When I posted the lasagna roll-ups with tomato bechamel yesterday, I really thought that was it before Shavuos. Really.
But I’ve been getting requests to share the recipe for the french onion quiche that I gave a little tease for, and who am I to withhold a quiche recipe before Shavuos? What’s More Quiche, Please without the quiche, right?
This recipe and (a similar version of this) story appear in the May 21, 2012 edition of “From Tali’s Kitchen,” my biweekly cooking column in Binah magazine. (On newsstands now!)
I was 11 when I first attempted a full night of Shavuos learning.
Batya, the kid my age who lived across the street, was hosting a girls’ get-together and I was intrigued. She (and the other girls who were invited) went to a different elementary school, and looking back, I’m surprised I went without really knowing anyone. It’s a good thing I did, though. That year would set in motion the series of Shavuos nights that Batya and I learned together.
Batya’s house was equipped with lots of good age-appropriate sefarim, not to mention plenty of games and snacks. The other girls were welcoming and fun to be around, but they were more interested in Monopoly than the Megillah.
They went to bed after an hour or two, while Batya and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, reading her illustrated copy of the Chafetz Chaim and trying to get to the end of Megillat Rut. At some point the next morning, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done and I walked back across the street.
A tradition was born.
All throughout high school, Batya and I learned together on Shavuos. We usually started at my house, sometimes trying programs at the neighborhood shuls to mix things up.
We learned Pirkei Avot, got into deep conversations about Hashem, and always tried to finish the Megillah. And because I was neat and organized and thrived on structure even as a kid, we always had a typed-up learning schedule. Each hour was set aside for specific sefarim, with snack breaks built in here and there.
There had to be snack breaks.
We each preferred the food in the other one’s house. Her snack cabinet contained the delicious treats my parents never bought; my fridge held things like cheesy quiches and Veggie Cha Cha, a tomato-based juice from the health food store. (One year, we drank it from giant chip bowls. Neither of us can remember why.)
Those nights were some of the best in all our years of friendship. We were serious about the learning, but we were also serious about just enjoying each other’s company. We often ended up in peals of laughter over nothing much at all — other than the fact that it was past 3 a.m. and neither of us had slept.
Shavuos simply wasn’t Shavuos without our learning sessions.
But as much as I loved those Shavuos nights growing up in Maryland, nothing can compare to what I experienced as a seminary student in Yerushalayim. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
There was an energy that Shavuos night that was almost palpable. With genuine enthusiasm, we learned in pairs or small groups, listened to shiurim given by our teachers at ungodly hours (is it sacrilegious to say a shiur was given at an ungodly hour?), and at about 4 a.m., started the trek toward the Kotel.
As we walked, the crowd grew larger and larger, and by the time we neared the Old City, the streets were fairly pulsing with people. Being part of this joyous, dancing mass of Jews all headed in the same direction was like being struck with a lightening bolt of clarity: I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.
There’s just nothing like the Old City on Shavuos night.
In the years after seminary, Shavuos learning took on many forms. Batya and I were no longer in the same city, and the traditional learning schedules were adjusted.
One spring, I took a bus to New Jersey to spend Yom Tov with my seminary roommate and her family. Another year, my best friend from high school asked me to spend the night at her apartment while her husband was out in yeshiva. I came over with armfuls of sefarim, but ended up learning for just an hour. We spent the rest of the night discussing whether my latest date was The One. (We determined that he was not.)
Staying up all night on Shavuos is no longer as practical as it once was. Making Yom Tov followed by pulling an all-nighter isn’t the best combination, and so my Shavuos schedule continues to be adjusted. These days, I try to learn a little before bed, where I dream about the cheesy quiches that await us in the morning. At least some things never change.
French onion quiche is inspired (don’t be too shocked, now) by french onion soup. But instead of having pieces of soup-soaked toast with your cheese and caramelized onions, you get all those great flavors wrapped up into a quiche, nestled inside a buttery crust.
If you want to serve it with Veggie Cha Cha, I won’t tell anyone.
Yield: 8 slices
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 4 Tbsp milk
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 onions, sliced thinly and separated into individual rings/half-moons
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 eggs
- Just under 1 cup milk (something like 85% of a cup)
- 6 slices gouda cheese, cut into short, thin strips
- Thyme, for garnishing
1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan; add the oil. Slide the onions and garlic into the pan and mix to lightly coat with butter/oil. Add the bay leaf.
2. Let the onions cook uncovered over low heat for 45 minutes, or until they (majorly) reduce, soften, and turn a rich golden brown. Stir every 5-10 minutes to make sure they brown evenly, scraping up any brown bits in the pan and mixing them back into the onions. Once they reduce enough to make stirring easier, add a pinch of salt and pepper. [Note: Properly caramelized onions should be a lot darker than what you see in the photo above. The basic rule is to let them cook as long as it takes to get dark brown, but not so long that they burn. I’ve let mine go as long as 70 minutes, and the results are fantastic.]
3. Meanwhile, make the crust: Place flour, salt, and butter in a food processor fitted with the knife blade. Process for a few seconds to combine.
4. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to hold together. Depending on your local humidity, you may need a bit less. When the dough holds together when pinched between your fingers, it’s ready.
5. Dump it out onto a clean work surface and bring it together into a single mass. It will look like a mess of dough crumbs at first, but it comes together quickly, so don’t despair. Roll out the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin and gently place in an ungreased springform pan (or a 9-inch pie plate), pressing the dough up its sides. [Note: I find it easiest to roll the dough out only a bit, and then use my fingers to shape it into the pan/plate.]
6. When the onions are done, preheat the oven to 350 F /180 C.
7. Cover the bottom of the unbaked crust with a light layer of cheese (I used two slices’ worth). Remove the bay leaf from onions and spread them out in the crust.
8. Whisk together the eggs and milk; pour the mixture over the onions. Top with the remaining cheese and a sprinkle of thyme. If you’re using a springform, place the pan on a covered baking sheet to catch drips. Bake the quiche for 45 minutes, or until the crust and cheese are golden and the center is set. Serve hot, but it’s surprisingly delicious when cold, too.
Updated May 26, 2013: I deleted the onion soup mix from the ingredient list (can’t believe I ever included it, since caramelized onions don’t need such tricks). I also added some detail to the directions on caramelizing the onions and making the crust.