“It seems odd that this very special pie, traditional in France, was so long in gaining popularity in America.” ~Craig Claiborne, The New York Times Cook Book 1961
The savory French quiche, made up of eggs and cream baked in a pastry shell has been around for centuries. The Germans have had zwiebelkuchen, their beloved bacon and onion pie for generations. And the Italians have created egg-based fritatas with varieties of meats, vegetables and cheeses for hundreds of years. Even the British serve up cheese and onion pie. Indeed, America has been slow to catch on to savory custard pies.
Armed with a stack of twentieth-century cookbooks, I began exploring the evolution of quiche in America. I found quiche-like recipes with generic-sounding names scattered through various sections of the cookbooks. For example, the earliest quiche-like recipe that I found, had the unassuming name of Cheese Custard Pie printed in The Joy of Cooking 1931 cookbook, located in the “Eggs…Luncheon and Supper Dishes” section. A simple recipe — it calls for three fourths cup hot scalded top milk (meaning the cream that has risen to the top of un-homogonized milk) in which a cup of grated cheese is melted. Two eggs are then whisked into the cheesy mixture, along with some salt and cayenne pepper. The filling is poured into a 9″ pastry shell, dusted with paprika and baked at 325* for 45 minutes and is to be served “very hot”.
In a cookbook published nearly thirty years later, I discovered a recipe similar to quiche printed in Farm Journal’s 1959 Country Cookbook in the “Milk and Cheese” section — simply called Cheese Pie. The recipe includes shredded Swiss cheese, minced onion, eggs and heavy cream baked in an 8 inch pastry shell at 400* for ten minutes, then reduced to 300* for 40 minutes. It is to be served as an entree.
With GIs returning home after World War II and establishing homes and families, mid-
century America was a time of optimism and increasing prosperity. Entertaining in the home was in vogue, and housewives hosted bridge parties, cocktail parties, and dinner parties, creating an interest in appetizer and hors d’oeuvre recipes. The American Everyday Cookbook 1955 lists Savory Tartlets in the “Appetizers” section. These quiche-like tarts are baked in “half-dollar-size tart pans” lined with pastry and filled with eggs, cream and bacon, and seasoned with salt, pepper and dry mustard.
In the trendsetting, The New York Times Cook Book 1961, the term “quiche” finally appears. Printed in the “Appetizer” section, the cookbook presents recipes for three different types of quiche, prefaced with an explanation of sorts:
“A rich custard with cheese and bacon, it may be served either as an appetizer or a main luncheon dish.”~Craig Claiborne, New York Times Cook Book 1961
The popular Quiche Lorraine, named for the Lorraine region of France (formerly of Germany), includes salt-pork or bacon for flavor. In The Times’ cookbook, the recipe for Quiche Lorraine calls for eggs, cream, bacon and cheese, suggesting cubed Swiss or Gruyere and Parmesan. Thinly slice onion sauteed in a little bacon fat is included, with salt, pepper and nutmeg for seasoning. The Crabmeat Quiche recipe calls for fresh or canned crabmeat, with celery, onion and parsley to be combined with the eggs and cream. Bay Scallops Quiche calls for 3/4 pound bay scallops, sauteed onion and celery with the eggs and cream to be seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Each quiche is baked in a nine-inch pastry shell.
In the “Cheese” section of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook 1963, the recipe for Quiche Lorraine calls for twelve slices of bacon (Yum!) and grated Swiss cheese, suggesting that it be served as a luncheon or dinner main dish, or cut into thin slices and served as “Nibbler” Lorraine. Quiche Louisiane (not to be mistaken for Quiche Lorraine) omits the bacon and substitutes one cup shelled cooked shrimp tossed with two tablespoons of chili sauce and a dash of Tabasco. A Quiche Manhattan recipe substitutes the bacon for 1 cup cubed ham, Canadian bacon, chopped cooked beef tongue or two tablespoons snipped anchovy fillets. Finally, Good Housekeeping’s Switzerland Cheese-And-Onion Pie is a nod to Germany’s traditional bacon and onion pie and is to be served for “lunch, supper or an evening snack”.
In Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966 in the “Eggs Cheese and Luncheon Dishes” section of the book, I found another recipe for Cheese-and-Onion Pie. Said to be:
“A close relative of the popular Quiche Lorraine, this delicacy makes an excellent luncheon dish”. ~Ruth Ellen Church, Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966
So similar, Quiche Lorraine and Cheese-and-Onion Pie could be twin sisters, with both pies calling for cooked, crumbled bacon, eggs, milk or cream and cheese, seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg. The only difference between the two is the amount of onion called for in each recipe (the Cheese and Onion Pie calls for two full cups of sliced sauteed onions). Ham and Egg Pie covertly placed in the “Meat” section of Mary Meade’s Modern Homemaker Cookbook 1966, presents a cheese-less quiche-like pie made with minced ham to be sliced thin and served as an appetizer.
My Simply Gourmet 1978 cookbook features a recipe for Spinach Quiche in the “Vegetables” section. Sometimes called Quiche Florentine — it has become a classic. Two pounds of fresh spinach, blanched, chopped and sauteed with minced scallions in butter is added to the basic egg and cream mixture. A little Gruyere with salt, pepper and nutmeg round out the ingredients. The quiche is baked in a ten-inch pastry-lined dish and served warm.
In spite of its slow start, by the 1970s Americans had fully embraced quiche, creating recipes with a plethora of ingredients from mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, zucchini and potatoes along with distinct cheeses including goat cheese and feta.
Not only did quiche come to light during the twentieth-century, but the concept of brunch became fashionable in America as well. A blend of the words breakfast and lunch — brunch has become a light mid-morning to early-afternoon meal associated with the gathering of friends and family, such as Sunday brunch. Holidays including Easter and Mother’s Day are celebrated over brunch as well, often featuring quiche.
My Mother’s Day Brunch menu consists of crust-less Jarlsberg Quiche (Jarlsberg is a mild Swiss-like cheese produced in Norway, but is readily available in America), a variety of muffins served along with fruit and yogurt parfaits. Its been our family tradition for years. I have also used this menu when hosting bridal and baby showers. And it works well as a new-mommy meal. Enjoy!
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1-1/4 cup 4% cottage cheese
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 lb Jarlsberg cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350* (325* for a glass pan). Lightly spray a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray; set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; stir in flour until smooth. Whisk in milk and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook and stir for two minutes or until mixture is thick; set white sauce aside to cool for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, baking powder, dry mustard and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
- In large bowl, blend cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing with each addition (mixture will be lumpy). Stir in cottage cheese mixture and cooled white sauce.
- Fold in shredded Jarlsberg cheese and Parmesan.
- Pour mixture into prepared pie dish and bake for 35 — 40 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between the edge and center of the quiche comes out clean (OR test the center of the quiche with a thermometer for a desired temperature of 170*).
- Allow quiche to set for 15 minutes before serving.
Option: Several strips of bacon can be cooked crisp, crumbled and folded into the quiche mixture with the shredded cheese. Cooked finely diced ham may also be added.
Note: Quiche can be prepared a day in advance. Bake as directed and cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature or reheat in the oven before serving.
Recipe Compliments of cookbooklady.com