Friday, November 30, 2012

Exploring Armenia 8: Karabakh


During our visit to Armenia, my family decided to take the long trip to Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (aka Karabakh) which is a republic of Armenians who broke free from Azerbaijan after years of war, persecution, and bloodshed. Although many countries do not recognize Karabakh as a sovereign state, there are many people who do, and I am one of them. The state of Rhode Island also officially acknowledges its existence. I'm proud to be a Rhode Islander :)

The trip was a very long one, but definitely worth it. This tremendously mountainous region is in theory 4 1/2 hours from Yerevan, but it was more like 8 hours for us traveling on a twisting road with a couple of stops along the way. We stayed in Stepanakert, Karabakh's capital, but stopped in Shushi along the way to check out the beautiful Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Christ the Holy Savior. Not only is this church stunning, but it played an integral part during the war of independence as a storage facility for supplies.

In Stepanakert, we stayed at the brand new Hotel Europe. It was only a month old and fitted with many modern conveniences, and featuring a very helpful and courteous staff. My only complaints of this hotel include the slow WiFi connection and the horrible free breakfast included in your stay. Every other hotel we stayed at included free breakfast, and all of them were infinitely more pleasant, delicious, and had more variety than the one at Hotel Europe. Definite room for improvement there, but considering this country was in the midst of a horribly destructive war only years ago, I think they have done a great job rebuilding and getting back on their feet.

Hotel Europe lobby

We enjoyed walking around Stepanakert and taking in the sights, from the "White House" where the president lives and the National Assembly, to some beautiful fountains in the center square of the city.

Where the president lives

The National Assembly

Later that evening we also decided to try out a specialty of the region, zhingyalov hatz, which is a soft flatbread filled with many different greens including spinach, cilantro, parsley, basil, scallions, dill, and mint. Theoretically, I should have loved this bread, but I found it to be quite unpleasant. It was greasy and texturally one-note, kind of mushy and bland. My entire family agreed. I'm glad I tried it, but I wouldn't want more of it.

Zhingyalov hatz

The following day was our full day of exploration in Karabakh. We were lucky to be joined by a friend of a friend who is from Karabakh and offered to be our tour guide for the day. Our first major stop of the day was at the Gandzasar Monastery atop a mountain overlooking the village of Vank.

With breathtaking views, it was truly an astonishing location for this 13th century place of worship. Back then there were no modern roads, so I always wonder how these massive and incredible churches were built on top of mountains. Gandzasar is not the only one. I will be discussing other mountain-top churches in later posts.

We had the privilege of meeting the priest at Gandzasar. Although I'm not tremendously religious, I love visiting these old churches, and I was especially thrilled to meet the priest because he was also the spiritual leader for the soldiers during the war. He has done a lot for morale and support for those fighting for their freedom. In addition to that, he was also the coolest priest I've ever met! Among other things, he told us that we had to join him in his office for some very special vodka, or else it would be as if we hadn't visited Gandzasar!

He poured us glasses of local 80 proof honey vodka. It was very strong, but such a special experience! We sat for a while in his office and talked. He told us stories of his life and from the war, as well as sharing hilarious anecdotes. The ringtone on his phone for when his wife would call was a war siren. Seriously! The man has a great sense of humor, especially after the trials and tribulations he experienced during the war. I've never had so much fun at church before :)

We left the Gandzasar and checked out some sights in the village of Vank, including a really clever lion statue made from rock naturally occurring on the side of a mountain. It actually roars too! Pretty neat!

After making our way back to Stepanakert, we stopped to see the famous "We Are the Mountains" monument depicting an old man and woman. This monument is a great symbol for the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

We proceeded onward to the Memorial Museum of the Perished Soldiers, an incredibly depressing but important spot to visit. Our unofficial tour guide had told us stories earlier in the day about how she had lost her sons, brother, and son-in-law during the war of independence. We soon learned that literally every citizen of Karabakh has lost loved ones in the war. Every single citizen. The curator of the museum herself lost her son, among other family members.

It is important to note that the Armenians were being persecuted and killed by the Azerbaijanis, and were pushed to the point of necessity to fight for their freedom and their independence. This region belonged to Armenia a long time ago, and was still inhabited by mostly Armenians during that time who wanted to free themselves from the tyranny of a government that hated them.

The soldiers had no flag, and so they made one themselves

The Armenians often fought with homemade weapons through much of the war. "We fought against tanks with such weapons" was written in the museum showcasing some examples of these inferior weapons. They managed to fight for their cause, even with a high death toll. Now they are free, and that's all that matters (I just wish more countries would give them their due credit and respect!).

The walls of every room in the museum were lined from floor to ceiling with the unsmiling faces of the young boys and men who all perished during the war. Staring into each of their eyes, I felt tremendous sadness and sympathy for each of them and their families. These were and are people who know troubles that I've never known in my considerably privileged life as an American citizen. None of us should take our freedom for granted, especially when so many people have died for theirs.

This truly emotional and eye-opening experience was worth every tear shed. I feel an even stronger connection to the wonderful people of Karabakh. They deserve their freedom and I am so proud of them for fighting for something so important. We left the museum and headed to the cemetery where many of the deceased soldiers from the war are buried.

The bullet-ridden former hospital

A large monument stands across from the bullet-ridden former hospital. It is one of the few buildings that still stand from the war, showcasing just some of the damage. It was lucky. Most of the other buildings were completely destroyed from warfare. We visited the grave site of our tour guide's sons. I felt like I knew her sons, just by seeing their pictures and hearing the stories. Many of the gravestones featured two or three pictures at once for brothers who fought and died together. These are images I will never forget.

Brother who fought and died together :(

By this point in the day, we were ready to sit down to a nice meal together and reflect on all of the beauty and tragedy we had seen that day. We decided to try a spot that was recommended to us as the best in Stepanakert. Ureni is the Armenian name for weeping willow, and is also the name of the restaurant. I have to say, it totally lived up to the hype.

Exterior of Ureni Restaurant

We enjoyed the beautiful weather by taking a seat outdoors, right by the restaurant's namesake, a weeping willow tree.

The fresh and still hot breads, yogurt (matzoon) and local cheese were all delicious. An excellent start to our meal.

We also elected to try a salad that reminded me a bit of Caesar salad with chicken, tomatoes, and croutons. It was topped with a thick layer of grated cheese and piped sour cream. It was actually quite tasty even though it was heavily dressed.

Fish seems to be the theme of many of our meals during the trip (hey, I'm not complaining), and we decided to have some fried local fish. They were fairly small and tender, absolutely delicious and very fresh.

My absolute favorite component of the meal, believe it or not, was the potatoes. These are not your average Idahos. These small, long oval pale golden-fleshed potatoes are indigenous to the region. Here they were sliced on either side to expose the flesh, skewered with pieces of pork fat in between, and barbecued. The pork fat becomes crunchy and FABULOUS and the flavor absorbs into the already tender and fluffy potato. These potatoes are truly out of this world. I shouldn't wax poetic over a lowly potato, but I am because these potatoes deserve it. They are a must have!

Our journey through Karabakh was definitely a memorable one. Even though the trip was tiring, I am so grateful for the opportunity to visit, and also to share these stories with my readers. I hope someday Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will have worldwide recognition. The people here are wonderful, and after all the tragedy they've survived, they deserve the world's respect for overcoming adversity and fighting for their freedom from hateful tyrants.

Ureni Restaurant 
70d Tumanyan Street
Stepanakert, NKR
(374 47) 944544

Hotel Europe
26 Azatamartikneri Street
Stepanakert, NKR
(374 10) 253141

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pumpkin Pecan Knots From Amy's Bread


Although it's not something I do weekly, or evenly monthly, baking fresh bread is extremely gratifying. I always say I want to make more bread, and little by little I have been increasing my bread baking frequency. I even ordered a very large rectangular baking stone to use in the future for baking bread and pizzas (thicker and wider than the cheaper small round stone I already have). It should retain heat better and provide a larger surface area to bake multiple loaves of bread at once on a stone as opposed to a sheet pan (which is what I use now).

I had been eyeing a recipe in my Amy's Bread cookbook for Autumn Pumpkin Bread with Pecans for some time. It's apparently one of their best-selling seasonal breads for the fall. In the bakery, they actually call them Pumpkin Pecan Knots, which is a more fitting name, I think, because when you say "Pumpkin Bread" people automatically assume quick bread, and this bread is certainly not quick. Just like all their artisan breads, this bread requires the same long and slow fermenting process that yields the incredibly complex and delicious bread they are famous for producing.

Risen dough, ready to divide and shape

It's actually very easy to make. I highly recommend scaling off the ingredients instead of utilizing the volume measurements. It is far more accurate and when weight measurements are offered in a recipe, I always follow those instead.

Shaped and ready to proof

Although the dough ferments for about 2 hours and then proofs for another 1 1/2 hours or so, actually mixing together, kneading, and shaping the loaves requires minimal time commitment and comes together quite simply. It is most definitely worth the effort and time for bread this fantastic.

I made this bread for Thanksgiving. Not so much to eat with the meal (although it would totally work in savory applications), but to enjoy afterwards with creamy Cranberry Curd for dessert. It was also an incredible breakfast the next morning! The bread itself is mildly sweet, enriched with butter and egg yolks, fragrant with the scent of cinnamon and cloves, with bites of crunchy pecans studded within its pale golden crumbs.

Slather on a spoonful of tart and sweet vibrant pink cranberry curd and you have yourself a perfect autumn pairing. There's nothing quite like it :) I will be making this bread and curd match-up annually from now on. Probably more than once a season to be honest! It's not too late to bake a couple loaves of this scrumptious bread before pumpkin season is officially over.

Pumpkin Pecan Knots
Makes 2 (1 1/4 pound) loaves
(Adapted from Amy's Bread: Revised and Updated)

1/4 cup (57 g) very warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 T. plus 1 tsp. (12 g) active dry yeast
1 cup (234 g) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup (170 g) honey
1/2 cup (120 g) milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup (42 g) coarse cornmeal or polenta
2 large (40 g) egg yolks, at room temperature
3 3/4 cups (560 g) unbleached bread flour, divided
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup (113 g) pecan pieces, toasted

Combine the very warm water and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Allow to stand for 3 minutes.

Add the pumpkin puree, honey, milk, cornmeal, egg yolks, and 228 grams (1 1/2 cups) of the flour to the yeast mixture. Stir briskly with a whisk until well combined. Let this sponge rest for at least 15 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 332 g (2 1/4 cups) of flour together with the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt to mix well. Add the melted butter to the sponge and stir with your fingers to incorporate, then add the flour mixture, stirring and folding the dough over itself until it gathers in a shaggy mass.

Move the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is very smooth, silky, and elastic, 8 to 9 minutes (alternatively, if your mixing bowl is very large you can knead the dough right in the bowl as I have done successfully). The dough with be soft and sticky, so keep the work surface and your hands lightly floured, but don't overdo it. Shape into a loose ball, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Flatten the dough and stretch it gently with your fingers to form a rectangle about an inch thick (this part you will have to do on a work surface, not in the mixing bowl). Spread the toasted pecans evenly over the rectangle. Fold the whole mass into an envelope and knead it gently until the nuts are well distributed, 2 to 3 minutes.

Shape the dough into a loose ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl, along with any loose pecans. Turn to coat the top with oil, then cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature (75 to 77 degrees F) until it has doubled in volume, about 2 hours. A lightly floured finger pressed into the dough will leave an indentation that does not spring back.

When the dough has doubled, gently pour it out of the bowl onto the floured work surface, pressing in any loose nuts. Flour your hands lightly and gently divide the dough into two equal pieces weighing about 680 g each. Roll each piece into a rope about 2 feet long and then tie it into a knot. Tuck the ends under the loaf and press lightly to seal.

Place the loaves on a peel or the back of a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment. Leave several inches between them so they won't grow into each other. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and allow them to rise at room temperature until just doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Thirty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a cast-iron pan (that you are willing to get rusty) on the lowest rack of the oven (I used an enameled cast iron pan which should be safe from rusting). Place an oven rack two rungs above the cast iron pan, and if you have one, put a baking stone on the rack. Fill a plastic water sprayer with water and fill a teakettle with water to be boiled later, and have a metal 1-cup measure with a straight handle available near the kettle.

Five to 10 minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, turn the water on to boil.

Mist the loaves with water, then open the oven and gently slide them onto the baking stone with the parchment paper underneath (if you're baking without a stone simply put the pan onto the empty rack). Pour 1 cup boiling water into the skillet and immediately shut the oven door. After 1 minute, quickly mist the loaves again, then shut the oven door.

Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the loaves for even browning, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, until the loaves are golden brown and the surface feels firm but not hard when you press it lightly. An instant-read digital thermometer will read about 200 degrees F. If your loaves brown too quickly, tent them with aluminum foil until they finish baking.

Transfer the loaves to a metal rack and allow to cool completely before serving. This bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but can be refreshed in the oven if desired. Just wrap with foil and heat at about 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, then unwrap the foil and continue to heat for another few minutes to firm the crust back up. It also freezes exceptionally well if you wrap it in aluminum foil and then a freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

This bread is especially fantastic with fresh Cranberry Curd.

I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Explore Your Roots: Sweet Potato Pie with Gingerbread Crust and Bourbon Whipped Cream


I can't exactly label my favorite food season. I enjoy them all for various reasons. At the end of summer, even though I know that tomato season is ending, I look forward to winter squash, dark leafy greens, and root vegetables. Although many of these are available year-round, they are abundant and particularly comforting during the cooler months of the fall and winter. I am a vegetable fiend and particularly enjoy finding new ways to prepare them in side dishes and incorporating them into main dishes. Although a balanced diet may be a cookie in each hand, a more balanced diet includes a healthy dose of veggies.

I recently received a copy of Roots, a book set up like an encyclopedia of root vegetables. It has chapters in alphabetical order with a gorgeous photograph showcasing each root vegetable, followed by the scientific and common names for the root, history and lore, varieties, nutrition, availability and selection, storage, and basic use and preparation. It literally gives you all the information you could possibly want to know about any given root (with the exception of the exact places where you might find it in your particular town and city). These introductions are then followed by a selection of recipes.

Whole Wheat Linguine with Carrot Top Pesto and Sauteed Cremini Mushrooms

Some of these roots may be harder to find. I've personally never met a Burdock Root, a Crosne, or a Malanga, among others. Most of the roots are fairly commonplace, however, and some of the somewhat uncommon ones I have personally seen at Whole Foods (Fresh Horseradish and Jerusalem Artichokes, for example). I may not be able to create every dish in this book because of root unavailability, but honestly, I can and likely would try many of the recipes in the chapters that are more approachable for regular consumers.

Homemade Ginger Ale

Even roots like radishes, turnips, and beets (which are common even in supermarkets and not necessarily at farmers' markets) offer recipes that are appealing to try. And of course, recipes aside, the book itself is invaluable for its useful information on all the roots, from selection to storing and beyond.

My only complaint is the minimal amount of photographs. Considering the book features 29 major roots and over 225 recipes in over 400 pages, I know the material shared is more important than the photos in this case. There are a handful of really beautiful pictures, but the pages are filled more vitally with words. I can't imagine how long this book would be if it were filled with pictures too. The page count and price would probably rise exponentially. I forgive them.

