As a personal chef, I’m always looking for something new and uncomplicated that I can make on a moment’s notice. My “crustless quiche” was born on one such day. The inspiration for this savory treat actually comes from a custard-like dessert called clafoutis (clah-foo-TEE), which is a country French specialty. Served warm, a traditional clafoutis is almost like a sweet omelet or fritatta. But take out the sugar and fruit and you have a perfect vehicle for savory morsels to make a light supper dish or warming lunch; a quiche but without the fuss of making pastry crust. The basic batter is a snap to make, and the filling variations are endless.
The batter takes two minutes to mix by hand; it’s simply eggs, milk, cream, and cornstarch. The cornstarch makes the batter especially light, and I add just enough to help the filling set. All-purpose flour works as well, but I find that it makes for a heavier result.
Flavor possibilities are endless. I first tried this as a way to dress up leftovers. But a crustless quiche is too good to limit to using up last night’s supper. The add-ins included here call for items you probably already have in your refrigerator and pantry right now.
The oven temperature is high so you can bake the quiche quickly. This, in turn, ensures an airy result. The top will turn deep brown, but take care not to overbake or the custard can begin to separate and turn curdy. When done, the quiche will be set but may shimmy slightly in the pan. Like any quiche, this dish needs to sit for 30 minutes before serving so it cools and sets.
Using the right pan is key, but nothing exotic is required. After much testing, I found that this recipe works best in a 2-quart, 7 x 11-inch Pyrex pan, which is easy to find in supermarkets and hardware stores. Another good option is a ceramic gratin dish; if you have one with those same dimensions, by all means, use it. The pan needs to be shallow enough for the batter to bake through quickly (ideally, the batter will fill the pan about 1-1/2 inches deep). A 2-quart pan of smaller dimensions will be deeper, and the clafoutis won’t cook through (the sides will be done while the center is liquid). A pan with larger dimennsions will cause the batter to cook through too quickly.
Before dinner, turn on your oven, sauté the add-ins, and mix the batter while the oven heats up. Then just toss a big green salad while the quiche is baking, add a loaf of crusty bread if you like, and soon after, a warming, casual dinner will be ready to savor.
Little ones for cocktails
The crustless quiche batter can be the key to unique nibbles for your next cocktail party. Heat the oven to 450°F. Oil mini muffin tins and put 1/2 tsp. grated cheese into each muffin cup, plus an interesting tidbit—half an olive, three tiny cooked cocktail shrimp, 1/2 tsp. crisp crumbled bacon, sautéed mushroom, or chopped jalapeño are all good choices. A pinch of chopped fresh dill or basil adds flavor and color. Add 2 Tbs. of the batter to each muffin cup. Bake until the clafoutis puff and start to turn golden, 15 to18 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes and then carefully run a paring knife or offset spatula around the rim of each muffin cup. Carefully lift each clafoutis out of its cup. The basic batter will yield about 48 pieces. If you like to work ahead, mini clafoutis can be reheated in a 400°F oven for 5 minutes.