Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mexican (or not) Shrimp Quiche

Here is a little ditty I used to sing long ago, at least once a month, a melody of shrimp quiche.


Its concept popped into my mind last week, and thus began a search for the original recipe. I found it, with unusual success in these days of searches for lost things, and realized a few things:

First, this is Dave and Janis Murray's Mexican Quiche it says so right there on the clipping scotch-taped to a recipe card and a quick googling found it on the web under that exact name and in all its detail (amazing world we live in);

Second, that it came from the New York Times Magazine which meant that, obviously, Dave and Janis were big food names, even though I, for one, couldn't recall anything more about them;

Third, that this recipe deviates from my usual ratio for custards of 1 cup liquid/1 whole egg/1 yolk. Well, just slightly;

Fourth, that it violates a reluctance I feel toward combining shrimp, or even any fish, with cheese. I know – that's weird, and who cares!

But finally to the real, Fifth, point: What makes it Mexican? Why, nothing more than the addition of bottled taco sauce after the thing is made, which was obviously done to extend and complement the use of chopped, canned, green chilies in the quiche itself, and that's what gives this pie its singular and memorable taste – the meaty, oceany taste of shrimp meets that sharp green taste of the chilies, all held commingled in a creamy, light filling.

Creamy? Well, let me diverge from my own opinion. The consistency of a perfect quiche or custard is, to me, not at all dense, but a combination of creamy milk and egg that remains light, so that when a fork is put down through it it separates into cubes of goodness, almost as though its molecules were long instead of round, and a sheeting effect had taken hold.

That perception goes all the way back to the heyday of the old Back Home Cafe on Center Street in Rutland (VT), when Kim, I think it was, made quiche with various fillings and they were served with Tassahara whole wheat bread and butter, and spinach salad with bleu cheese dressing. Those quiches broke apart into trembling cubes of goodness.

What is the secret to that delicacy? It's one that does not wholly and consistently reveal itself to me through various actions. Beating the eggs slowly but thoroughly, incorporating little air but combatting the inherent stringiness of the egg. Putting the prepared quiche into a very hot (450) oven for five minutes to let the bottom crust crisp and to bring the custard to a certain temperature quickly, then turning the oven down to low (325) for another 20 minutes, so as not to curdle the custard. I believe that all of these actions can determine the finished consistency, but they are not foolproof.

But, these considerations aside, on to the main event. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you


Dave and Janis Murray, and their Amazing Mexican Quiche
Serves 6

* Pastry for a one-crust pie
* 14 shrimp, about 1/2 pound, shelled and deveined
* 1 4-ounce can green chilies, preferably chopped, about 1/2 cup
* 1 cup grated cheese, preferably half Colby and half Monterey Jack
* 3/4 cup light cream
* 3 eggs, beaten
* 1/3 cup chopped chives
* Salt to taste, if desired
* 1/3 cup sour cream
* 2 tablespoons bottled taco sauce or tomato and Serrano chile sauce


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a nine- or 10-inch pie plate with the pastry.

2. Bring enough water to the boil to cover the shrimp when they are added. Add the shrimp and cook two minutes. Drain.

3. Chop eight of the shrimp into small pieces. Keep the remaining shrimp whole and set aside.

4. Scatter the chopped shrimp over the bottom of the pastry. Cover the shrimp with layers of chopped green chilies and the grated cheese.

5. In a mixing bowl, combine the cream, eggs, chives and salt and beat to blend. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

6. Place the dish in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees and continue baking 35 minutes or until the filling is set.

7. Remove the pie from the oven and let rest 15 minutes. Spoon six dollops of sour cream in a circle about halfway between the center of the pie and the crust. Dip each of the remaining shrimp in the taco sauce or tomato and Serrano chile sauce and arrange one shrimp on each dollop of sour cream. Cut into six wedges and serve warm.

My Idiosyncratic Way

Now, that by itself is perfectly wonderful. No need to change a thing. But, of course, I did.
  1. I do not use bottled taco sauce, so I didn't use any at all. But it would be great served with freshly made, creamy guacamole, or even good salsa with tortilla chips.
  2. And don't even think about using fresh peppers. It is that tangy almost metallic taste of the canned ones that is so good here.
  3. I chopped all the shrimp and used them in the pie.
  4. I did dot the top with a crème fraiche that I had already made.
  5. I did bake it in a preheated 450 degree oven for 5 minutes, turned the oven down to 325 for another 20 minutes. I'd make it 15 minutes next time.

No matter how you serve it it really is delicious.

Afterthought: I couldn't quit thinking about the Murray's, and so did some more investigation. Apparently this recipe, published in the New York Times Magazine in 1986 by James Claiborne, constituted their 15 minutes of at least New York Foodie fame. They now live in St. Louis, where they are still public people she is a home and garden reporter for Fox News and he is a meteorologist.

But what a lasting 15 minutes!

1 comment:

Penny said...

Your crust looks good. So does the filling. I agree about the light custardy consistency of quiche. I'll try the high low heat trick next time.