Chicken Fricassee with Parsley Roots and Chanterelle Mushrooms

So far, I have made two recipes from this book. They utilize more common ingredients, but I have many recipes bookmarked including some for the harder-to-find roots. I have my eyes peeled for Parsley Root because I'm just itching to try the Chicken Fricassee with Parsley Roots and Chanterelle Mushrooms. I'm also anxious to try Homemade Ginger Ale, and Golden Beet Risotto with Crumbled Ricotta Salata and Sautéed Beet Greens, among others.

The first recipe I tried was Carrot Top Pesto. Although I've cooked beet greens before, I never thought to utilize carrot tops, so this really seemed like a great way to cook the entire vegetable from top to bottom. I tweaked the recipe a touch, cut it in half based on how much carrot top I had, replaced pine nuts with walnuts and increased the amount of oil a tad to help it blend more smoothly in my teeny tiny 1 1/2-cup food processor (it wouldn't mix properly in anything bigger). I decided to toss the pesto (thinned out with a bit of pasta water) with some whole-wheat linguine and sautéed cremini mushrooms to instill some earthiness. The dish was fabulous, a great wintertime pesto option that I will happily recreate any time basil and other summer herbs are out of season.

I also couldn't wait to try the Sweet Potato Pie with Gingerbread Crust and Bourbon Whipped Cream. It graced our Thanksgiving table. Pumpkin pie was definitely not missed with this on the menu. The filling was lightly sweetened and spiced, perfectly creamy and not overly heavy. The crust was incredibly simple, yet packed so much flavor and innovation into this pie. Simply gingersnap crumbs and butter took the concept of a graham cracker crust to another level that paired so perfectly with the sweet potato filling.

A gently spiked bourbon whipped cream was literally the icing on the cake, offering a touch of naughty with a creamy balance to the sweet potato canvas. It was love in its most delicious form. The entire Thanksgiving table swooned over this pie. I plan to make this again in the coming weeks because once is never enough, just you wait and see.

Roots is a beautiful and important work in the cookbook world. If you love root vegetables, want to learn more about them, try new recipes for your favorites, or find some new root vegetables to explore, this book is definitely for you! Even if you never plan to seek out some of the less common roots in this book, I still think this is a great resource, not only for more common roots, but also for broadening your horizons on lesser known ones, even if you never plan to cook them. I'm grateful for the knowledge and I am thankful for this book. It definitely made my Thanksgiving even more delicious!

Sweet Potato Pie with Gingerbread Crust and Bourbon Whipped Cream
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
(Adapted from Roots)

Gingerbread Crust:
1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups gingersnap crumbs (from half a 1 pound box)

1 3/4 lb dark orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (2 large or 3 medium)
2 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T. bourbon whiskey
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher or fine sea salt

Bourbon Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 T. confectioners' sugar
1 T. bourbon whiskey

Position one rack in the center and a second in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

To make the crust, butter a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. In a medium bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and the remaining butter and toss and stir until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate (using the bottom of a small measuring cup helps make it flat and even). Bake the crust on the lower third of the oven until crisp at the edges and lightly colored, 10 to 12 minutes. It will firm up more as it cools. Let cool completely on a rack.

To make the filling, pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the potatoes. Remove from the oven, cut each potato in half lengthwise and cool for 10 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and place the flesh into a large bowl, discarding the skins. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes with the butter. Add the brown sugar and continue to mash. The potatoes should be warm enough to melt the butter and dissolve most of the brown sugar. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the eggs. Add the coconut milk, cream, bourbon, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and stir until the mixture is smooth and light.

Gently pour the filling into the cooled crust. Place the pie in the center of the oven and bake until the sides are slightly puffed, about 45 minutes. The center of the filling will still be a bit soft and will even jiggle a little when you shake the pie plate gently. Turn off the oven, set the oven door ajar, and leave the pie in the oven, undisturbed, for another 10 minutes. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the whipped cream, in a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream, confectioners' sugar and bourbon. Using a whisk, handheld mixer, or stand mixer, whip the cream until medium peaks form. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Cut the pie into wedges with a warm, wet knife, wiping the knife clean after every cut. Top with the whipped cream and serve (alternatively, use some of the whipped cream to decorate the pie and serve the remainder at the table).

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 Star Makeover: Green Bean Quiche


Happy Thanksgiving (a day early)!! For November's 5 Star Makeover, the theme was a pretty traditional Thanksgiving-inspired one: Green Bean Casserole. I have actually never had a green bean casserole in my entire life. I wasn't even entirely sure how it was made (other than featuring green beans and crispy onions).

I decided for my variation to make a quiche with the same flavor profile. A quiche is, in it's own way, a self-contained casserole. A quiche is also something I love and crave regardless of the season or day of the week. I've had quiche for dinner on many occasions :)

This quiche was deliciously vegetarian. I use frozen haricots verts from Trader Joe's (it's a lot cheaper than buying fresh and it's great quality). I prefer haricots verts to traditional green beans because they are a bit thinner and sweeter. When I made the quiche it didn't occur to me to cut the beans into even smaller bite-size pieces, but when I cut into the quiche it became very clear that cutting the beans would have been a great idea, so I included that note in the recipe below.

Definitely cut the beans, and also press out as much water as possible to keep your quiche from getting any extra liquid in it. It's something that happens when making quiche with vegetables especially because they release liquid, but making sure your veggies are cooked and void of excess water is a great start!

The caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms add great character to the quiche as well, and of course cheese is practically mandatory. Gouda is a great melting cheese. I had a chunk leftover from making macaroni and cheese and thought it would be the perfect topping for the quiche. Any other melting cheese you have or prefer would be fine too. Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Gruyere would be other great options.

This custard is a fairly soft/loose one. It's the general ratio I always use for quiche and I've never had any complaints. I like it because it has a nice creamy aspect, but if you prefer a stiffer quiche, add another egg. Allowing the quiche to sit and rest before you cut into it or even making it in advance and then reheating it will also make it set a bit better and make for prettier slices.

Green Bean Quiche
Makes 1 (9 1/2-inch) quiche

1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup very cold water
1 1/2 cups + 1 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 1/2 T. unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 oz. haricots verts (or other green beans), cut into bite-size pieces
2 oz. gouda cheese, grated

3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by making the crust. In a small bowl add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Keep cold in the refrigerator.

In a food processor, put the flour in the work bowl and add the small butter cubes, scattering all over. Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still the size of peas. Add the water-salt mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough begins to come together in a ball. You should still be able to see some butter chunks.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight (this dough can now be frozen in a freezer bag and then defrosted in the refrigerator the day before it is to be used).

Place the chilled dough on a floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick, lifting and rotating the dough to make sure it doesn't stick, and working quickly to ensure the dough stays as cold as possible. Add more flour to the board as needed.

Roll the dough circle gently over the rolling pin and then gently unroll the circle over a 9 1/2-inch pie dish, easing it into the bottom and sides, and pressing gently into place. Avoid stretching the dough, as it will shrink back when baking. Trim the dough edges with a sharp knife, if needed, and flute or crimp the edges if you prefer.

Chill the crust 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge before assembling and baking. This ensures the flakiest crust.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Saute for a minute to make sure the onions are nicely coated with the oil and then lower the heat and cover. Cook the onions, stirring them every few minutes, until they have softened and caramelized, about 25 to 30 minutes.

In another skillet, add the remaining olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they turn golden and become tender. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the haricots verts. Blanch them for just a couple minutes until they become just tender, but still have a bite. Drain them and immediately shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain them again from the ice water and blot them well with paper towels to soak out as much excess water as possible (any extra liquid can make your quiche soggy).

Mix together the haricots verts, caramelized onions, and mushrooms in a bowl. Add this mixture to the chilled pie crust and top with the gouda. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream and milk. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the custard over the filling.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until slightly puffed and golden brown and no longer jiggles when lightly shaken. A knife inserted into the center should come out clean, although it may look wet.


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