Monday, September 21, 2009
"Sometimes we all got to swim upstream"
[If you can identify the above lyrics without googling, I will make you breakfast.]
Attention, shoppers! Trader Joe's now sells Smoked Salmon Pieces for $1.99 a pack! Now you can soak up some alpha omegas, enjoy wholesome salty deliciousness, and stay true to your Economical self.
What are Smoked Salmon Pieces? Why, they are pieces of smoked salmon, just like the kind you might buy if you were rich! The main difference, I guess, is that they are smaller than the ones normally encountered on a bagel. I think these are the leftover bits that are not big enough to sell for six or eight bucks. But, you do the math and tell me which is the better deal!
I've been buying Smoked Salmon Pieces as if the apocalypse were coming. Lately, my work-a-day lunch is crackers and cream cheese with the smoked salmon and a few capers. (To keep costs even lower, I buy generic brand cream cheese by the block - it's a lot cheaper than the kind that comes in a tub.) Last night I decided to be a bit more creative and, if I may boast, made one of the most delicious quiches I have ever eaten.
Recipe: Deconstructed Lox Bagel Quiche
Serves 8, and lasts for about a week. Great hot, cold, or at room temperature. I think it tastes better a day after you make it than it does fresh out of the oven. The custard filling is made with milk instead of heavy cream, so it's a bit lower in fat than most quiche recipes. But the consistency is still very creamy, thanks to the cream cheese (hmm, maybe it is not that much lower in fat than most quiche recipes - so much for my birthday diet). The flaky pastry crust is delicious and easy. Crust is best when the fat mixed into it is very cold, so I recommend putting the butter, after it's been cubed, and the shortening into a bowl and freezing them for about 10 minutes before mixing.
1 Basic Pastry Dough (see recipe below); a store-bought quiche crust, though not as delicious, is a time-saving alternative
about 8 or 10 dried beans for weighing down the crust during parbaking process
1.5 C milk
3 T flour
1/2 t ground mustard
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
about 1/4 block of cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium tomato, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 T capers
2 T minced shallots (optional, but recommended)
Smoked Salmon Pieces (use the whole bag if you're feeling spendy; if not, just use about half of it)
a few teaspoons of chopped fresh parsley (optional; dill would also be good if you have some)
Press the pastry dough into the bottom and sides of a pie or tart pan, making sure it's very thin and evenly spread. Poke several holes in the bottom and sides with a fork. If using a pie pan, use the fork to create decorative indentations around the edges of the crust. Chill in the fridge for a half hour. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove crust from fridge, and scatter the dried beans around the bottom to weigh it down. Bake it for 20 minutes; remove from oven, remove the beans, and bake the crust again for another ten minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack, keeping the oven turned on.
Meanwhile, make the custard: whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, mustard, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Once crust has cooled down, scatter the cream cheese, tomato, capers, shallots, salmon, and parsley around as if decorating a pizza. Pour the custard over the crust, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The center might be a little jiggly, but not liquid. Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Recipe: Basic Pastry Dough
Adapted from the Gourmet cookbook. Makes enough dough for 1 regular pie pan or 10-inch tart pan. There will probably be extra dough, which you can shape into muffin tins or freeze for later. This is a really good recipe for flaky pastry, and it has become my standby for quiche, tart, and pie crusts. When I use it to make a dessert, I add a tablespoon of sugar.
1.25 C flour
3/4 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 T cold vegetable shortening (yes, Crisco -- don't hate, appreciate)
1/4 t salt
3 T ice water
In a medium bowl, blend together the flour, butter, shortening and salt with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (a few lumps can be pea-sized, but the rest should be crumbly). Drizzle in the ice water evenly and continue mixing until a dough is formed. Squeeze a handful or so -- if it crumbles apart, add more water, just a tablespoon at a time, till the dough comes together. (For even less work, you may do all the aforementioned steps in a food processor -- make coarse crumbs and a few pea-sized pieces, then add the water and pulse a few times till dough is formed.)
Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide into four portions. Using the heel of your hand, push down on each portion once to distribute the fat. Roll them all together to make a single ball of dough again. Cover it in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour.