He sticks with a winning formula for his custard mix:
4 parts beaten eggs to 1½ parts half-and-half cream. (For a typical 10-inch pie, he recommends about 2 cups of beaten eggs and 2/3 cup half-and-half.)
He kneads his piecrust dough a little longer than normal to keep the edge crispier and more stable. And he always parbakes the crust before filling (as does Shipley).
At the restaurant he starts his quiches on the convection setting for a crisp crust and then switches to conventional.
How the ingredients are layered makes a big difference, too, he said.
"Some vegetables have a tendency to float more on you," Robinson said. "So if you want ingredients in your quiche all the way from top to bottom, you have to work with the various densities." (And you should always aim for a mix of densities.)
To give an example, he would layer turkey cubes (high density) on the bottom, then some cheese, then veggies like broccoli or cauliflower and then more cheese. Sun-dried tomatoes are right in the middle of the pack for density, he said.
Even the type of cheese needs to be taken into account. "Gorgonzola we put on the bottom, it has water in it, and as it bakes will give off a vapor," Robinson said. But cheddar goes on top, where it "will just melt and caramelize because it's more oily."
Sometimes Robinson will throw in cubed cheddar or Swiss instead of shredded. "Then when you bake it in the oven and cut into it, the cheese kind of runs out."
Once the ingredients are layered, the egg mixture (custard) is poured in. Robinson fills the shell as full as possible, then tops it off a little more after the quiche is in the oven. "We always want the volume of our quiche to be really high," he said.
And for that garnish.... Depending on flavor, the quiche might be garnished with a drizzle of vinaigrette, a pile of wispy microgreens, some mushroom confit or mayonnaise blended with puréed roasted red pepper. Last week's sun-dried tomato-asparagus-cauliflower quiche was topped with an arugula salad dressed with champagne vinaigrette.
Quiche portions at Watts are "generous:" fully one-fourth of a 10-inch pie. (Folks can also call in to order whole quiches to go.)
Within the last year, both Verduras and Amaranth switched from serving their customers wedges of full-size pies to baking smaller single-serving pies.
"I like the aesthetic better and they're easier to serve," Shipley said. They have been serving 6-inch quiches baked in springform pans but are switching to even smaller quiches, baked in 4-inch deep-dish fluted tart pans, she said.
"The 6-inch quiche is nice to share, but it's too much for one person to grab and go; it's rather gargantuan."
At Verduras, Nowicki stopped enclosing her quiches with a crust, so that her quiches are now all gluten-free.
Small or large, crust or no, what's the secret to turning out a great quiche?
"I'm still working for that perfect quiche," Shipley said.
"You want the texture of the egg (part) to be light. And you also want to be able to use as many vegetables as you can and not have it be watery. And also getting the right amount of cheese so you don't have a heavy brick."
"I started from a disastrous place," she said with a laugh. "I'm getting closer."
STEPS TO PERFECTION
Though we think of quiche as French, it originated in the medieval German kingdom of Lothringer, under German rule, which the French later renamed Lorraine. The name "quiche" derives from the German "kuchen," meaning cake.
For the quiche we know and love today, the one that Americans embraced in the '70s, local chefs offer these tips:
■ To eliminate excess moisture in the quiche filling, lightly sauté most veggies (onions included), and blanch (and thoroughly drain) fresh greens before adding.
■ If using chunks of whole tomatoes, like grape or cherry tomatoes, sauté them a bit first; otherwise when they shrink during baking, they'll create holes in the filling. "People want quiche with no gaps when they cut into it," said Watts chef Jeffrey Robinson.
■ For best results, parbake the crust first.
■ For a quiche with ingredients scattered evenly throughout the filling, use a mix of light and heavy ingredients, and layer them accordingly by density.
■ Use a fine serrated knife to carefully cut wedges of quiche so the edge of the crust doesn't break.