Quiche with Ham and Parmesan Cheese

Single-crust Quiche with Ham and Parmesan Cheese

Prep Time: 1.5 hrs
Total Time: 2.5 hrs

With this recipe, you can master a home-made pie-crust -- which is what makes a quiche special -- and have a fabulous late-morning breakfast.  The crust can be started the night before, saving some hungry-time in the kitchen.

Photos taken with cell phone - admittedly this really isn't much of a photography project.

Equipment needed:

* Deep fluted metal quiche baking pan with removable bottom
* Ceramic Pie Beads (pie weights - dept stores have these)
* Wide micro grater
* Straight Rolling pin
* Optional pastry dough blender
* Wide Parchment paper
* Large mixing bowl

Pie Crust (for two* bottom crusts):

7T butter, cubed, cold
4T pure lard, cubed, cold
3C flour
1t Salt
1T Sugar
Ice Water (with ice)

*If going through the trouble to make one pie crust, you might as-well make two.  Use for a second quiche (Because the second only takes a few minutes after you have gobbled the first.  Or, freeze for another day.).

Quiche filling (for 1 pie):

7 eggs:  divided, 7 whites, 5 yolks*
   If a shallow quiche pan, use 5 eggs, 4 yolks.
8-10 oz Parmesan or Romana hard Italian cheese, shredded
4-6 oz Sharp cheddar, shredded

Diced sweet peppers
Diced prebaked ham or chopped bacon
2-3 Diced Roma tomatoes
1T Thyme (dried spice)
2T Tarragon (dried spice)
3T Chives

Pie Crust

Making pie crusts takes some skill and trickery but this recipe will make you an expert.  As you will see, you can fumble and make mistakes, but because this is a single-crust recipe, your sins can be hidden with none-the-wiser.

Mixing the Crust:

Cube 7T butter into small cubes (1cm, 1/4")
Cube apx 4T lard into similar cubes.
Spread across a plate and put in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes.

Fill a small mixing bowl with cold water and some ice cubes.  Place aside.  You will need 8 to 10T of cold water, depending on the humidity in your house.

(Ideally, have a small sprayer, which you can mist the flour; barring that, sprinkle with a spoon.)

In a your largest mixing bowl
Add 3C flour, 1t salt, 1T sugar.  Roughly mix with fingers
Working quickly, add cubed butter, cubed lard, tossing while adding
Chop with pastry blender until butter is pea-sized

[If no pastry blender, use two butter-knives criss-cross or do as Julia Childs recommends, use your fingers, pinching rapidly until you have flattened little butter pancakes everywhere.]

Again working quickly, before the butter softens, sprinkle (or spray!) cold water, tossing the flour with fingers.  Start with 6T of cold water.  Sprinkle-toss-sprinkle-toss.  Mix and add water until the flour can be clumped into a loose ball that barely stays together.  You want this to be somewhat dry.  Admittedly, this is hard to judge.  For these photos, I made mine a tad too dry.

Divide into 2 roughly-formed balls

Flatten into a thick cake
Look at those beautiful chunks of butter!

Wrap in plastic; refrigerate 1 to 2 hrs (or upto overnight). 

I can't plan ahead.  With my first quiche today, I chilled in the freezer for 5 minutes. 

Rolling the crust:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F  (190C). 
Come to temperature before rolling the crust.

On a sheet of parchment paper, dust with flour
Place dough on paper and dust the top
Using a flat rolling pin, roll with firm pressure, from the inside-out
Roll until wide-enough to cover the quiche pan, plus another 2 or 3" inches for the sides

The crust will like be brittle.  It will tear.  It will not be round.
Don't panic

Tear pieces from the long sides and lay on the short sides.  Flatten into position.
Tear pieces to patch holes, etc. 

Lift by parchment paper and flop-over onto the pan... (notice how un-round my pie crust is...sheese!)  The crust may stick to the paper - keep working at it.

This does not have to be perfect.
As you can see, my crust was a disaster and it fell apart.  No worries.

Quickly patch with extra dough, pressing and molding with fingertips.  If needed, use a drop of water while patching.  Cover your sins as-if-you-know what you are doing...

A wonderful recovery: 

Pre-bake Pie Shell

With oven pre-heated to 375F (190C),
Pour ceramic pie beads into the pan

Bake uncovered for 19:54 minutes


While the pie-crust bakes, continue with these steps.

