During the 70’s and 80’s, my hometown of Houston, TX had an exciting burgeoning food scene. Today it is one of the most diverse ethnic food scenes in the country, highly regarded by food writers, cooks and trend seekers. When I was young I was fortunate to work Christmas season and school holidays with talented chefs from around town in my mother’s restaurant (known then as The Sunset Tea Room). She featured heirloom Southern recipes as well as new trends crisscrossing the country and Europe, part of a new food movement known as New American Cuisine.
One of my favorite menu items was the quiche-A choice of diced ham and spinach, or mushroom and spinach. Each slice was offered with either a green or fresh fruit salad along with cup of the soup du jours. That memory is the basis for this post. While I will be diving into the spinach and wild mushroom quiche here, you can substitute the mushrooms for diced ham or bacon if you prefer.
Supermarkets are stocking a wide variety of domestically grown wild mushrooms like never before. If you happen to live in area where they still aren’t available (or out of season), check out my Shop Ingredients page for several varieties. Nearly any store-bought wild mushroom will do, but I’ve listed the type I use or recommend in the recipe card. Never pick wild mushrooms without experience. There are as many poisonous species as there are edible ones. Take a hands-on class before harvesting your own.
If you want to skip the wild mushrooms, white or brown button mushrooms work as well, albeit without the super depth of flavor found in their wild cousins.
Wild Mushroom Spinach Quiche
Quiche is a dish that can be served any time of day. It is delicious and satisfying and makes a great alternative to fish during the holy days of Lent. It can be eaten hot out of the oven or cold at a picnic and social gathering. Quiche can be made in a variety of sizes from the bite-sized finger foods to a substantial deep dish for slicing as in this recipe. Pair with a light green salad, fruit salad, soup or on its own. As for the the ingredients, let your imagination run wild.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tbsp butter
- 1 lb mushrooms, wild thinly sliced...On this day I'm using a mix of (Oyster, Trumpet Royale, Forest Nameko, Velvet Pioppini, Maitake Frondosa) (Fresh Porcini/Chanterelle are an excellent upgrade)
- 1 lb field mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 whole shallots, peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed and chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup sherry wine for deglazing
- 1 cup spinach, wilted/chopped and excess water squeezed out
- ½ cup Comté, shredded (Emmenthaler, Fontina Val d'Aosta or regular Swiss cheese are good substitutes)
- ½ cup Gruyère, shredded
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups milk
- 6 whole eggs
- 1 heaping tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (Use a bit less if not using fresh nutmeg. Jarred nutmeg tends to be more concentrated)
Pastry Shell Ingredients
- 2 cups flour, all purpose
- 2 sticks butter, cut into small cubes and then frozen (2 sticks butter = 1 cup = 8 oz = 32 tbsp = 225g) For richer more flakey crust substitute high quality lard for the butter.
- ¼-½ cup ice water
- 1 tsp salt
Pastry Shell Instructions
Using the ring from a (9" or 23cm) springform pan, spray with non-stick oil or rub oil all along the inside of the pan. Put aside.
Measure out the chilled butter and cut into small cubes. Add the butter cubes to a sheet pan and freeze for 20-30 minutes (or overnight).
Using a food processor or your hands, add the AP flour and salt to the work bowl. Next add the cubed frozen butter. Place the lid on the work bowl and pulse or cut the butter into the flour. If you are using your hands, squeeze the butter and flour with your hands to break up and distribute. The butter should be evenly distributed throughout the flour. You should visibly see the chunks of butter in the dough.
Every flour and ambient humidity in the kitchen is different so the amount of water you will need will vary. Start with ¼ cup of ice chilled water and pulse in the food processor. Remove the lid and grab a sample of the dough. Clinch it in your hands. The dough should come together without falling apart. If it falls apart add a few more spoons of water and recheck the dough after a brief pulse with the food processor. (I live in a very dry climate so it took me ½ cup of iced water to get the pie dough to come together.) After adding the water, and once the dough is starting to come together, turn out onto a work surface and work the dough together into a small disk or two. Avoid overworking the dough as this will make for a tough pastry. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. (Any longer and the butter with become hard and you will need to let it sit out at room temperature until the dough is soft enough to work with.)
Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.
Methods to roll out dough:
1. Remove the rested pastry dough from the refrigerator and place onto a very lightly floured work surface. Take the rolling pin, and with your free hand with a small amount of flour in it, roll the pin around to cover the rolling pin with flour. This will help rolling out the pastry without it sticking. If needed, add a small amount of additional flour to the work surface or the rolling pin and carefully roll out the dough into a (14-16"/35-40cm) wide circle. You will need all the dough used together to have enough pastry. There will be a small amount leftover for filling any cracks.
