Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson is a collaboration between IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Once a week, as part of an ongoing series, we’ll be preparing one recipe from the book until we’ve made all of them. Wish us luck.
Another week, another quiche. I can’t say I went into this one with high hopes after last week’s funky salmon number. But, at least there is no fish here. Instead you’ve got a dash of Southeast Asian flavors, some asparagus and a buttery, flaky crust. This is pretty much a variation on the formula that produced Watson’s biggest success, the turmeric paella — combine the flavors of one region, with the presentation of another, and voilà! The Swiss-Thai asparagus quiche puts the flavors of Thailand (and a hint of Greece) in an open-top custard pastry often associated with French cuisine. And once again, IBM’s cognitive computing efforts succeed in pushing its human chef interpreters to make something unique.
Cooking with Watson: Swiss-Thai asparagus quiche
Like the Scandinavian salmon quiche, this recipe starts with an epic list of ingredients. And thankfully, like that recipe, almost all of them are incredibly easy to find. The only thing that might prove somewhat difficult is lemongrass. Though, if you live anywhere near an Asian specialty food store or supermarket, you should be fine. Plus, there’s this thing called the internet; you might have some luck there.
This quiche also uses a different dough for the tart shell, called pate croustade. This is a flakier and more buttery crust than the pasta frolla. It’s also much more fragile. I tore quite a number of holes in the dough while trying to spread it out to line my tart rings. This contrast is partially due to the difference in the way the two doughs are constructed. Whereas the pasta frolla used the “biscuit method” of cutting cold, solid fat into your dry ingredients (flour, salt, etc.), the pate croustade uses the muffin method, which relies on liquid fat — in this case, melted butter. Since “muffin” type doughs are mixed less, there are larger, irregular pockets of fat left and gluten has less of a chance to take hold and create a tough crust. Biscuit doughs, on the other hand, rely on coating the flour granules in fat to inhibit the development of gluten bonds, which results in a more uniform texture.
Honestly, getting the dough right is the toughest part; everything else is pretty straightforward. Steep the lemongrass and coriander in some milk and strain it. Blanch the asparagus for 30 seconds in water until just cooked and then shock in ice to prevent them from overcooking. Then you’re pretty much combining all your dairy, spices and eggs in a bowl; dividing it between the shells; topping with the asparagus and baking for 15 to 20 minutes.
Like I said last week, quiches are pretty easy.
I ended up with a lot of unwanted leftovers when I made the Scandinavian salmon quiche. Not so with the Swiss-Thai asparagus ones. There were not many leftovers to speak of, and they were very much wanted. In fact, I had a second one for breakfast the next day. Whereas the combo of Gruyere and fish turned off my taste testers last week, the slightly funky Swiss cheese here was balanced out by the spice of the curry powder, the brightness of the lemon grass and the briny deliciousness of the feta. The flavor was almost refreshing, in fact… well, as refreshing as eggs baked in a pastry crust can be. Everyone took a beat after putting the first bite in their mouths, somewhat confused by the dance of flavors that Watson put together. But that pause quickly melted into pleasant surprise as bite after bite disappeared until there was no quiche left.
Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche
Scant teaspoon fine sea salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons warm water
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 egg yolks
All-purpose flour, as needed for rolling
Butter, as needed for greasing ring molds
- Thoroughly combine the salt and flour in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Separately, stir together the water and butter. Whisk in the egg yolks.
- Add the liquid mixture to the flour in three additions, mixing to produce homogenous dough (it is normal for the dough to appear slightly rough and greasy at this stage).
Form the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap it in plastic film. Chill for one hour.
Take half of the dough (reserve other half in the freezer for future use) and roll it out on a flat, flour-dusted work surface to create 1/8-inch-thick rectangle measuring 8 X 12 inches. Transfer the sheet of dough to the refrigerator and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Cut four circles from the dough, each measuring five inches in diameter, and carefully line the prepared 4-inch tart rings. Arrange the rings on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
Blind-bake the tarts in a preheated 320-degree Fahrenheit oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tart shells turn a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
½ stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ cup whole milk
½ cup leeks, white part only, rinsed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fine sea salt, as needed
8-12 thin spears asparagus, woody base of stems removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Water, as needed
1 egg yolk
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt
¼ teaspoon mild curry powder
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup Gruyere, grated, divided
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped, divided
- Combine the lemongrass, coriander seeds and milk in a small saucepan and gently heat to a simmer. Remove from the heat and infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the milk and cool, discarding the lemongrass and coriander.
Meanwhile, heat a small sauté pan and slowly sweat the leeks in the butter, adding salt to taste. Continue to cook until the leeks are soft, but not browned. Remove from the heat and cool.
Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus pieces and blanch for about 30 seconds. Shock asparagus with cold water and drain.
Place the whole eggs and egg yolk in a bowl, whisking to combine. Add the infused milk, cream, yogurt, curry powder, black pepper and additional salt to taste. Fold in the cooled leeks, feta, half of the Gruyere and half of the chopped parsley.
Divide the quiche mixture among the baked tart shells (for best results, keep the shells in the tart rings during the baking process). Add several pieces of asparagus to each quiche and top with the reserved Gruyere.
Bake in a preheated 320-degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until set and very lightly browned.
Remove the quiches from the oven and cool slightly. Before serving, sprinkle the tops of each with the remaining chopped parsley.
This recipe and others can be found in Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson.