Elastic recipe: Frittata


Oh, how brunch has improved for me since I learned how to put together a good frittata. I recall it fondly; I was living in Chicago and had just received my first piece of cast iron cookware. It was a nice big Lodge skillet, and I was eager to use it for something that needed to be started on the stove but finished in the oven. At the time, my collection of cookware was full of non-stick surfaces and flimsy plastic handles, so you can understand the excitement to fully utilize my new toy.

My cast iron had built up that nice shiny non-stick surface, and I was ready to try my hand at frittata construction. Using directions from my Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipes book, I was immediately impressed with the recipe’s result. Tender eggs lovingly cradled the cheese, binding with the sauteed vegetables like an omelet, but with far easier preparation.

A frittata benefits from cooking on the stove until the bottom sets, then finishing in the oven under a broiler so the top can cook as well. Skipping the oven step leaves you with a runny wet top, which is definitely not something you’d want considering that frittata is often eaten at room temperature. Cooking it under the broiler also gives your frittata that gorgeous brown cheese and egg surface, which both looks and tastes amazing. Be honest, who among you can turn down food with a crispy browned cheese crust? (Well, except for you poor lactose-intolerant souls. I feel for you.)

There’s even more to love about a frittata. It’s a one-pan meal because you saute your meats and veggies in the pan you use to complete the dish. It’s simple, easy, and has very little clean up.

I also dig how customizable a frittata can be. You have the ability to make one as healthy or rich as you want. On the healthier side, there’s this recipe from Mark Bittman, who has created a frittata that uses more vegetables than egg. Want something richer? You can always incorporate multiple cheeses, including whole milk ricotta, or even some delicious bacon. As with an omelet, your fillings will ultimately determine both the flavors and calories.

Elastic Frittata

Note: use roughly 1/3 cup of vegetable/meat additions for every two eggs

  • eggs: 6 eggs for a 10-inch skillet or 8 eggs for a 12-inch skillet
  • sauteed vegetables (onions, red peppers, asparagus, leeks, mushrooms)
  • steamed vegetables (diced potatoes, broccoli, frozen peas, corn kernels, spinach)
  • raw vegetables and add ins (tomatoes, green onions, roasted red peppers, capers, olives)
  • meats (chopped raw bacon, sausage, ham, smoked salmon)
  • cheese: 1 cup, 1/3 reserved for topping (cheddar, swiss, parmesan, monterey jack, feta)
  • salt and pepper (reduce amount if using salty cheeses)
  • herbs (basil, oregano, tarragon, thyme, dill, parsley, chives)
  • optional: ricotta, cream or whole milk for richness
  • 1 Tbs butter (for sautéing vegetables, if not using any breakfast meats)

Beat eggs with 1/3 cup cream or whole milk (if using). Add in 2/3 cup cheese, steamed vegetables, raw vegetables, and any herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

If using any breakfast meats such as bacon or sausage, brown the meat on medium high heat, then set aside, and reserve one tablespoon fat to use for additional sautéing.

If using any ingredients from the sauteed vegetables list, cook them over medium high heat along with 1 tablespoon butter or reserved cooking fat from breakfast meats. Cook for five minutes or until translucent and slightly softened.

Set broiler to high.

Add back any reserved meats along with the egg mixture and lower heat to medium low. If using ricotta, add spoonfuls into un-set egg mixture (about 1/2 cup total). Cook for 3 minutes, then tilt pan to one side while simultaneously pulling on edges of set egg mixture. Uncooked egg should flow underneath. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes, then repeat pulling set egg mixture to allow more to flow underneath. Cook for another 3 minutes or until eggs are mostly set, then add last 1/3 cup of cheese to the top.

Place cast iron pan under the broiler for 3 minutes, checking after 2 minutes to make sure nothing is burned. The top of the frittata should be evenly browned and bubbly. And, when you’re done, please don’t forget to turn off your stove and oven.

More Variations

Close relatives to the frittata are the Tortilla Española (also known as a Spanish omelet, utilizing thinly sliced potato and onions) and Spaghetti Pie (an incredibly adaptable way to use up leftover pasta). Both of these recipes use many of same techniques that you’ll use to create a frittata, but with very different flavors and textures. Try them both!

You can also prepare cute little frittatas using a mini muffin pan. Just pre-sauté your vegetables and any meats, allow to cool, then add them to your egg, cheese, and herb mixture. Spray your mini muffin pan with non-stick spray, add your ingredients, then bake at 375ºF for 8 to 10 minutes, or until mixture is set and top is golden brown.

One last amazing thing about frittata: There’s no wrong time to serve one. Obviously, there is the typical brunch application, but you can also throw a slice of frittata between two pieces of crusty Italian bread with some greens and a lovely dijon mustard and you’ve got a distinctly hearty sandwich. For dinner, you can serve frittata as a side, full of savory sauteed mushrooms and a little white wine, then drizzled with an herb and butter sauce.

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