In 1979, Pope John Paul II paid a visit to the city of Boston; it was an historic and celebratory moment. Perhaps no one outside the community’s powerful establishment was more excited and more than a bit apprehensive about the event than Mrs. P., a middle-aged resident of South Boston, who was the long-time neighbor of one of my mother’s closest friends. Mrs. P. was an accomplished cook and housekeeper who worked at the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where she frequently cooked meals for the parish priests. Arguably her most daunting assignment came the October day when she was asked to prepare a lunch for the Pope. He had begun his tour with a prayer service at the Cathedral, and afterwards Mrs. P. nervously served him one of her most reliable dishes, her simple Quiche Lorraine, for which he gave her both praise and thanks. I cannot attest to the accuracy of the details of this anecdote, since it happened quite a long time ago and came to me third hand, from Mrs. P., to her neighbor, to my mom. I can, however, claim the recipe as authentic, although the copy I now reference is new, the original being so spattered and stained that it became nearly impossible for me to read.
The ingredients for Mrs. P.’s quiche are familiar, but what my mother and I appreciated about her version was her careful set of instructions which, if followed closely, would always result in a perfectly turned out and delicious dish for brunch or supper. The recipe early on became part of my everyday repertoire. A few years ago, when I was coping with the early symptoms of Lyme Disease, my thoughtful daughter arrived at the front door with a cooler of ingredients and three family recipes she knew would cheer me up – chicken pot pie, linguine with white clam sauce, and Mrs. P.’s quiche. With little fanfare, she took over the kitchen, prepared the dishes, stocked the refrigerator, and left us with the quiche hot from the oven. It was the perfect gift for a mother who was not feeling her best and is a lovely dish to serve on Mother’s day or any day when mom needs a break.
Mrs. P.’s Quiche Lorraine
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups of Swiss cheese, shredded or chopped into small cubes
1 small onion sautéed in about 1 tablespoon of butter until soft but not brown
3 large eggs
3/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups of light cream
9 inch prepared pie crust
Carefully prick the crust with a fork and bake for ten minutes at 450 degrees or until lightly browned. While the crust is baking, combine the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper with a wire whisk. Remove the crust from the oven and quickly brush it evenly with a small amount of the egg mixture to seal it while it is still hot.
Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle the crust with the cheese, bacon, and onion and pour the rest of the egg mixture carefully on top. Return to the oven and bake for another 35 minutes or so until the edges are puffy and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the quiche set for a few minutes before serving.
Note: Check the quiche while it is cooking, and if the crust is becoming too brown, cover the edges with a strip of aluminum foil.
For a larger version, simply increase the bacon by two slices and the cheese and light cream by another half cup each. Use a large onion, four eggs, adjust the seasonings, and bake for about 45 minutes.