VACATION DIARY, PART 4: REAL MEN MAKE QUICHE
Yesterday was the halfway point of vacation. If I had been at work, we would have called it
"hump day." Somebody needs to come up with the vacation equivalent of that term, which connotes victory over adversity. "Yeah, it’s been a grind at work, as usual, but at least we’re over the hump now, sailing toward the weekend." Wishing our lives away, as my mother used to say. The halfway point of vacation is something different, contentment tinged with sadness. At about the same point when we start really believing we’re on vacation, finally settling into zen-like bliss, we start feeling the tug of the return trip.
It rained off and on all day yesterday, and we had nothing planned, so we just stayed in our pajamas all day and loafed around the house, venturing out onto the covered deck periodically to watch the deer munch at the feed Larry and Michelle put out for them just a couple of hundred feet from the house. It’s Purina Deer Chow, actually, and they put it in a feeder that sits on a tripod about 15 feet off the ground, dispensing the pellets in measured amounts twice a day, precisely at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. "That’s an odd thing," I told my brother. What? he asked. "Well, you came out here to Hill Country because you wanted to get away from all the rules and regimentation of Houston, to a place where people say, ‘You can’t tell me what to do on MY property, by God!’ and one of the first things you do is put the wild animals on a schedule. You might as well have them punching a time clock." The deer have gotten used to the feeder’s schedule, so they come around about 10 or 15 minutes ahead of time, to get a good seat. But the noise the thing makes when it goes off scares them, so they all run away, then come back five minutes later. Make up your own trying-to-figure-out-the-rules-at-work metaphor. I’d like to say the accompanying photo is one I took, but I still haven’t been able to get close enough. It’s one my brother took about three weeks ago with one of his zoom lenses.
We’ve had a lot of fun cooking this week. Last night, we made a meal for which we each did at least one dish, and we all fit in the kitchen at the same time. On Friday, I’m making a version of the quiche that people at work like for carry-ins. Here’s how to do it.
LEO’S BREAKFAST QUICHE
Start with a 9-by-13 pan, nonstick or greased or sprayed with Pam. Pack in a 30-oz. bag of shredded hash browns on the bottom and up the sides to make your crust. Salt and pepper it, drizzle with about a half-stick of melted butter and bake it in a 425-degree oven for about a half-hour or until the edges of the potatoes start to brown. Let it cool a little, then layer in your filling. This is a very forgiving recipe, so you can use about anything. For the version at work, I use a couple of pounds of fried and crumbled bacon (the precooked kind you just nuke for a few seconds works wonderfully) and about three-quarters each of two packages of two-cup shredded cheese — one of Swiss and one of sharp cheddar. For the version Friday, I’m using a pound of fried and crumbled sausage, cheddar and mountain jack cheeses, and about a cup each of onion and green pepper sauted in butter. Like mushrooms or jalapenos or tomatoes? Want to use ham or Canadian bacon? Need to get rid of some of that broccoli? Feel free. Don’t just throw the stuff in your hash-brown crust, really layer it: a little cheese, a third of the bacon, different cheese, more bacon, cheese. Like that. You can now cover the dish and put it in the fridge till you’re ready to finish it with: four eggs and a cup of half-and-half, mixed well together with about a half-teaspoon of seasoned salt or Mrs. Dash’s or something like that (lately, I’ve been using Old Bay seasoning, one of my recent favorites). Pour it in the dish and bake at 425 for about half an hour. Enjoy with your favorite accompaniments — blueberry muffins and apples fried in cinamon butter would be one good choice.
A bad presentation can spoil even a good meal, so here’s how I think I’ll serve it. I’ll announce that breakfast will be served promptly at 8 a.m. They’ll show up about 10 minutes early to get a good seat. Then I’ll set off a loud buzzer that will scare them away for five minutes. The chef is a god. Not God, but a god.