Crusty Cleverness

Perfect for those friends or family that abide by a gluten-free diet (or don’t), this Asparagus and Two-Cheese Quiche with Hash-Brown Crust with fresh green asparagus and tarragon, is perfect for a Sunday brunch, anytime lunch, or light dinner. Get all the goodness of hash browns and a rich Fontina and goat cheese egg custard in this unexpected quiche.

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You’ll need a 10″ cast iron skillet or an oven-proof carbon steel pan for best results. Make sure to take your eggs out of the fridge ahead of time to come to room temperature because they whip up to a greater volume when they’ve had a chance to warm up a bit. Remove the eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before use, or put them in a bowl of warm water while assembling the other ingredients.

Even though the original directions did not indicate to soak the potatoes in water after shredding, based on some reviewer’s comments it made sense because the process will prevent the potatoes from turning gray due to the oxidation of the starch in the spuds. After a few minutes in the cold bath, drain thoroughly and add a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice before squeezing out the excess water. Next time I may even use a second towel and repeat the squeezing process to ensure very dry potatoes.

Some reviewers wrote that they substituted frozen hash browns which would save several steps, but I’m a purist at heart (for the most part) and wanted to use the real McCoy. The biggest difference is the flavor. Frozen potatoes never taste nearly as good as fresh ones, although I’m sure to hear from detractors of that statement.

Also, I placed the pan of potatoes in the oven after the stove top method to brown more evenly thus creating a light brown crust on top, again vis-a-vis a reviewer’s comment and not part of the author’s directions. (These steps are included below.) Another oft remarked comment was the overwhelming taste of the tarragon. I happen to love that herb, but we barely had enough left at the end of the season in our garden to cobble together about 1 1/2 teaspoons worth, so keep that in mind when assembling yours.

Now let’s talk time and temperature. After browning the crust in the 400 degree oven, I lowered the temp to 350°F and baked the quiche for 35 minutes as per the instructions. It was no where near set, so I let it go another 15 minutes before I took it out, total time = 50 minutes. And the center was STILL a bit undercooked and could have stood another 5 minutes in the oven. In hind sight, I think I may have accidentally added 1/4 cup more half-and-half than the recipe calls for, which of course made the custard looser…

Every oven is different and our top bay needs a professional adjustment. Knowing that, I should have left the temp at 400°F. So it’s up to you what temperature you want to cook at, but just start keeping an eyeball on doneness after about 40 minutes. Just remember to pull the skillet out with a towel or hot pad because the handle will be scorching hot!

In the end, the quiche was quite good and quite large! We will be eating it for days, so it’s probably best to serve when you have company, or more family members at the table.

Do Ahead
Quiche can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cool to room temperature, then wrap with plastic and refrigerate. To reheat, bake at 325°F until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon (or less, depending on preference)
  • 5 ounces Fontina cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into pieces. (I suggest thin asparagus.)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Using the coarse grater disk on a food processor (best option) or the largest holes on a box grater, shred potatoes.
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  2. Place hash browns in a large bowl of very cold water to remove some of the starch and to avoid discolorization. Drain, add lemon juice and transfer to a clean dishtowel. Gather together ends of towel, and thoroughly wring out excess liquid over the sink—repeating with another dry towel if necessary.
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  3. Place potatoes in large bowl, toss with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper and set aside.
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  4. Heat oil and 2 Tbsp. butter in a 10″ cast-iron skillet over medium-high until butter is melted. Add potatoes and immediately start forming into a crust by pushing potatoes flat against bottom and sides of pan with a 1/2-cup dry measuring cup. Continue cooking, pressing potatoes up sides of pan if they start shrinking, until potatoes are bound together and bottom of crust is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
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  5. Remove pan from burner and put into oven for 15 minutes to lightly brown the crust on the top side.
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  6. Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, 5-6 minutes; set aside.
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  7. Whisk eggs, half-and-half, mustard powder, nutmeg, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in another large bowl. Whisk in tarragon and set aside.
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  8. Sprinkle Fontina cheese, goat cheese, and sautéed shallots evenly over bottom of crust, then pour in egg mixture.
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  9. Arrange asparagus decoratively on top. (Next time I’ll get a bit more artistic and arrange in a star or circular pattern.) Bake until quiche is set and crust is well browned, 45-55 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before cutting into wedges and serving from the pan.
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    The entire skillet can be placed on a trivet at the table for a rustic presentation.

IMG_4215Serve with a side salad or fresh fruit to complete your meal.

Adapted from a recipe by Anna Stockwell, Epicurious
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