Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. You’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors. If you have your own private ramp patch with bounty to spare, feel free to use the bulbs, as we did in this recipe.
Spring has finally sprung in the Hudson Valley and, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know what that means: the Cliftons have ramp breath.
In the last week we’ve made sautéed ramps with mushrooms and fried eggs (delicious), spaghetti with ramps and brown butter sauce (heavenly), and this quiche, with ramps, bacon and gruyere. So, yeah, it’s been pretty rampy up in here.
So, some of you might be thinking, “just what in blazes are ramps anyway and why does this nerd (with a knife) go so crazy for them?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Ramps are wild leeks that grow in the early spring in Eastern Canada and the U.S. They taste like a mixture of garlic, onion and heaven. They’re pungent, a little bit sweet and extremely addictive.
While they might seem like some newfangled hipster fad, ramps have been a part of regional North American cuisine for centuries. They were foraged by Cherokees for hundreds of years, and they’ve been a staple ingredient in Appalachian kitchens for decades.
If ramps are not available, this quiche would be excellent with scallions (you can add a small clove of minced garlic to the pan along with the scallion whites, to mimic the ramp flavor).
For a vegetarian version, use your favorite mushrooms in place of the bacon. I particularly like oyster mushrooms but crimini or shiitake would be good too. Brown the mushrooms well in olive oil or butter (this gives them great flavor but also helps evaporate the mushrooms’ high moisture content which can make the quiche soggy). Follow the recipe below the rest of the way.
And now, a confession … look at the picture above. That, my friends, is a frozen pie crust.
And you know what, it works great! While I’ve made my own crust for quiche and certainly will again, sometimes I just don’t have time. This week was one of those times. So using a good quality frozen pie shell turns a weekend project into a fast and easy weeknight option. Make sure you get a deep dish crust or you won’t have enough room for the filling.
A note about quiche: basically, like a frittata, you can pretty much throw just about anything into it and it will taste good. In summer, I love to use fresh corn, scallions and cheddar. Another favorite is chard, caramelized onions and goat cheese.
I like a creamy, custardy quiche and have found that Alton Brown’s refrigerator pie ratio is just perfect: 2 eggs to one cup milk, half and half or cream. Unlike his recipe, I like to use lots of fillings and add the custard almost all the way to the top of the shell. I just like how it looks without a rim of bare pastry at the edge. Definitely put foil down on your baking tray because it may spill over a bit as it bakes.
Quiche with Ramps, Bacon and Gruyere
- 1 whole unbaked pie crust a frozen deep-dish one is fine
- 1 small bunch ramps about 12 medium, chopped into 1 inch pieces, white bulb and green leaf separated
- 5 slices bacon for a vegetarian version, substitute 1 1/2 cups mushrooms
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream half-and-half or whole milk
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg grated (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese grated
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF
- If using homemade, roll out the pie crust and press it into a large fluted deep dish pie or tart pan.
- Chop the bacon into large bite-sized pieces and fry in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked, but still chewy, 7 minutes. Set aside to cool. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and add white ramp bulbs. Cook on medium until soft and slightly caramelized, 3 minutes. Add green ramp leaves and cook until wilted, 1 minute more. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Whisk the eggs and milk in a large bowl and season with salt, pepper and a small grating of fresh nutmeg, if using.
- To the pie shell, evenly sprinkle in half the cooled bacon, ramps and cheese. Pour over the egg mixture. Add the rest of the bacon, ramps and cheese.
- Bake on a foil-lined baking tray for 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.