From 7 eggs, separate whites from yolks, discarding 2 yolks (5 and 4 if a shallow quiche pan).

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with a few tablespoons of water, until the whites are foamy.

Stir yolks separately
Gently blend yolks with the whites
Add most, but not all of the cheese
Add spices
(Do not mix meat or vegetables yet)

Pour egg mixture into pie-crust

Sprinkle mixture with cubed ham/bacon and chopped peppers, tomatoes
(these ingredients will settle into the mixture; let them stay in layers)
Sprinkle reserved cheese, for color


Bake uncovered 15 minutes at 375F 
Turn heat down to 350F for another 20 - 30 minutes.  I like to wrap the outside edges with thin strips of foil to protect the exposed crusts from burning.  Some people have fancy pie-crust protectors.

Mixture will firm while baking; should not jiggle
Remove foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

Remove from oven
Let cool for 15 minutes
Gently lift pie from the bottom; the crust should rise out of the pan with the pie
Rest on a flat cutting board

Remove false-bottom plate.  If needed, use a filet or other long, thin knife, running horizontally along the bottom of the pie, surgically separating the crust from the false-bottom metal plate.  (Remove the plate because slicing dulls the blade and it will groove the plate, making future crusts harder to remove.)


I like to serve with a tossed green salad, with a light homemade vinaigrette dressing, made sweet for brunch. 

Salad Dressing:
In a medium glass mixing bowl:

1T Dijon Mustard
1T Honey
1T Sugar
2T White vinegar

pinch of salt
garlic powder
dash of dried Tarragon

Whisk together
Drizzle 1T Olive oil (while whisking)
Drizzle 2T Safflower or Grape seed oil, while whisking, adding more to taste.

Second Crust Quiche was made with these ingredients

While baking the first quiche, I prepped these ingredients for the second quiche.  These were the ingredients on-hand and it was as delightful as the first.

Arugula, dandelion, and spinach greens.  Chopped roughly.
Red onions, bell peppers
Chopped ham
grated Parmesan and crumbled Mexican Queso Fresco cheeses
Thyme, tarragon, chives

Because of the greens being so bulky, all ingredients were mixed into the egg mixture before pouring.

My thanks to JanJou Patisserie, Boise, for inspiring me to make quiche.  My goal is to be as good as her.  And thanks to my friend Mike B., who will always make a crust better than me; I am gaining.


Chicken with Fennel and Rice

Recipe and photographs showing Chicken, with Fennel and Arborio Rice.

A rich dish that will take about an hour and a half to prepare, plus another 30 minutes baking.  This is a busy recipe, that takes time to do right, but all steps are easy.

Since this dish is time-consuming, plan on making 8 servings, which will fit in a 12" cast-iron skillet  (with a 10" skillet, make 6 servings).  You need a cast-iron skillet for this dish; I do not recommend a teflon pan.

Special Equipment Needed:
12" Cast Iron Skillet (Lodge brand sells for about $35 - a great pan to have)
Microplane zester

8 Chicken Thighs, skin-on and bone
1 Fennel Bulb, with fronds
1 1/2 C Arborio Rice
1 Large Yellow Onion
2 Lemons
1 Serrano Pepper
1 Carton, Chicken Broth  (or better, 2 cartons)
Chardonnay wine (optional)
Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Olive Oil

Fennel is a strange plant -- somewhat like a celery root, with delicate greens.  Raw, the plant tastes like licorice -- but when cooked, it takes on a different flavor.  You are mostly using this plant for color and texture.  It stands up to cooking much better than an onion.


1.  Heat cast-iron to medium, add a drizzle of Olive Oil
2.  Generously Salt and Pepper chicken, both sides; don't be shy on the salt.

3.  Add chicken thighs, skin-side-down.  Cook until browned (6 to 8 min).  While browning, don't mess with the chicken; let them sit in the pan, undisturbed.  When they release from the pan, and are suitably browned, turn and brown the other side, another 5 or-so minutes.  The chicken will be finished in a later step.

While the chicken is browning, prepare the vegetables.

4.  Cut the top and bottom off of the Fennel; peel the outer layer and discard.  Reserve the fronds.

Cut the bulb in half, top-to-bottom, then roughly chop fennel into long, 1/4" strips

Using your fingers, pull off the delicate fronds, discarding the coarse stems.  Make a nice pile of them; you probably won't use or need the entire plant.

