Filled with eggs, cream and bacon, quiche has been a popular dish for hundreds of years. What makes it such a particularly good recipe for aspiring chefs, besides the fact that it tastes great, is how versatile it is. The one shown here is your classic spinach and cheese variation, but you can use just about any combination of your family's favorite vegetables. This recipe has instructions for making a pie shell from scratch -- a valuable lesson for any young chef.
To make the pie shell, use your hands to toss together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and shortening, and toss again. Then, using a pastry blender, cut the fat into the flour until it is roughly the size of split peas and the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Sprinkle the water over the mixture. Using a wooden spoon, briskly stir the pastry dough until it forms a shaggy ball. Transfer the ball to a lightly floured surface and knead it once or twice.
Place the pastry on a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Wrap the disk in the plastic and refrigerate it for about 1 hour, until firm.
When the pastry is chilled, lightly butter a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan and set it aside. Dust a large piece of waxed paper with flour and center the pastry on it. With a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle.
Invert the pastry, paper and all, centered over the pie pan. Gently peel away the paper and tuck the pastry into the pan without stretching it.
Fold back the overhanging pastry, pinching it into a ridge. Then place the shell in the freezer for 15 minutes while you heat the oven to 400º F.
Remove the pastry from the freezer and line it with a large piece of aluminum foil, about 18 inches long, pressing it into the bottom. Add enough dried beans or rice to fill the pan about halfway and bake the pastry on the center oven rack for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and grasp the overhanging foil on both sides to remove the beans.
Prick the bottom of the pastry 6 or 7 times with a fork, then put the pie shell back in the oven. Reduce the heat to 375º F and bake the shell for 10 minutes more. Then remove it from the oven and immediately sprinkle the handful of grated cheese over the fork holes, letting it melt to seal them and keep the egg mixture from leaking out. Set the shell on a cooling rack while you prepare the filling.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy and then transfer it to a plate. Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. If you're not using bacon, simply heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet and proceed. Add the onion and sauté it over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until clear. Stir in the garlic and spinach. Cover and steam the vegetables for about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender. Remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl, and then blend in the half-and-half, mustard, salt, and pepper. Spread the cooked vegetables evenly in the pie shell and sprinkle on about half of the cheese. Crumble the bacon and add it. Now slowly ladle the egg mixture over the filling and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
Bake the quiche at 375º F on the center oven rack for about 40 to 45 minutes, until slightly puffy and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers. Makes 8 servings.