In the summer I like to steer clear of the kitchen, except to dash in for cooling beverages or refreshing, icy desserts. That is my pipe dream, alas, and as much as I would love a life of Michelin-starred restaurant dining, my French is nonexistent, as is my budget for extravagant fine dining. I can apply my rusty school girl French to some practical home cooking, and take the results out onto the front porch, or to a sylvan picnic. Or I can eat it cold, standing over the sink as I read the morning paper. Quiche.
Quiche has been much maligned for the Gallic wimp factor and for impugning American manhood. Pshaw. Quiche is quick, easy, delicious and is a four seasons kind of food. Quiche is welcome as the New Year’s Day hangover breakfast pick-me-up, as it is at a warm summer evening’s supper, with a salad, and a little cheap white wine. It will go in someone’s lunchbox, and is a reassuring friend to find sitting in the fridge at 3:00 in the morning, when you are driven from bed with anxieties. Quiche.
Quiche Lorraine has long been a WASPy luncheon speciality, mostly because those WASPs are looking for something delicious and easy to prepare. Who doesn’t love bacon, cheese, and cream? I do apologize, vegans, but that heady combo is a religion unto itself. There are vegan alternatives… (https://minimalistbaker.com/simple-tofu-quiche/)
The Tall One turned me onto this recipe, for which I am grateful. It was a satisfying moment in motherhood when my son referred me to a recipe he had found in the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps all those bologna sandwiches I embellished with his portrait in swift squeezes of French’s yellow mustard did make an impact on his foodie soul! But I hadn’t counted on the inclusion of Tater Tots.
Our daughter, The Pouting Princess, once remarked, when she thought I was well out of earshot, that our family was the kind who got our recipes from the backs of boxes. I bristled for a moment. But then I had to reflect that the venerable Roberta Foley Secret Family Brownie recipe was indeed printed on the back of the Baker’s Chocolate box. And when you have a miserable head cold, what tastes better that Lipton’s Chicken Noodle Soup? But I never thought I would consider Tater Tots as a viable ingredient.
Tater Tots! The stuff of movie legend. The Ore Ida stock must have taken off like the new Nintendo Pokémon Go app when the Napoleon Dynamite movie was popular with the middle school set. (Tater Tots were a major sub-plot, if you managed to avoid that particular bit of American pop culture.) We served Tater Tots often during that phase of childhood. I still like a good Tot or two or three when we cook hamburgers or hot dogs. They are much less messy than managing a spewing vat of hot oil while boiling up a proper batch of pomme frites.
This recipe calls for a base of Tater Tots as the crust for the quiche. Genius obviously does not reside solely at the Apple stores. What a concept! You have to have a very hot oven initially to brown the Tot crust, but then the temperature is lowered while the quiche bakes. Plan your wardrobe accordingly.
Invariably we have Tater Tots in the freezer, and we almost always have bacon, eggs, cream and some sort of cheese in the fridge. And sometimes we even have decorative green onions and red peppers. And so without any planning or taking an extra trip to the grocery store, I could go off to the kitchen right now and prepare this quiche for dinner. Except that it is already 87° degrees out. I’ll get up early tomorrow instead. And then we’ll see how many meals we can enjoy this summer season from one cool quiche.
Tater Skin Quiche
¾ pound bacon, cut into ¾-inch pieces
3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1½ cups crème fraîche
½ cup chopped fresh chives
½ cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook bacon: In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and fat has rendered out, about 20 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to cool. Reserve fat in pan for later use.
2. Make tater-tot crust: Brush ½ teaspoon reserved bacon fat inside a 9½-inch pie dish to grease. In a large bowl, use your hands to mix tater tots, ½ teaspoon pepper, ¼ teaspoon salt and grated sharp cheddar until combined, breaking up tots as you stir. Stir in 2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat until incorporated. (Mixture should hold together when pressed in your palms.) Transfer tot mash to pie dish, pressing to form a crust.
3. Place pie dish in oven and parbake until crust is set, cheese melts and edges begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
4. Make filling: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until well combined. Whisk in crème fraîche and remaining salt until incorporated and smooth. Pour filling through a fine-mesh strainer into cooled tater-tot crust. (Should you pour a bit too much liquid into pie pan, don’t worry; crust will absorb it in oven.) Sprinkle remaining pepper over filling and gently stir in. Sprinkle chives evenly over filling, followed by bacon. Top with mild cheddar.
5. Bake until center of quiche is just set and cheesy crown is brown and puffed, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let sit about 20 minutes before serving.
“All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”