This post concludes my love affair with nopales. Yes, my little prickly friend, we are done! I have used you up and now we must part. And same to you Delicata, you are the very end, my friend. It was good while it lasted – even great! – but now I must move on to greener pastures….
This quiche is completely a Pie Ranch creation: from the flour grown & milled on-site, to the foraged nopales (edible beaver tail cactus), to the eggs, to the milk, to the last of the winter squash – it’s a great feeling to be able make a meal from food that fresh.
For the most part I have cut out gluten from my diet. However, I don’t seem to have the same sensitivities with flour from Pie Ranch. The variety of wheat they grow, called Expresso, is a hard red Spring wheat that is low in gluten and as high as 13% protein. For pies and tarts it is fantastic and yields very flaky pastry crust with a toasty nutty flavor that can’t be beat .
Nopalitos (chopped nopales) pairs great with eggs because it has a slightly sour taste (remnicient of a canned green bean – yes, I know that sounds terrible, but you gotta trust me on this one). Delicata squash are butternut sweet, but much easier to handle. Just slice them crosswise into rings; don’t worry about peeling, or perfectly cubing, or any of that annoying stuff. .
This is one of my favorite squashes because it’s so pretty as a topping. I often use it on pizzas (no need to cook ahead), in quiches, roasted for salads & sides, or cut lenthwise, roasted and filled with brown butter. The seeds are great too! If you are roasting Delicata as a side dish leave the seeds in the slices for some extra crunchy pepitas!
Thomas Keller has cornered the market on quiche custard filling. I don’t stray too much from his proportions. Of course, when I use fresh Pie Ranch whole milk with a cream float, it’s often hard to tell exactly what the fat ratio is and I use farm eggs that vary in size and weight but, my quiches always seem to turn out gorgeous. There’s a lot of forgiveness in this recipe. I love to sauté up whatever is seasonal and scatter it around the bottom of the crust before adding my milk-cream-egg mixture. Don’t be afraid to experiment! If Gruyère cheese is not available, use whatever is! Sometimes I like to use a combo of soft and hard cheese.
More recipes on Quiche, Edible Cactus, and Delicata Squash:
- 1 Single Pâte Brisée crust (shortcrust) see link in instructions
- QUICHE FILLING:
- 1 cup nopalitos, blanched and briefly sautéed
- 8 1/4-inch slices of delicata squash (or more if you would like)
- 3 bacon slices, cut into lardon
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- A few twists white pepper, freshly ground
- 3 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup Gruyère
- 1/4 cup queso (if desired)
Preheat oven to 425˚F.
For the Pastry Crust: Roll out a double Pâte Brisée crust and blind in a 9-inch spring form pan: fit dough into pan and pressing gently around the edges and into the sides. Leave the excess shortcrust to drape over the top to prevent shrinkage while baking. Take a ball of trimmed extra dough and press into the circular crease of the bottom to make sure it is fully formed to the sides. Prick the bottom with the tines of a fork all over. To blind bake cover crust with parchment or tin foil and fill with dry beans clear up to the top of the pan (figure on 5#'s of beans). Cook for 15-20 minutes or until just golden. Remove baking beans and allow to cool before adding filling.
To prepare the filling: For the nopales, use a vegetable peeler (or a blow torch if you happen to have one) to cut or burn off the bumps and the invisible prickles. Try to leave as much of the dark green skin as possible. Rinse and chop nopales into nopalitos; a 1/2-inch dice. In salted boiling water blanch the nopalitos for 2 minutes then transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. They secrete a mucous like clear substance that will disappear in the quiche. In a large sauté pan heat lardon (bacon) on medium heat (not high heat – the idea is to render the bacon fat slowly so it's chewy as opposed to super crispy) then add the onion & thyme and continue to cook until golden brown. Reserve on a plate at room temperature.
Quiche assembly: layer the bottom of the quiche with half of the nopalitos, bacon, onions, and cheese. Blend milk, cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a vita-prep and pour half of mixture into filling. Add the rest of the nopalitos-bacon filling and pour over the remaining egg-milk mixture.
Place quiche on a baking sheet into the oven and bake at 425˚F for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350˚F and continue to bake for another 30 to 40 minutes until the custard is set. To test for doneness give the pan a gentle shake. If there is a jiggle in the center the size of a quarter, it's ready. If you give it a little shake and there's a tsunami wave, it's not even close. The quiche will be completely golden brown all over.
Cool quiche to room temperature. Before unbuckling the springform pan, trim crust overhang and slide a knife around the rim to make sure it's not sticking. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours before trying to slice it.
Note to chef: A springform pan will take a double crust to fill with a lot of extra trim to reserve for something else. But you can make a single crust if using a pie dish or a small cast iron skillet. Although Gruyère is traditional in French quiche Lorraine, just about any semi-hard grated cheese can be used. I've subbed aged white cheddar before. Sometimes I like to add a semi-hard cheese and also a soft cheese like chèvre or queso fresca. In short: don't be afraid to experiment!