2. Removed the rested pastry dough from the refrigerator and place on a large non stick parchment sheet(16x24" or 40x60cm). Flatten the dough into a medium sized disc with your hands. Place another large non stick parchment paper (16x24 or 40x60cm) on top and then slowly roll out the disc of dough into a wider circle by rolling the dough out in one direction, then make a quarter turn with the dough and repeat. Repeat this several times until you reached (14" or 35cm) circle of thin dough. This method has the advantage of no additional flour, which can make the dough less flakey.
Once the dough has been rolled out to size, transfer it to the bottomless prepared spring form pan resting on a Silpat or non stick parchment paper. (Removing the bottom disc of the springform pan allows the dough to rest directly on the sheet pan and helps make the bottom crust crispy and flakey.) Gently fit the dough into the pan while lightly pressing it into place. Trim any excess off from the top and inspect to make sure there are no gaps or holes. If you have a gap, take some of the leftover dough and use this to patch and fill the crack or tear.
Take a (16x24" or 40x60cm) piece of parchment paper and crumple it thoroughly. Straighten the paper out and gently insert inside the dough. (Crumpling the paper will make it easier to place the paper into the round dish.) Place as many beans or pie weights into the cavity as you need to fill the space to the edge of the dough. Place the pastry dough into the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The dough should be just turning golden brown on the edges. Remove the pastry shell from the oven and cool. Once the beans or pie weights are cool enough to handle, carefully remove half of the beans/weights using a scoop or small cup. Remove the last half of the beans/weights by carefully lifting the parchment paper from the edges, then lift out the rest of the beans/weights. Allow the pastry to cool and inspect the edges to make sure no cracks have formed. If some have, patch with the leftover dough and reserve. Prepare the filling while the dough rests. If cooking the quiche straight away, lower the oven temperature to 325°F/165°C.
Quiche filling Instructions
In a small bowl or cup add the kosher salt and white pepper. Mix thoroughly and reserve. The mixture should resemble gray salt.
Pick through and clean the mushrooms as needed. Roughly chop the mushrooms to achieve consistent just-smaller than bite-size pieces. Reserve.
Core and remove the outer layer of 2 medium shallots. Mince and reserve. Prep the fresh thyme by removing the leaves from the stem and discard the woody stems. Chop the leaves and reserve.
Clean and wash 3 large handfuls or approximately 3 cups of spinach. Reserve.
Using a large sauté or fry pan over medium heat, add the oil and butter. Once the butter has melted and the pan has come up to temperature, add shallots.
Cook the shallots until just translucent and then add the chopped mushrooms. Add the salt and white pepper mixture. Cook stirring often until most of the water has cooked out and the mushrooms have shrunk in size by half. Add the fresh chopped thyme, stir in and cook for a few moments more. Once the mushrooms have cooked down to a dark grey and the pan starts to get dry, add the sherry and Worcestershire sauce to deglaze the pan. Cook for 1 minute or more until most of the moisture has evaporated. Remove from the burner and reserve.
In a separate pan add oil, butter and shallots as before with the mushrooms. This time however add a big handful of cleaned spinach. Add salt/white pepper mixture. As the spinach wilts, add another handful until all the spinach has been cooked down. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once the spinach has cooled, remove from the pan and place into a length of cheese cloth or a kitchen towel. While standing over the sink or a large bowl squeeze out all of the moisture from the spinach. Once drained place the spinach on a cutting board and chop. Reserve.
Final Quiche Assembly and Service
Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C
In the prepared pastry shell on the sheet pan, start with a layer of shredded Comté. Next add the prepared layer of cooked chopped spinach, then add the prepared mushrooms. On top of this add a final layer of shredded Gruyère cheese. Pack the ingredients down very lightly. Pour or ladle the prepared quiche milk/egg mixture just to the top edge of the pastry. Place into the preheated 325°F/165°C oven and bake for 1½ hrs, rotating the quiche halfway through. Check for leaks between 30-40 minutes of baking and add more mixture if needed at that time. (See Notes)
To check if the quiche is done, the internal temperature with an instant read food thermometer should be at least 165F/74C. Don't over cook past 180F/82C.
Remove from the oven once the quiche is cooked and place on a cooling rack. Let the quiche cool till very warm to the touch. Gently run a knife between the quiche and sides of the pan. Carefully remove the springform pan ring.
The quiche is now ready to be sliced with a very sharp or serrated knife. Cut into equal sized pieces and serve warm, or alternatively, allow the quiche to cool completely and serve cold. Either way is delicious. To warm up leftovers, place on an oven safe dish in a preheated oven at 350°F/175°C for approximately 10 minutes.
- There will be a small amount of pastry crust leftover. This allows for filling in any small cracks you might experience.
- There is more quiche mix than is needed. If any quiche mixture leaks out of the bottom while baking, keep cooking till about halfway and add what you need to fill it back up. The quiche should have set up enough at this point to allow more quiche mix to be added. Add 8-10 minutes of cooking time if this is the case. If you don't have a small leak then you can cook the excess off in well buttered ramekins or discard.