5. Roughly slice 1 large yellow onion, similar to the Fennel.

6.  Roughly chop 5 or 6 garlic cloves; reserve in a small bowl

7.  Roughly seed and chop 1 Serrano Pepper; reserve

8.  Using a micro-plane, zest two lemons and reserve.  Slice the lemons into moderately-thick slices.  I happen to like peeling the lemons, using the knife to cut off the rinds, but others like the look unpeeled.

Continue with the Chicken and Sauteing Vegetables:

9.  Remove the browned, but undercooked chicken and place on a plate.  Put in a 200-degree oven to keep warm.  Drain excess oil, leaving the pan wet.

10.  In the cast-iron, add rough-cut Fennel and Onions.  Salt, and add a sprinkle of sugar.  Cook on medium heat until vegetables caramelize and brown.  Keep turning, 8 or so minutes.

Just as the Fennel and Onions are browning, add the Serrano pepper to the party  .

When the vegetables are nearly done (well browned), add the Garlic  (you do not want to burn or brown the garlic).  Continue to toss for another few minutes.

11.  Remove vegetables and place in a bowl.  Wipe the pan.

12.  Heat oven to 375F


Here is the time-consuming step:  You will be browning the rice, making a risotto-like rice dish.  This part is easy, but labor-intensive.

13.  Warm chicken broth in a separate sauce pan.

14.  Brown the rice:  Add a splash or two of Olive Oil into the medium-hot cast-iron pan.  Immediately stir the rice, coating the kernels with the lightest coating of oil.

Move the pan away from the burner, add a splash of Chardonnay wine for flavor. 
Return the pan to the stove, on a medium-low heat

Constantly stir until it begins to brown (10 minutes?).  Be careful not to burn -- you are after the lightest toasting.  The pan will be mostly dry while browning.

15.  Once toasted, dip a cup or two of warm Chicken broth, and mix with the rice -- enough to wet the rice.

Stir constantly until liquid is nearly gone.
Add another cup and continue stirring.  Again, let most of the moisture evaporate.
Adjust the heat up or down to keep the mixture active.

Keep adding broth and stirring. Note, you are not boiling the rice -- it should not be "swimming."  If you run out of broth, use water.  (however, 2 cartons of broth make for a richer dish...)  But always add warmed liquid.

The goal is to coax the starches out of the rice -- this takes time and elbow-work -- expect a half-an-hour.  Keep adding broth and stirring -- using the entire carton.  Cook until al-dente' -- cooked but with still a firmness -- a "bite" to the kernels.

Remove from burner.

When the Rice is done:

16.  Re-introduce the vegetable mixture,

Add lemon-zest. 
Add half of the reserved fronds. 

17.  Layer chicken on top of the rice, skin-side-up.  Crowd the pan.  Add lemon-slices on top of chicken. 

You will notice this picture only shows six chicken thighs.  My mistake; I should have cooked all 8 of them.... you want a crowded pan to hold-in the moisture.

18.  Toss the pan into the 375F oven and finish the chicken, cooking for another 30 minutes or so, until thermometer reads 155/160F near the bone.  About half-way through, sprinkle remaining fronds as decoration.

This dish looks amazing!


For a more classic risotto, remove the rice to a separate bowl and let rest for a few minutes, cooling slightly.  Stir-in grated Parmesan cheese.

Plate a large spoonful of rice, with Chicken on top.  Serve a sweet melon or fruit - in this case cantaloupe, along with other colour.

A Chardonnay wine would pair nicely with this dinner.

Consider orange slices and orange zest as an alternative.

Your comments welcome.


Snake River Canyon at Swan Falls, Idaho

Snake River Canyon at Swan Falls, Idaho

Earlier this week, a friend and I drove to Swan Falls, Idaho, for a short day-trip and photographic expedition. 

This gave me a chance to try out my newly-acquired Nikon D7000 (bought used from a friend), taking its first photographs as the new owner.  My previous camera, a Nikon D5100 was donated to my daughter's newly-found hobby.

First, some humor from the trip:

Typical Speed Limit Sign in Rural Idaho
Someone was probably going faster than 55

Now, onto more serious work. 

I took two sets of HDR photographs.  With HDR, I like to take five bracketed photographs with a -2ev, -1, 0ev, +1, and +2ev exposure compensation spread.  Then, with a photo editor, blend them into one image. 

(See this keyliner article for a discussion of HDR techniques: Stanley Forest Burn).  

