Happy Accidents – Quiche

Radical mistakes in the kitchen can often lead to happy accidents.

Pie A - Sliced and served.

Pie A – Sliced and served.

We were making quiche for supper the other night, one of those “what have I got in the kitchen” nights. I had dough and roasted garlic in the freezer, shredded cheddar and pepperoni in the fridge, a well-heeled spice cabinet, and plenty of eggs. Christopher picked up cream on the way home from work, and we were set to create pepperoni pizza flavored quiche.

The dry spices (powdered garlic and onion, basil and oregano) were in two bowls, the eggs were out and the cream was ready. I popped the still quite frozen dough into the microwave to thaw a bit. When I removed and opened it, I discovered that I had made a huge mistake. It was not pastry dough, but filo, and it was already thawed and opened.

Right, I thought. Brazenly forward!

Using spray olive oil, I forged ahead, laying out the layers of filo as if for a pie. I tamped them down slightly to remove some of the air and give a little more space for the egg mixture.

While this was going on, Christopher was manfully whipping the spices, eggs and cream into a lovely frothy state.

Pie B - Loaded with roasted garlic and pepperoni.

Pie B – Loaded with roasted garlic and pepperoni.

Roasted garlic was sliced and sprinkled about in the bottoms of the filo shells, followed by quartered slices of pepperoni. The liquid was poured gently into the shells. Rather than leave the corners of the filo poking up where they were likely to burn, they were liberally spritzed with olive oil and folded over.

Pie B - Awaiting cheese.

Pie B – Awaiting cheese.

“Wait!” you exclaim. “What about the cheese?”

Funny, Christopher said the same thing.

The smaller shell had already had the corners folded down, so the cheese went liberally on top. The larger shell actually got cheesed before the corners were folded. I guess we shall see which one came out better?

Pie A - Filo corners folded in. Forgot the cheese!

Pie A – Filo corners folded in. Forgot the cheese!

Pie A - Cheese added on top of folded filo.

Pie A – Cheese added on top of folded filo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pie B - Cheese added, awaiting folding of corners.

Pie B – Cheese added, awaiting folding of corners.

Pie B - Filo corners folded.

Pie B – Filo corners folded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep in mind that in using the filo, the shell will be subject to eggy leaks into the pie dish in a few places. Fortunately the dishes were also sprayed with olive oil at the start, so I hoped nothing would stick or brown too badly.

Half an hour later, we realized the results of our mad dash in the kitchen for ingredients.

Pie A - Fresh out of the oven.

Pie A – Fresh out of the oven.

The filo toasted up beautifully. The pies cut well, the pepperoni giving the knife a little trouble, but not so much that anything tore. I didn’t need to worry about sticking – between the olive oil spray and the properties of filo, the slices slide right out of the dish!

Pie B - Fresh out of the oven. Noticeable difference in visual appeal.

Pie B – Fresh out of the oven. Noticeable difference in visual appeal.

Then came the moment of truth, tasting. I was amazed. The spices and other ingredients came together beautifully. Rather than tasting like eggs, the entire dish tasted like a pepperoni pizza on a gourmet crust!

I recommend trying sun-dried tomatoes if you want that tomato zing in place of sauce, or a drizzle of pizza or spaghetti sauce just before serving. Adding it to the pie could cause there to be too much liquid for the crust.

Black olives, anchovies, fresh spinach, or any other ingredients that you typically use on a pizza may be added or substituted.  The shells may also be used for the traditional Lorraine quiche, as well. Just be wary of how much you load on – the shell will only hold so much goodness!

 

Pie B - Sliced and served!

Pie B – Sliced and served!

I’m quite pleased with this happy accident!

— Ann Cathey

Idahoan Steakhouse Potatoes

Kroger had an interesting “Free Friday Download” recently. It was for a box of a newly released Idahoan brand potato side dish. These items are made with 100% Idaho potatoes, and need milk and butter added in most cases. They bake in the oven and are well worth the effort from our recent experience.

Photo from Idahoan.com

Photo from Idahoan.com

Photo from Idahoan.com

Photo from Idahoan.com

We got to sample the Steakhouse Cheesy Hashbrowns. The website says, “Idahoan Steakhouse Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes start with world-famous Idaho® potato shreds in a premium cheese sauce, then finish with a real crunchy onion topping! These Steakhouse Cheesy Hashbrown potatoes will add premium restaurant quality flavor to any meal.” I find I agree with their statement.

The cheese sauce came out creamy and very cheesy, keeping the whole moist without being soupy. The dried hash-brown style potato strips re-hydrated evenly offering a solid potato texture. The crunchy onion bits that serve as an included topping were a lovely addition to the “casserole”. We served the dish as a starch alongside scrambled eggs with a touch of salsa.

