Sunday, May 2, 2010

Veg of the Month Club: Ramps (A Wisconsin Pie)



Since innBrooklyn announced their new seasonal cooking feature, Veg of the Month Club, I've been excited. I'm reminded of my favorite college professor, an artist who staunchly believed that the more restrictions you had on a theme, the more creative you would be forced to become. I find this is true so many times, especially in the kitchen. There are so many things I'd like to try, and if I just get a nudge in the right direction, I am sometimes all the better off for it.

That was certainly the case with this Veg of the Month Club pick: Green or Spring Garlics. I have to say while I've eaten ramps, the wild growing, leek-like Spring varietal, I never cooked with them myself. Laura gave me a pint of pickled ramps one year, and that was a particular favorite! Our Winter Farmer's Market has closed, and I was unsure where to turn in the city for a few of these delicacies. I was tipped by Lo that Outpost had them at the State Street location, so we took a drive out to Wauwatosa to pick up a small bunch.

After thoroughly documenting them photographically, I tasted the lovely looking greens. I really was shocked with their mild garlic flavor, and was plotting something to make the best use of their tenderness...

As I collected my ingredients, I knew I was going to aim for a quiche (or Pie, as we Wisconsinites - or at least I - like to call them). I figured since I had wild Wisconsin ramps, why not challenge myself to a fully Wisconsin Pie? I do try to eat local and preserve what I can from other Wisconsin growers (including some of the bounty grown from my own Parent's ample garden), but don't ever really set out using ingredients that are fully from my state. My result was astounding, in my ever so humble opinion, and I can see this pie becoming a Springtime favorite.


To make less work of it, I made the crust first thing yesterday morning. Then I roasted the ramp bulbs and "baked" the bacon. To roast ramps, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until they are soft and lightly golden. You can do the same for the bacon, but use a 400 degree oven, and watch it so it doesn't get too dark. I like to use a rack over a baking sheet, but since it was so lean, I probably could have just let it go right on the baking sheet. My beautiful bacon came from the same pig that the rest of my pork stores are from, grown on an Amish farm just down the road from my Parent's house. It was very nearly like ham, so lean and nicely flavored. I think this may be the first of the bacon I've made from the hog, and let's just say until now I thought that Comet/Honeypie had the best bacon...

I swear I did not shellac this bacon.

Wisconsin Pie could be adapted to use your local ingredients, and that is one of the most beautiful things about a quiche, chief on my list however is that they are good any way you choose to serve them: hot, room temperature, or cold. One of the first cookbooks that I ever purchased was Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. In it, she gives a "formula" for quiche that in the years since, I've used frequently. It is a very general and proportional recipe, and includes some suggestions for variations that lend themselves to great or small experimentation.

For my pie, I also decided also to use a completely unusual crust, one I've never used before: Oat Crust. It's not often, my friends, that I adapt a recipe to include more fat, but that is what I did for this one. Originally from Cooking Light, it only used 2 tablespoons of butter, and that was not enough to hold it together. (I imagined their test kitchen working with this recipe, and trying to be painfully patient in their attempts to get it right!) I love the texture of oats in most things, and this crust was no exception. It also gave me the unexpected assistance of soaking up some of the cheese and egg custard of the pie. I didn't actually notice this until I ate a piece for lunch today and could see how custard-y the bottom of the pie had become. It does add to the richness of this regal dish, and I will keep it as a quiche (or pie) base for years to come. (I will also note that the oats I used may or may not have been from Wisconsin. My Mom traded me many quarts of rolled oats - she seals them in canning jars after purchasing 50 pounds of oats from her co-op.)


Wisconsin Pie (a.k.a. Ramp Quiche)

9 in. pie crust of your choice, unbaked (Oat Crust recipe below)
4 oz. mild Swiss cheese, grated (Country Connections Sweet Amish Swiss Cheese)
2 oz. crispy, baked bacon (5-6 slices, but you can use any leftover for garnish - or eating while you wait)
1 bunch roasted ramp bulbs, sliced (there were 7 in my bunch)
Strips of ramp leaves, cut in half or thirds
4 eggs (Amish raised, farm near my Parent's house)
1/2 c. sour cream (my homemade - from Crystal Ball Farms milk)
1 c. buttermilk (my homemade - also Crystal Ball milk)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Into pie crust, layer cheese, bacon, ramps, and latticed ramp leaves. Whisk together eggs, sour cream and buttermilk and pour over the top. Dust with black pepper (but omit any salt until you taste it, I didn't need to add any due to the bacon and cheese). Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is puffed and lightly browned around the edges, and a knife poked into the center comes out clean. Let stand out of the oven for at least 20 minutes if you can help it. The longer you let it sit, the easier it is to get neat slices.

