Asparagus Quiches with Mint
Chef April Bloomfield says that when she was growing up, she ate some truly horrible quiches, both home-cooked and store-bought, packed with what seemed like a refrigerator’s worth of odds and ends suspended in overcooked eggs. However, she believes that this quiche, with its delicate, flaky crust and fluffy egg filling, is good enough to banish those bad memories forever. You could eat it piping hot from the oven, of course, but she prefers waiting it until it cools a bit. If you don’t own the twelve 3-inch (7.5-cm) tartlet pans necessary to assemble individual quiches, you can use an 11-inch (28-cm) tart pan instead, although you will wind up with some extra dough.
For the dough:
- 3 1/4 cups (17 oz./530 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) (8 oz./250 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g) crème fraîche
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) very cold water
For the filling:
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. (500 g) asparagus, each spear about as thick as an index finger, trimmed, stalks
cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces and tips left whole
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) finely diced Spanish onion (about 1 small)
- 1 small bulb spring garlic, tough outer layer removed, bulb thinly sliced and then
coarsely chopped, or 1 Tbs. thinly sliced regular garlic
- 1/4 tsp. Maldon or other flaky sea salt
- 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) whole milk
- 8 mint leaves, preferably black mint, thinly slivered
To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of fine bread crumbs, with a few pebble-size pieces of butter.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the crème fraiche and water, and use your fingertips to toss and gently pinch the mixture just until it comes together as a dry, slightly crumbly dough. Don’t overwork the dough, and don’t let it get too warm. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.
Line your work surface and a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough onto the work surface and roll it out to an even 1/4-inch (6-mm) thickness, dusting the dough with flour if the rolling pin sticks to it. Use a 4 1/2-inch (11.5-cm) cookie cutter to cut out 12 rounds. Working quickly, line each tartlet pan with a dough round, pressing the dough gently into the bottom and sides of the pans. Put the tartlet pans on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
Preheat an oven to 325°F (165°F).
Cut parchment paper into twelve 5-inch (13-cm) squares. Crumple each square into a ball, wet the ball under running water, squeeze out all the water and flatten the balls out again. (This makes them more malleable.) Just before you’re ready to bake the shells, remove them from the refrigerator. (They must be nice and cold when you put them in the oven or your quiches will be greasy.) Use 1 square of parchment paper to line each shell and fill each one almost to the brim with dried beans, uncooked rice or pie weights. Put the shells back in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
Bake the shells, rotating the baking sheet once, just until the dough is no longer raw but is not yet colored, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment squares. Gently prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork, which will prevent it from puffing up as it bakes. Return to the oven and bake until the shells are evenly light golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pans, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven but leave the oven on.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it generously until it’s slightly less salty than the sea. Add the chopped asparagus stalks to the water and cook just until the asparagus has lost its raw crunch, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Use a skimmer to transfer the asparagus to a colander to drain. Repeat with the asparagus tips, keeping them separate from the stalks. Set aside to let cool to room temperature.
In a sauté pan over medium-low heat, warm the butter until it is melted and frothy. Add the onion, garlic and Maldon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just barely browned at the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to let cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs and egg yolks and whisk briefly to combine. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cream and milk and bring to a vigorous simmer. Remove from the heat, then very gradually pour the cream mixture into the eggs while whisking constantly. Stir in 2 tsp. kosher salt. Set aside to let cool to room temperature.
Divide the onion mixture among the shells (using about a heaping tsp. per shell), spreading it to form an even layer. Spoon in the asparagus stalks (about 2 generous Tbs. per shell.) Whisk the egg mixture, then ladle it into each tartlet pan so that is comes to about 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the rim. Add the asparagus tips (two or three per tart) and the mint (a pinch per tart). Pull the oven rack forward and carefully transfer the baking sheet to the rack, then top off each quiche with a little more egg mixture. (This way the quiches won’t spill as you transport them to the oven.)
Bake the quiches, carefully rotating the baking sheet once, just until the egg has set, 20 to 25 minutes. The egg should no longer be liquid, but it should still be moist and soft to the touch.
Remove the quiches from the pans and let cool slightly or to room temperature before serving. Makes twelve 3-inch (7.5-cm) quiches.
Adapted from April Bloomfield, A Girl and Her Greens (Ecco, 2015)