Actual dish from our kitchen.

Actual dish from our kitchen.

The box claims that it will make 5 half-cup servings. We made it into four servings with ease. While this might not be the best thing to do with a controlled diet, in my case for a diabetic, but it was definitely tasty!

While I rarely fiddle with a pre-made dish on the first try, we did determine that adding extra cheese is never a bad thing. Cheddar of any kind or a Gouda would add a nice flavor contrast to this dish. Keep in mind that the crunchy onion topping is a trifle sweet. That’s not a bad thing, but it is good to know when picking out other items to serve with these potatoes.

Actual dish from our kitchen. Next time, we will be adding Gouda!

Actual dish from our kitchen. Next time, we will be adding Gouda!

Other flavors in this new product lineup include:

Steakhouse Au Gratin Red Potatoes
“Idahoan Steakhouse Au Gratin Red Potatoes start with world-famous Idaho® red potato slices in a premium cheddar cheese sauce, then finish with a Parmesan cheese topping! These Steakhouse Au Gratin potatoes will add premium restaurant quality flavor to any meal.”

Steakhouse Bacon and Ranch Red Potatoes
“Idahoan Steakhouse Bacon & Ranch Red Potatoes start with world-famous Idaho® red potatoes in a premium ranch sauce, then finish with a real bacon topping! These Steakhouse Bacon & Ranch Red Potatoes will add premium restaurant quality flavor to any meal. Gotta love real bacon!”

Steakhouse Parmesan & Herb Red Potatoes
“Idahoan Steakhouse Parmesan & Herb Red Potatoes start with world-famous Idaho® red potato slices in a premium cheese sauce, then finish with a real Parmesan cheese topping! These Steakhouse Parmesan & Herb potatoes will add premium restaurant quality flavor to any meal.”

Steakhouse Scalloped Red Potatoes
“Idahoan Steakhouse Scalloped Red Potatoes start with world-famous Idaho® red potato slices in a premium cheese sauce, then finish with a topping of crispy onions for an irresistible crunch! These Steakhouse Scalloped potatoes will add premium restaurant quality flavor to any meal.”

— Ann Cathey

Cheese Tasting at Apollocon

Since it’s introduction several years ago, the cheese tasting at Apollocon has been growing in popularity. The sign-in sheet is always full, as is the panel. Each year it is a little different, having started with a very basic group of cheeses, and blossomed into a sort of free-for-all in the cheese departments of several stores.

This year the cheese selections were almost accidental. On the way to the event, we stopped in at our local Aldi for some supplies, and on a whim, checked out the cheese department. The selection so surprised us that we bought the cheeses for the panel then and there.

We were able to offer a comparison between a true cheddar and a cheddar-style, an Irish made selection to compare to a domestic, a flavored cheese, and hardnesses in a nice range. While we didn’t pick up a hard cheese, which was available, there were plenty of other textures for educating the audience.

As always, the selected cheeses were rated by the group for the snack-ability, and how they might be used in the kitchen, notably for grilled-cheese sandwiches and mac-n-cheese. These two dishes offer a wide range of possibilities and a common comparison for the meltability of a cheese, and how cheeses combine for surprising and pleasing flavors.

Aged Reserve White Cheddar

Aged Reserve White Cheddar

Aged Reserve White Cheddar

An extra-sharp white cheese, this unassuming package gave us a striking cheese. The cheese was a little dry and smacked into the taste buds like a freight train. It was almost to the crumbly sharp stage, breaking in a flaking pattern rather than tearing when sliced. There was nothing mellow about the flavor – it was exactly what I consider a sharp cheddar should be.

While not as meltable, nor as oily, as a younger cheese, this one definitely has a place on the table of those who appreciate sharp cheeses.

 

Kerrygold Blarney Castle

Kerrygold Blarney Castle

Kerrygold Blarney Castle (Gouda syle)
This was the first time I had encountered the Blarney Castle before. It was a sterling surprise. Listed as “gouda style”, meaning it was made in the same fashion as a true Gouda cheese, it gave the expected smoothness. With a strikingly rich flavor that marks all of Kerrygold’s cheeses, it pleases the palate without being overbearing. This one would pair nicely with a white wine any time, having just enough bite to offset the tannic acid of the wine, while not being overwhelmed by it.

It was considered to be a better eating cheese than grilling cheese, and had a high rating on the mac-n-cheese flavor chart.

 

Kerrygold Dubliner (Cheddar style)

Kerrygold Dubliner

Kerrygold Dubliner

What can I say about the Kerrygold line? There are no mistakes! The Dubliner is a smooth, simple cheddar that not only pleases the taste buds alone, it has so many possible culinary uses I can’t list them all here. The mellow flavor lends itself to pairings with white wines and various fruits, as well as for use in salads, biscuits, and omelets. With a medium meltability and a good spot of oil, it will bake into most dishes adding a lovely flavor and cheesy texture.

