Gluten-free cooking is a particularly interesting challenge for me. I don’t know how far you all have read back in Twice Cooked, but if you know anything about me and my relationship to food, you’ll know that I’m a little like bread flour: I form strong gluten bonds. I can be pretty judgmental toward folks for whom gluten-free eating is a diet fad. And I am given to rant, if folks will let me, about the con-artist industry that has grown up around selling vulnerable people expensive bread substitutes by playing on their fears about industrial agriculture’s handling of wheat.
Bread, it seems to me, is one of our oldest, most enduring signifiers of civilization. And there is a way in which gluten-free diets are about undermining bread not just as a food, but as a thing that encapsulates the bonds of community that hold us together in relative peace.
That said, I recognize, too, that there are good reasons to avoid gluten, and that not every person who passes on a slice of baguette at dinner is out to tear apart the fabric of society. Wheat allergies and gluten-linked digestive disorders are legitimately a thing. And celiac disease is undoubtedly debilitating if it isn’t controlled with a gluten-free diet.
These two things — an understanding of gluten as culturally essential and an understanding that not everybody can eat it — sometimes put me in a difficult kitchen spot. There are people in my life who I really like, for whom I really want to cook, who simply cannot handle gluten. But my orientation as a cook is very much toward the staff of life.
So what I do when I’m in that situation is this: I take my inspiration from them.
I have a friend who has celiac disease who makes a variation on a quiche that she calls a frit-tater-tata. As the name suggests, it’s kind of like a frittata, but it’s encrusted in that most delicious and versatile of all industrial potato byproducts — tater tots. She cooks the tater tots, mashes them, and then molds them into a crust for a quiche. And it’s delicious. Or so she tells me.
This recipe is not exactly a frit-tater-tata. I have nothing against tater tots. In fact, I kind of love them. But they’re not usually something that I keep in the house. So when I went to make my own version of a gluten-free quiche for my celiac friend the other night, I used the next best thing: shredded red potatoes.
This particular gluten-free quiche is vegetarian. It’s cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and scallion. But there’s no reason it has to be. I have this other recipe for a quiche Lorraine over here, and it seems to me that that, or any other kind of quiche, really, could be fruitfully adapted to this recipe.
I have no problem admitting that I’m still not comfortable with the idea of gluten-free cooking and eating. But this gluten-free quiche is legitimately delicious. And if the choice is between my convictions about wheat and a convivial meal with a friend, the convivial meal wins any day.
Gluten-Free Quiche with Potato Crust
2-3 Medium Red Potatoes, shredded (the shredding disc of a food processor is perfect for this)
2 cups Whole Milk
1.5 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 pint Mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
Grated Parmesan Cheese
In a large frying pan, saute your mushrooms with a little bit of salt and pepper until they are cooked and browned. Then set both the potato crust and the mushrooms aside to cool.
While they are cooling, turn the oven down to 350F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and shredded cheddar cheese, along with a generous pinch of salt and about thirty grinds of pepper.
When the potato crust has cooled, add the mushrooms and the scallions to the pie pan, distributing them evenly around the bottom. Pour the egg mixture over that, agitating a little bit to remove any air bubbles. Then put the gluten-free quiche in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until it is just set and a tiny bit jiggly in the middle.
For a prettier presentation, you can sprinkle a handful more shredded cheese over the top of the gluten-free quiche about 10 minutes before it is done cooking.
From where I sit, quiche is always better when it’s made ahead of time. I would recommend making this the day before you plan to serve it, and then reheating it for your guests.