Oat Crust

1 cup rolled oats
1/3 c. oat bran
4 T. (half a stick) cold butter, cut into cubes
3-4 T. ice water

Combine oats, oat bran and butter (and a pinch of salt if you like) in a food pro, and pulse to combine into a homogenized "coarse pebble" mixture. The rolled oats will not be fully processed to a flour state. Add ice water and continue pulsing until the dough holds together when pinched, adding a bit more water if needed. (Since oats are gluten free, you don't have to worry too much about over processing...). Gather dough into a ball (I like to dump it into a plastic bag, and form it into a ball and then a disc this way), and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper.

Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate with butter (a bit of insurance against sticking), remove the top sheet of waxed paper, and carefully use the bottom wax paper to help you fit the crust into the pie plate. Fill and bake! I'd bet this crust would also be good pre-baked and filled with a custard or pudding...but it may be a little temperamental since it is a bit on the fragile side.


I was fortunate to have Sasa for my Pie dinner, since my Husband is not crazy about this kind of thing... but I do have a feeling if he would have had some, I may have won him over! It was so rich and delicious, I can't imagine anyone tasting it and then disliking it. It had a quiet garlic base, and the bits of bacon were a perfect thing to include to highlight them, though I guess I would be hard pressed to find something that bacon didn't improve.

Because I was so proud of my homemade sour cream, I made Sasa try a bit on the side. A subsequent serving then had to be served with it directly on top...



And wouldn't you know that the two of us ate nearly a whole pie? There were only 2 pieces left, one of which was eaten for lunch today. We just couldn't stop. It was that good.

So many times, restaurant food leaves me so full and heavy. Though this pie contained more rich ingredients than I ever usually use in one place and at one time, it somehow translated as light. Perhaps it was the spring essence of the ramp? Perhaps it was chatting over the slabs of pie for a couple of hours? Either way, I am proud of my state and her ability to healthily produce for us who love to eat and cook, as I'm certain so many others are proud of theirs.

If you have a spring garlic recipe, why not consider sending it over to innBrooklyn for the Veg of the Month Club? There are still a few days left, if you need to be properly "nudged" into making a recipe. Sometimes, that is the best way to cook!

11 comments:

  1. This sounds delicious and I am definitely going to make this (I have new mini quiche pans which I think I'll take for their maiden voyage!) Love that you did it all local, its fun to read your recipe w/ the local notes, and your dairy work is impressive indeed.
    I have the same Molly Katzen book and I remember that quiche formula as quite revolutionizing my thinking: I tend to cook from recipes and it was so liberating to have all those options that all worked in a general formula.

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  2. I keep thinking about this "pie"...all day long I have been recalling it's magnificent taste...it was just perfect...I am so lucky. :)

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  3. Sasa, I was kind of feeling guilty that I didn't give you a piece for leftovers... But I was so greedy because I loved it too much! We'll have to get more ramps and make it again!

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  4. Lord a mighty, this looks divine. I would have eaten the whole thing (but that would be rude!) I especially love the artistic weave of the ramps. And the glossy bacon. All of your photos are spectacular. Good stuff!

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  5. Gosh, ramps are seriously ALL over the food blogosphere and I am almost ashamed to admit that I still have not tried them. A quiche sounds like a great way to use them though. Delish.

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  6. I couldn't wait to get over here and look at the pictures of this pie. I LOVE spring ramps, and look forward to them every year. Just bought some last night in the hopes that I'll be inspired to make something worth blogging. Of course now you've raised the bar pretty high... all local, no less! You'll be a pretty tough act to follow.

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  7. This looks beautiful, and I love that all of the ingredients are local. It makes me want to go to Wisconsin!
    Also, great point about facilitating creativity by giving yourself strict parameters- I agree, sometimes that's just what you need to free the creative spark.

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  8. I HAVE BEEN DYEING TO TRY THIS PIE SINCE YOU POSTED IT :) TODAY I SCORED SOME RAMPS so guess what is for supper :) also scored local asparagus and fiddleheads so I am gonna add roasted asp. in with the ramps and bacon yumm-o. Some of my ramp bulbs had great root structure and pieces of rhizomey looking things I am wetting them and will try to plant them and see what happens. I love your blog!
    Cheers, Ellen aka villagefiberworks earthfae picklejuice

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  9. Ellen, I hope you love it! It really was so delicious... You'll have to let me know if the ramps take off - I was reading somewhere to plant them at the "edge of a forest", so that is why I didn't try planting any. Hope you have a great supper!

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  10. OMG!!! The pie was incredible, I used a frozen crust from Whole Foods the ramps,bacon and asparagus a mix of cheeses (pecorino,mozz,cheddar) 4 eggs milk sour cream 2 tbl flour s&p...now I can't wait for my rhubarb to be ready so I can try your kuchen :)

    Ellen

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