Quiche is an extremely comforting dish. Especially on a cold winter morning following a night spent making merry with Champagne or a reasonable facsimile (Segura Viudas cava in this case). So while fat feathery snowflakes gently wafted down from a grey-white sky on this first day of the new year my husband, a bit bleary eyed, cracked open our prized copy of Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France: The Modern French Cookbook, which was published in 1961 in the wake of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Based on the countess’s recipes for the French fashion magazine ELLE, where she served as food editor and became a national icon, the 763-page volume wrapped in a patriotic red, white, and blue cover doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression in the United States. Even though, as the jacket flap proclaims, it was “probably the finest and most practical modern French cookbook written for Americans.” Mrs. Child presumably had that particular audience all sewn up, though certainly Mme. de Toulouse-Lautrec and other French-food experts were eager to find a foothold in the kitchens of the New World, some more successfully than others.
Cup of coffee in hand, I watched a DVD of “Little Women” with my daughter and mother-in-law as my husband set to work producing Toulouse-Lautrec’s recipe for quiche Lorraine. It is splendidly easy to make, and the pastry has won my spouse’s enthusiastic praise. “It’s foolproof,” he explained to me while he was cooking. “With other pastry recipes, I get different results every time I make them. This one, on the other hand, is consistent. And it cooks thoroughly instead of becoming soggy from the filling.”
The Toulouse-Lautrec version of quiche Lorraine is the traditional version of this classic dish, which, as Julia Child explained, “‘contains heavy cream, eggs, and bacon, no cheese.'” I’ve conferred with a few French friends, and they tell me precisely the same thing: non fromage, s’il-vous-plait. Cheese became part of the recipe most people know much later in its history; ditto nutmeg.
Mme. de Toulouse-Lautrec’s classic cheese-free quiche Lorraine comes out of the oven a savoury delight—fluffy, delectably rich, and wonderfully creamy, with just a hint of earthy saltiness. One slice made a lovely breakfast, washed down with a glass of perfectly chilled cava. Frankly this morning we adults needed the hair of the dog.
SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion Press/Crown Publishing, 1961)
7 tablespoons softened butter
1-3/4 cups pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 pound lean pork belly, trimmed of excess fat
2 cups water
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make a tart pastry by mixing the butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the flour, adding enough water to make a stiff dough that does not stick to your fingers. If it is too soft, add more flour. Wrap in a damp cloth and let the dough rest for several hours. (It can be made a day in advance and allowed to rest for 24 hours.) Roll it out into a circle and line the tart pan, gently pressing it into place with your fingers; trim off the excess. Prick the pastry well with a fork (see above).
Cut the trimmed pork belly into small dice, as shown. (If necessary, substitute lean salt pork or bacon.) Put in a saucepan with two cups of water and parboil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Beat the eggs until well blended. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the diced pork belly into the empty tart shell (see above).
Pour the egg mixture into the tart (see above) and bake 20 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.