The First Breakfast of the New Year


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.

QUICHE LORRAINE

SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion Press/Crown Publishing, 1961)

SERVINGS: 6

INGREDIENTS

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

Tart pan

DIRECTIONS

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.

The completed quiche Lorraine, ready to be devoured.

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13 comments on “The First Breakfast of the New Year

  1. teresa says:

    I love your writing and pictures! So you don’t cook the pork belly first huh? I’m assuming it’s cured or something (still a novice with the meat). . .Looks delicious.

  2. Jen says:

    Delicious! Happy New Year. A suggestion: could you provide a bibliography of your favorite cookbooks and books on food? Thank you!

  3. littleaugury says:

    But what about the movie-Kate Hepburn or Winona Ryder? The most recent does have an excellent soundtrack.

  4. Sandrine G. says:

    Being French myself, I have to point out that this recipe is missing one vital ingredient: nutmeg! It must be added to the cream/eggs mixture. In addition, you can substitute half the cream with non-fat milk, to make a lighter version, which is just as good… Also missing: Gruyere, or Swiss cheese; you don’t need to put much, but a little grated Swiss added to the mix makes a huge difference.
    Another tip: you can buy a pie crust dough from any supermarket, and it works just fine.

    • Dear Sandrine, Mme de Toulouse-Lautrec’s recipe doesn’t include nutmeg or cheese, but I can see how the version would also be delicious.

    • I just checked the history of quiche Lorraine through a variety of sources, and Julia Child gives the history most succinctly: “The classic quiche Lorraine contains heavy cream, eggs, and bacon, no cheese.”

  5. Do you all blind bake the crust before filling? I think it helps the crust to absorb less of the filling and stay drier. Thoughts?

  6. columnist says:

    Sounds and looks delicious. My first (and only attempt) at quiche Lorraine was a disaster. It was the pastry that failed, but I blame the oven, which was LPG (bottled) gas, and so difficult to control. I will try it an electric oven, which is much more reliable in these matters.

  7. Dear Pigtown, No, the crust wasn’t blind baked at all! That’s what made it so amazing.

  8. Dear Teresa, The parboiling step is the “precooking” step. Just parboil as directed, which partially cooks the pork belly.

  9. Elizabeth Forshaw says:

    Dearest Aesthete, it’s about time I sent you a great big thank you for your beautifully written and subtle musings on all things fabulous. I have been following your blogs in AL since this past summer and can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciate them. I’ll be looking forward to following you and your spouse in this blog too.

    This looks like a great recipe, a proper Quiche Lorraine. I love the way your husband kept the quiche’s crust edges rustic quite here, and how the filling has puffed up all golden and crispy on top. I can’t wait to try the recipe.

    Thank you again for being so fabulous, even on the morning after the night before!!

  10. […] pastry (go to this post for the easy […]

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