January 24, 2010


Here in Brattleboro, it is neither weird nor rare for people to raise chickens in their backyards. I’m not talking about farmers—I mean regular people who just want really good eggs without shelling
out $5 a dozen. Or people who fall in love with the cute, fuzzy chicks at Agway in the spring and soon end up with UNcute, UNfuzzy hens that can be a MAJOR pain in the ass to corral into their coop every night. (I have babysat chickens. Not a pretty sight.)

My neighbor, Orly, is one of these people. With six laying hens hanging out next to her garage, she (well, really her husband, Eric) collects a couple dozen eggs every week. It makes total sense that one of the go-to foods in their house is quiche. “I think the allure of it has to do with taking simple ingredients and making something really tasty with not too much effort,” Orly says. Plus it reminds her of a trip she and Eric took to Paris, where they ate little quiches at sidewalk cafés to fortify themselves for miles of walking around the city.

Orly’s father was born in Syria and raised in Lebanon, so she grew up eating middle eastern dishes like meoday, a veal and potato stew that provoked fights among Orly and her brothers and sisters over who would get the bone marrow. Their Israeli grandmother visited every year and always made kibbeh, a dish of beef, allspice, and pine nuts in a bulghur wheat crust. Orly liked the delicate work of shaping the kibbeh, which “had to be perfect,” she recalls, or her grandmother would take them apart and fix them. Orly’s mom was considerably more laid-back in the kitchen. She was an eyeballer and, for the most part, so is Orly. “I’d make a lousy cookbook writer,” Orly says. The more measuring you do, she reasons, the more dishes there are to wash.

This is not to say Orly lacks ambition: she is a baker who will grind her own pistachio paste for a cake project, and makes pies because she’s a pie purist and finds most specimens lacking. (“Apples with cranberries? I don’t do that,” she says firmly.) With two full-time jobs, though, and two young children, she and Eric often find themselves beyond the kind of meals that require measuring.

But EGGS. Fried, scrambled, baked in a buttery crust. Eggs are perfect.

Onion-broccoli quiche

Orly likes onion, her kids eat broccoli, so this pie-chart of a quiche satisfies everyone. Orly often mixes and rolls out the crust the night before and stores it in the fridge, wrapped up.

1 stick butter, plus 1-1/2 Tbsp.

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2-3 Tbsp. water

3 medium onions, sliced thin

1 c. steamed broccoli (optional)

1 c. shredded cheddar or gruyere cheese

7 backyard eggs (these are smaller than store-bought eggs; Orly suggests 5 or 6 of those)

1 cup milk

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust: Combine the stick of butter, the flour, and the salt with a pastry cutter, making sure to leave little pea-sized clumps of butter. Stir in water to form dough. Roll out 1/4-inch thick and place in a 9-inch pie plate.

Filling: Melt remaining 1-1/2 Tbsp. butter in a skillet. Sauté the onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 10 minutes, or longer if you want them more caramelized. Sprinkle the cheese into the crust, and layer the onions on top, along with the broccoli if you are using it. Beat eggs with the milk and salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables and cheese. Bake for about one hour. When the quiche is golden brown and “puffy like a soufflé,” Orly says, it’s done.


  1. These pictures are beautiful. What beautiful blue eyes. The cracked pepper floating on top of the eggs.

  2. A beautifully presented and highly entertaining read - my favorite in the blogosphere! Thanks Jen for this lovely work. Kate