A few weeks ago, I had the wild idea to render some lard. It took me a while to recover from the smell, but I finally felt ready to bite the bullet and use some of it.
Quiche is one of our staple meals; it is sufficiently nutritious and appropriate for any time of day. And, most of the time, my children will eat it. Quiche is a vehicle for just about any vegetable, meat and/or cheese and can be host to a multitude of flavor combinations. Also, as we have a small flock of chickens living in our backyard, we usually have lots of eggs that I am trying to serve in creative ways. (Interested in learning more about backyard chickens? Stay tuned! Next week I will be sharing a series of DIY posts here at FSC and at Brown Betty Farm.)
This quiche features seasonal, local vegetables and cheese in a lard/butter crust, but could easily be adapted to include the fillings of your choice in any pie crust. For any Locavore challengers out there, I only used two non-local items in this recipe, the flour and the butter.
First up, the crust. I (mostly) followed this recipe.
1 1/4 cups flour, into the food processor.
Next, I measured and cut 6 tablespoons of cold butter and 4 tablespoons of frozen lard.
I tossed the butter and lard into the food processor and pulsed until it resembled coarse crumbs.
Then, I added two tablespoons of ice water until the dough just stuck together. It may take up to five tablespoons water to get to this stage depending on the moisture content of your flour and fats.
Next, I gently tipped the dough out of the mixer bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap…
…and wrapped it up, gently shaping it into a disc without smushing it or warming it up too much.
The dough went into the refrigerator to rest and cool while I moved onto my quiche ingredients.
For the fillings, I used some of our CSA veggies: 1 1/2 tomatoes, a small green bell pepper and about two loose cups of spinach (pre-Irene). From my own garden, chives and parsley. Everything got roughly chopped and set aside.
For the rest of the quiche filling I used feta and parmesan cheese, eggs and one cup of milk/cream (all LOCAL!). As far as I am concerned, these are all flexible ingredients when it comes to quiche. Some may disagree, but here is my take: you need eggs and if you like light, fluffy quiche, you need milk with some fat content. Some like to use half and half or cream, some like lower fat versions. As usual, I just use what I have. For this quiche, I happened to have light cream (unusual for me) so I used 1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup lowfat milk. As for the eggs, when I use 1 cup of milk/cream, I use six eggs. With less milk, I use more eggs. Its all about liquid volume: you want that pie crust filled but not overflowing with your eggs/milk/fillings.
This quiche features just veggies and cheeses, but you could certainly add meat as well. I have had success with pork or chicken sausage, ham and bacon.
To combine everything, I first beat the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Next I added the cheeses and stirred, then I gently folded in the vegetables. Now back to that crust!
At this point the dough had chilled about 15 minutes or so. I’m not sure where I learned this method of rolling pie dough, but it works for me. I lay out two pieces of plastic wrap side by side, overlapping, and lightly dust with flour. Then, place the chilled, unwrapped dough disc in the center and cover with two identically overlapping pieces of plastic wrap. Now, I roll as usual, starting at the center and working my way out gently. I have to say that the lard crust was very soft and pliable and smushed back together quite nicely on the edges where it generally starts to crack a bit.
Here is the dough, all rolled out. The plastic makes it super easy to transfer to the pie pan; I simply remove the top plastic and set my pie pan right next to the crust, then carefully flip the dough over.
Now, I don’t usually get fancy with pie crust but I figured since I would be sharing this one I should at least try to make it nice. Again, the lard crust did not disappoint: it was super soft, pliable and very forgiving. I even shocked myself, I think this is truly the nicest looking pie crust I have ever made!
Next, I poured the egg mixture into my fancy pie crust, and put it in the oven (at 375 degrees) to bake for about 40 minutes. Tip from an experienced quiche maker: leave about an inch of crust over the edge of your egg mixture because the quiche will puff a bit as it bakes. If you’ve made too much “batter”, cook it in greased ramekins or other small bakeware if you don’t want to waste it. Quiche spill-overs in the oven don’t usually end well! As an extra precaution, especially if your quiche is very full, place an empty cookie sheet on the rack below your quiche as it bakes.
Considering the amount of work that went into this pie crust, including rendering the lard myself, I was not about to let the scraps go to waste or to the chickens. We give almost ALL our kitchen scraps to our chickens… more to come on this in the Backyard Chicken DIY next week! So, I simply cut the scraps into smaller pieces and sprinkled a bit of parmesan cheese over them, then tossed them into the oven with the quiche for about 8 minutes.
Yummy, flaky “cheese crackers”. Actually they were a bit too soft and flaky to really be called a cracker but boy were they delicious. I bet this would be an awesome topping for tomato soup!
As the quiche baked, my kitchen got the slightest eau de lard, but not nearly as awful as what happened during the rendering process. The finished product was nothing short of delicious, even for my family who aren’t the biggest tomato fans (other than ketchup or pasta sauce!).
I think that the lard/butter crust was pretty good. It was much softer and flakier than what I usually make (confession: the little blue Jiffy box, just add water), and the subtle flavor paired very well with a savory quiche. Apple pie is up next for this crust, we will see how it performs with a sweet filling!
Editor’s Note: Its not too late to register for NOFA-NY’s Locavore Challenge. Challenge yourself with a variety of mini challenges that arrive in your inbox daily to learn more and connect with your local foodshed. We will be culminating the month-long challenge with a potluck. Join in the fun then join us at the potluck. Details coming soon!