Kitchen Experiments and Apple Cheddar Quiche
That’s how I considered them when I was young, if I considered them at all. An apple in my worn brown paper lunch bag. A slice of cheese–a Kraft single–oozing out between toasted slices of Wonder Bread.
Apples + Cheese.
As a curious twenty-something this pairing marked the start of my culinary experimentation. Crisp, slightly tart apple slices slathered with a creamy blue were an unusual pairing for my unsophisticated palate. I devoured them hoping to make up for lost time.
By the time my 30s arrived the near perfect partners had found their way into my salads. Balsamic laden greens were casually and frequently tossed together with diced apples, Gorgonzola crumbles and a sprinkle of toasted walnuts for good measure. No longer an experiment, apples + cheese became a staple at our house especially in the fall.
I stumbled on my first recipe for an apple cheddar pie in my mid thirties somewhere between sunchoke and bone marrow experiments. And I kept right on going. It wasn’t the cheddar in place of my trusty blue that threw me. It was the notion of baking them together. I feared the end result would be like the pizza with too many toppings, each independently delicious ingredient yielding its identity to a tasteless conglomeration.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. And by desperate I mean that by Sunday I couldn’t stomach another slice of turkey or scoop of stuffing. I was over the ubiquitous blog posts citing fresh ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers. I’d already turned my leftovers into leftovers twice over. When I moved the remains of Thanksgiving aside in the fridge I found a bag of Cortland apples from Michigan snuggled up to the Carr Valley aged cheddar Greg bought for me on his last trip to Wisconsin.
Outside the gusting winds crashed against our 100-year-old home until it creaked and groaned. It was another blustery grey day and the glossy red and sherbet orange colors of the apples and cheddar warmed me. If Mother Nature denied me sunshine, I’d bake it into a soul satisfying quiche.
This forty year old’s applecheese fears melted away with the first indelible bite. It was like the love child of a croque-monsieur that mated with an apple crème brûlée. See? It was the kind of bite that fills your head with deliciously crazy thoughts like foods procreating.
Sweet velvety apples + assertive tangy cheddar + salty ham + rich custard.
Now bring on that apple cheddar pie.
Apple Cheddar Quiche with Ham and Sage
Resist the urge to substitute bacon for the ham; it could overpower the apple. And if you’d prefer a meatless version simply double the amount of apples.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 large Cortland apple (or other pie apple), cored and cut into 3/4″ chunks
1/4 pound baked ham, roughly chopped
pinch of cinnamon
3 large eggs
1/2 cup crème fraîche (Sour cream will work too.)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounces aged cheddar cheese, chopped or grated
1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves, plus a few whole leaves for garnish
- For the pastry: place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until pea-sized crumbs form. Add a little cold water and pulse a few times. Add more water and pulse again. Continue just until the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Squeeze the dough together and flatten into a 1-inch thick disk as you tightly wrap it with the plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough to a 12-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Carefully transfer dough to an 11-inch fluted tart pan by folding dough in quarters, then placing the dough point in the center of the tart pan and unfolding. Press the dough against the sides and bottom of the pan. Roll the pin along the top of the pan to remove the excess dough. Gently press the sides again so the edge of the dough is slightly higher than the pan. Refrigerate the pastry shell for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Line the tart shell with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans to keep it from puffing while it bakes. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and foil. Return the crust to the oven for 10 minutes longer.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
- Prepare the filling while the tart shell bakes. Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add the shallots and sauté until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the apple chunks. Cover and cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally until the apples yield slightly when poked. Resist cooking them longer; they’ll continue to soften as the quiche bakes. Stir in the ham and cinnamon.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, milk and salt.
- Spoon the apple mixture into the cooled pastry shell. Scatter the crumbled cheddar evenly on top. Pour in the custard. Sprinkle the sage, including a few whole leaves, over the top.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until the custard is set.
- Allow quiche to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes. Remove the outer ring and serve.
Ready for another savory winter tart? Try this Ricotta Tart with Maple Glazed Winter Squash.