julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

There’s Something Fishy About This Quiche

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“It is better to buy only as many anchovies as you need from a big can that’s been freshly opened in the store. But use them soon if you want to get the best flavor from them…Their fragility may be the reason many people just hate anchovies—they’ve been eating stale ones.” – Julia Child

I once split a pizza with my uncle who opted to put anchovies on his half. Now, the idea of fish on a pizza never really appealed to me, but who was I to stand in the way of a man and his dream? Only, when I bit into my pepperoni piece, a rogue anchovy had found its way onto my half…and the memory of the salty fishiness of that little guy has never left me. In fact, I cringe now just thinking about it.

Needless to say, that experience kind of turned me off of anchovies. So when I read last night’s recipe for Quiche a la Tomate, Nicoise (fresh tomato quiche with anchovies and olives) I was incredibly skeptical. But I remembered that one of the chefs on the Food Network had once declared anchovies delicious, saying that they always get a bad reputation because they’re not properly prepared. So I tried to have an open mind and I forged ahead with last night’s dinner.

Pinto beans keep the crust from puffing up too much in the oven

I made the quiche shell ahead of time (having learned from my previous mistake) and followed the advice of one of my readers – I bought a bag of pinto beans to pour into the shell to keep its shape while I baked it. This nifty trick worked perfectly! My crust came out of the oven without any deformities, and while I have yet to perfect this technique (my crust edges are still far from pretty), this time was definitely better than the last.

While the shell baked in the oven, I cooked some onions in some olive oil, then added the chopped pulp from some juiced tomatoes. I tossed in some seasonings, then covered the pan and let it cook for just over 5 minutes, careful not to let the contents burn. Later, I uncovered the pan and raised the heat to cook off the excess juices.

Just before going in the oven

In a mixing bowl, I beat some eggs, olive oil, tomato paste and (*cringe!*) chopped anchovies along with some seasonings. I was encouraged when I couldn’t really tell that there was any meat in this mixture – maybe it wouldn’t be so noticeable. I added the cooked tomatoes to this bowl, then poured it into my partially cooked pastry shell.

I topped the whole thing with some sliced olives, shredded Swiss cheese, and a slight drizzling of olive oil. I popped the whole thing into a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the quiche had puffed and browned on top.

Baked pears with macaroon crust dotted with butter

While the quiche was baking, I worked on our dessert: Pores au Gratin (pears baked with macaroons). I peeled, quartered and cored two large pears, then sliced them lengthwise. I arranged the slices in the bottom of a baking pan, then mixed some vermouth with apricot preserves and strained the liquid over the pears. With my food processor, I ground up about a cup of macaroon cookies (Julia says to crumble them and bake them on a cookie sheet first to make them crisp, but mine were already pretty stale so I bypassed this step) and sprinkled them over the pears. I dotted the top of the dish with little bits of butter and put it in the oven as well. The aroma of the pears baking wafted through the house, and they smelled sooo good! Ben kept coming into the kitchen, looking around hopefully asking, “What’s that smell?”

See? Looks like a pizza!

When the quiche was done, I pulled it out of the oven and realized that it looked kind of like a deep-dish pizza. (Yes, an anchovy pizza…trust me, the irony wasn’t lost on me, either.) It smelled pretty darn good, too, so I released it onto a serving platter and cut it into slices.

When I bit into my piece, I was pleasantly surprised. The tomato filling had the consistency of a puree, and the olives and Swiss cheese made a great combination. The quiche really did taste like a pizza, only with less sauce and more crust. Things were going really well, and I was just commenting to myself how you really couldn’t taste the anchovies, and then I took a bite that had an imbalanced ratio of anchovy to puree – and the memory of my uncle’s pizza came flooding back to me.

I tried to talk myself out of my own weird taste aversion, but for the rest of the meal, all I could think was, “There’s fish in here. Did you know there’s fish in here? There is most definitely fish in here.” So sadly, there were no seconds and there were certainly no leftovers – the rest of the quiche was donated to the public service workers who remove our trash every Monday.

In defense of this dish, here’s what I’ll say. If you like anchovies, you would really like this meal! It wasn’t hard to make (as long as you remember to make the pastry shell ahead of time) and didn’t take very long. The ingredients are easy to find, and cleanup’s a breeze. I would definitely make this again if I could omit the anchovies – that was really the only hang-up I had with this meal, and that was just a personal preference thing. Ben and I both agreed that this recipe would be great with a few slight modifications (other than the whole anchovy business). Try it with some tomato sauce, or adding some sort of sausage or ground beef (or heck, even some pepperoni!). This quiche has potential – we just didn’t care for it as is.

Mmm...baked pears!

But the baked pears, on the other hand! Now that was some tasty goodness! The pears came out a little juicy, but the macaroon crust on top became a nice crumble and the whole thing was very much like a cobbler. We both really liked it – good mix of sweet and crunchy – and I’d love to try this with apple slices instead of pears. Maybe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. But let’s not get too carried away.

Tonight, we try something new: veal cutlets with buttered rice and artichoke bottoms! Stay tuned for more adventures from the kitchen…

Bon appetit!

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One Response to “There’s Something Fishy About This Quiche”

  1. Mary says:

    Just a tip on your quiche–try it with smoked salmon instead of the anchovies. Glad you were able to use the “beans tip”! Just remember–don’t try to cook and eat them!!

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