Here is the final HDR of the first set of photos:

+/- 1ev HDR, looking West
Click for a larger view
(0ev) f11 1/25sec ISO 125  18-200 Nikon DX at 18mm, with polarizer and HDR

For reference, this is the picture taken at +0ev, non-HDR, before cropping and before editing:

Non-HDR, non-edited.
Note vignetting caused by the polarizer at 18mm

Because of the wind, the clouds were moving fast, and there would not be enough time between exposures to take all of the layered photos.  This causes artifacts in the final HDR image. Hoping for the best, I settled for a smaller three-image spread, using +/-1ev. 

Nikon Cameras are capable of taking a three-shot-spread using a "Bracket" control, but being unfamiliar with the camera, I could not get the control to work.  Instead, I bracketed manually, using exposure compensation.  This meant about 20 seconds between exposures, while I fiddled with the controls. This was enough for the clouds to ghost.  Which they promptly did. 


This is not visible in the camera's preview, but I was confident of the failure as I was taking the photographs.  Indeed, this photo can not be printed.  Click the final HDR image and study the sky -- it fell apart.  I did not bother to fix this with a new sky (see below).  The wind is why I only took 2 HDR series that day.

(Out of principle, I never use the camera's internal HDR, preferring to fail, spending hours with a photo-editor.)

HDR - Horizontal View

As expected, the second HDR, taken about 5 meters down the cliff side, had the same problems with galloping clouds.

I decided to fix the problem.  At home, with the editor, I cut the sky from the +0ev, overlaying on top of the HDR.  This meant the bottom-half of the photo was HDR while the top-half was not.  This gave reasonably-good results.   This was actually fun and only took an hour to cut along the horizon.

+/- 1ev HDR
Click for larger view
(0ev) f11 1/30 ISO 125 18-200 DX at 18mm, HDR

Colorized Black and White Version

Using a technique that Randal Davis, of Boise, Idaho, taught me, I made a black and white version, then put the blue back into the river.  And, it seemed a shame not to colorize the beautiful sky.

The final picture was sad because if you didn't know better, the picture looks perfectly natural:

Colorized black and white
Click for larger view

Here were the assembly steps for the black and white:

1.  HDR the original three images, as described above.
2.  Cut and paste the sky from +0ev image (it has no artifacts). 
     This will be blended on the horizon line.

3.  Duplicate the base layer on top of the sky
4.  Convert the top-layer to B&W, leaving it as the top layer

5.  From the BW layer, erase along the river and sky, letting the colors bleed through
6.  Combine the layers for the final image.
7.  I then added a slight Neutral Density Graduation on the sky, darkening the top.

Compare the blue in the river with the photo above.  It is the same blue.

Snake River Canyon and Swan Falls

The Swan Falls Dam and Power Plant, 40 miles South of Boise, Idaho, was built in 1901 to power the silver mines further south, in the Owhyee mountains and then later powered Caldwell and Pierce Park, west of Boise.  The site is now a museum, and picnic area.  The museum is open Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., between April 15 and Labor Day, or by appointment.  Year-round, you can walk across the dam and hike various trails.  

Several years ago, my brother and I jet-boated from Celebration Park, in Caldwell, Idaho, to the base of the dam.  The area is popular for bass and sturgeon fishing.  Reportedly, some Jet-boaters like to hit submerged rocks and sink their ships while making this journey.

The Idaho Power "Swan Falls" power plant, seen from the rim

This area hosts the Snake River Birds of Prey Wildlife Conservation Area, which is where most of these photos were taken.  Seven miles before the dam you will find a short, well-marked trail that takes you to the rim, overlooking the river.  The trail is only a few hundred yards long and is accessible year-round.  Expect wind.  If you go, please find and recover my black baseball cap, somewhere over the edge of the cliffs.

In good weather, you can stand at the top of the canyon and look down at soaring raptors as they ride the updrafts.

Driving instructions:

From Boise, drive west on I84, taking the Meridian and Kuna exit, 44. 

At the interchange, drive South on highway 69.  As you approach downtown Kuna, Idaho, note the Visitor Center and swing left, onto Swan Falls Road.  Drive South for approximately 12 miles to reach the dam. The paved road is accessible year-round.  The drive down the canyon to the damn is unusually steep.   If the weather is nice, consider climbing a rock outcropping called "Initial Point," which is about mid-way from Kuna to the falls.

Related Articles:
Keyliner HDR techniques: Stanley Forest Burn
Tripod review