of flour. I also don’t remember chilling the dough again after I crimped the edges with a fork. Didn’t seem to make much of a difference to me!
-For the filling, keep in mind that a 3:1 ratio of eggs to cups of milk works well. I probably should have used 4 eggs and 1 1/3 cups of milk, since I added over 2 cups of cheese and veggies to the filling (see below).
-It goes without saying that you can substitute any number of cheeses or vegetables here. Classic combinations like broccoli and cheddar, potato and leek, pesto and tomato, and Bittman’s veggie version of Quiche “Lorraine” (smoked tofu and caramelized onions) come to mind. Just keep the total amount of veggies and cheese to about 2 cups.
-Bittman also recommends several other crust options. I went with the whole wheat version, but the original calls only for all-purpose. He also recommends an oat piecrust (start with the all-purpose recipe and sub just over 1/2 cup rolled oats for 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour; pulse the oats in the food processor until partially ground) and a nut piecrust (sub 1/4 cup finely chopped or ground nuts for 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and pulse a few extra times in the processor before adding the butter in step 1). For a sweetened crust, add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the flour and salt in step 1.
My quiche was, perhaps, not the most beautiful, nor did the crust have a perfect edge. But the flavor was fantastic and the texture was just right. Not too hard, not even a little bit mushy, and just the right amount of flaky, buttery goodness.