The Dubliner had a high rating on the mac-and-cheese list as a solid cheese choice, as well as a good choice for the grilled cheese sandwich.

 

Roasted Garlic with Tomato & Basil

Roasted Garlic with Tomato & Basil

Roasted Garlic with Tomato and Basil semi-soft artisan (Mozzarella style)
This cheese is simply delightful. With the texture and slice-ability of a mozzarella, this example of a flavored cheese is a tantalizing treat. Both tomato and garlic are mixed into the cheese curd well before it sets giving the final product a swirly red-brown pattern. The rind is rolled in what appears to be crushed sun-dried tomato and finely chopped basil. The overall effect is of a crustless pizza, with some undertones that are reminiscent of coffee.

This young cheese is great sliced with crackers for a snack, shredded for a pizza or other Italian dish, and soft enough with a smooth meltability that would lend itself to macaroni and cheese with an Italian twist.

 

Brie

Brie

Brie

A soft, bloomy cheese, brie is an interesting flavor/texture combination for the beginner in cheese tasting. In this case it was served at room temperature, which brings out the saltiness and a certain tang in the cheese. When served baked with an apricot marmalade and toasted pine nuts, the cheese simply puddles across both plate and palate with a rich, buttery flavor.

Some people like to eat the rind, others prefer to remove it. This is a personal taste thing. The rind of a Brie has been inoculated with cheese mold (Penicillium candidum generally) to give it that soft, white exterior, that will turn more golden as it ages.

Brie was not recommended by the group for either grilled cheese nor macaroni and cheese, though someone, somewhere, has doubtlessly given it a go.

 

Dill Havarti

Dill Havarti

Dill Havarti
Due to the zealous nature of my partner on the panel, one of the packages slipped away from my camera. You will have to trust me when I say that the creamy Dill Havarti is worth the time and effort to find and acquire. It has a delicate flavor to go along with the semi-soft texture, no bite at all, and would likely be an excellent candidate for a grilled cheese sandwich. The color is mildly off-white with little flecks of the green spice.

There are, of course other Havarti’s out there, but this product in both regular and dill varieties is an excellent economical and readily available sample of the type.

 

Now that you know what we were up to in that board room at Apollocon, maybe you will look us up at Apollocon 2015 and get on the sign-up sheet early. If you aren’t planning to make the event, remember that the cheeses we had so much fun tasting this year are all available at Aldi, and variations of them are available from other purveyors of fine cheeses as well.

Happy Cheese Tasting!

— Ann Cathey

Suggested Wine and Cheese Pairings

Not everyone is an expert at wine and cheese pairings, but everyone should know what they like.

If you are setting up tasty treats for a gathering and would like a simple guide to wines and cheeses (and other tasty ideas), this list is taken from my own experiences. I’m not an expert in the field, but I know what I like and what combinations are pleasing to my palate. I’ve added links to the different types of cheeses and wine varieties for the curious.

If you enjoy Brie, cold or warm, Riesling chilled or at room temperature is lovely. With the Brie, if it is being warmed or baked, add a sprinkle of pine nuts and some jam. Apricot, raspberry or loganberry have all proven to be excellent. Serve with thinly sliced baguettes.

Soft goat cheeses are good with Shiraz (or Syrah). They come in several flavors these days, most notably honey, garlic and herb, and sun dried tomato. Pair these with sliced sweet apples, crisp crackers, or a “party bread” (small loaves baked and cut specifically for canapes).

Parmesan and Asiago are very dry, crumbly cheeses most commonly found grated or flaked for toppings. They are also delightful tasting cheeses and pair nicely with Chardonnay.

Sangria and pink Moscato are favorites to pair with fruits and mild cheeses such as Mozarella and cheddar. These are most often used as dessert wines and tend to favor sweet accompaniments.

Red Moscato and chocolate and dipped fruits are a winning combination. Along with Belinnis, this combination is fun for brunches.

Some traditional standards that are generally true for meats are red wine for red meats, (beef, pork, venison, buffalo, duck), and white wines with white meats (chicken, turkey, fish). I have found this to be true for the most part.

Merlot and Shiraz pair well with grilled red meats. Chardonnay is a crisp counterpoint to may seafood dishes. Sauvignon Blanc goes well with most chicken dishes.

As for cheeses, when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a good cheddar.

I hope this clears up a little of the mystery of pairing wines, and that you will experiment for yourself to find the combinations that most please your palate.

 

— Ann Cathey