8.16.2009

Holy Quiche

























rockford, il

The creation of the perfect quiche requires an almost spiritual discipline. I learned this over the weekend at home with my family, where my sister Jenny promised to make us a practically holy quiche from the kitchens of Bouchon that she’d been praising for weeks. She first made it for her husband’s birthday a few weeks ago, and posted its picture on Facebook, where its presence caught my attention. Then she made it again, and again, chronicling the detailed instructions that kept her in the kitchen for over four hours each time. I had to know, what was so marvelous about this quiche that warranted her repeat performance, and the discipline it required?

Our family kitchen is not poised for discipline. Someone is always running through the kitchen chasing a dog or a child, perched on the counter top picking at the last piece of cake, practicing violin in the background or watching the Family Guy barf-a-thon out on YouTube on the kitchen computer. It’s hard to concentrate.

Luckily, we were bred on commotion, and Jenny seemed to have it all under control. She started on Saturday, and I watched as she painstakingly sliced mushrooms into even widths, stripped thyme off the stem one leaf at a time, and scaled out every ingredient as the recipe instructed. I admired her focus, her unwillingness to take shortcuts. When you spend all day in the kitchen, you tend to take a few liberties with recipes. But not Jenny, she is precision to a tea. She’s the kind of girl who rolls her hair in hot rollers, uses the correct brushes to apply her makeup, and never goes outside without sunscreen.

Over the course of two days, the quiche became a family affair. Amy ran to the store to get the oyster mushrooms and Comte cheese, Mom helped Jenny unstick her stuck crust, Tim stood by telling jokes, and I stood by for trouble shooting. On his way to the piano, Dad swung by with the encouraging “Did you say this takes four hours or four days?” Meanwhile Jenny was a picture of calm. She made the crust, rolled, chilled, formed and baked a perfect shell that would become Sunday lunch.

Sunday morning, she began again. While the rest of us were getting ready for church, she poured the custard into the crust and I came by just as it was going into the oven. I noticed the springform pan wasn’t completely closed, per the recipe, a suggestion that mystified me and went against all of my culinary experience. But I had to trust Jenny’s {and Thomas Keller’s} quiche expertise, so I kept my mouth shut.

Dad called out from the piano. “Ten minutes till church girls,” he said. Jenny put the quiche in the oven, and disappeared to get dressed. Five minutes later, mom called her back to the kitchen. There was liquid custard oozing out of the quiche onto the baking sheet. Jenny took one look into the oven and then ran upstairs in tears. I followed.

“I just wanted to make you guys the perfect quiche!” she said from the edge of her childhood bed.

“Never apologize!” I said, employing my best Julia Child voice and raising my hands in a cheer. Jenny laughed, and wiped her eyes.

I decided to skip church and stay home for moral support. The quiche would require some major cosmetic surgery and some good cheer, and I felt up for the job. I rescued the liquid custard from the tray, popped the spring shut, lined the outside with foil and poured the custard back into the center of the tart.

Meanwhile, the family filed out to the car in their Sunday best. “You guys go ahead,” I called to them “We’ll meet you at cocktail hour.”

“Coffee hour!” Jenny said. “Geeze, you’ve been in New York too long!”

“You’re not coming to church?” Dad asked. The guilt.

“No, Jenny needs me. The quiche needs me.” I said. “God would want me to stay here and help my sister.”

Jenny and I attended the Church of Holy St. Hammock in our pajamas in the backyard, and experienced the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts, knowing a religiously good meal was less than an hour away.

When everyone arrived back home, the children headed to the basement to play Legos, and the rest of us piled onto the couch, the arms and legs of grown siblings intertwined with Tim’s golden retriever, Riley, splayed over our toes. The clouds rolled in, and with it the anxiety of leaving the cozy nest of home for my flight back to New York. Jenny brought out her quiche, in all it’s weighty glory, and placed it on the center of the coffee table with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc. I sliced and passed as each member in turn fell to pieces over the silky custard, the buttery crust, the perfection that offered retribution for the hours and blessings we had lost.

“Oh Jenny, this is amazing,” Dad said. “I hope it was worth selling your soul.”

We considered, for a moment, saving a few pieces for the kids, but decided it’s better to let them come to spiritual gluttony all on their own.


7 comments:

jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timmy said...

After getting over not getting what i thought was a deep dish pizza, i have to admit it was pretty darn good. Karen LOVED it and i think is inspired to try one too!!! Lord help us all. While i'm praying for peace and serenity in my kitchen, i'll put in a good word to get your souls back from the quiche gods.

Anjee said...

Adorable...I love the story but again. I must comment on how well written it is! So fun! I love the Copelands and it sounds like another typical Copeland family get together! That quiche looks delightful, creamy, and just melt in your mouth fantastic!

Heather said...

Wow - this brought back vivid childhood memories of cooking in the Copeland kitchen (although nothing as gourmet as this quiche). I loved the story! It truly captures "a day in the life of the Copeland kitchen." I think you inspired me to want to try this quiche?!?!

Liz said...

Your stories have the perfect mix of dialogue,description, and deliciousness.

D.L. Copeland, MD said...

Sarah:

Your stories are so colorful and descriptive! My mouth waters every time I read your stories! The people and places you describe just come alive and I want the narritive to go on forever. Don't stop writing. . .just keep cranking out those stories. Ever consider writing a novel? I'd be the first to sign up!

Meredith said...

I could totally picutre this story in my mind the entire time I read it! like all your writing it kept me wanting to read more and more and more! I had to laugh out loud, sorry Jenny, when you described her running up the stairs crying. It reminded me of another story I knew about that very same girl being upset at the top of the very same set of stairs!

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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.