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A lotta frittatas: Perfect any time, for any meal and at any temperature

Updated: 
April 6, 2017 - 12:05am

Frittatas: Fancier than scrambled eggs, not quite as elegant as an omelet.

Frittatas live in that gray area between two of America’s favorite brunch foods, or rather the yellow area. A baked egg dish with various ingredients inside, they are hearty, not delicate; filling, not frilly.

That is why you can eat them at any time, for any meal and at any temperature — hot, warm, room temperature or chilled.

Best of all, they are the ultimate blank slate. You can make them with anything you like. You are limited only by your imagination.

Even with my limited imagination, I managed to come up with four examples. They range from spicy to savory to sweet, with meat, with seafood and vegetarian. Mostly, I drew my inspiration from other dishes, figuring that whatever works without eggs has a good chance of also working with them.

Like bagels and lox. It’s one of my favorite breakfast meals. In its honor, I made what I call a no-bagel frittata: smoked salmon, onions, cream cheese and some capers cooked in a frittata.

It tasted even better than I’d hoped. The creamy tang of the cream cheese plays beautifully off the eggs, and the smoked saltiness of the salmon adds a lovely high note that is countered by the earthy undertone of sautéed onions.

But when I brought out all the frittatas to our hungry taste testers, the no-bagel frittata was not the one to go first. The one that was gobbled up almost instantly was what I call the Frittata Lorraine.

It has bacon in it, enough to imbue the entire dish with its irresistible flavor. And, of course, nothing goes with eggs like bacon, just as nothing goes with bacon like eggs.

Unless you add cheese. I added cheese — Gruyere, to be exact, though Jarlsberg or Swiss would also be good. And because I put milk in all of my frittatas to make them creamier and more custardy, I basically ended up with a crustless quiche lorraine.

My next effort is based on what is probably my favorite frittata I have ever had at a restaurant. It’s a mixture of vegetables mixed into the egg with curry powder, and sriracha sauce on the side.

For my version, I used potato, onion, zucchini, carrot, green pepper, mushrooms and tomato.

The trick lies in getting all of the bite-sized pieces of vegetables to the same degree of doneness. So I started with the potato, which takes the longest, added the onion and carrot, and finally ended up with the rest of the vegetables. While these were cooking, I seasoned them with curry powder so the vegetables would have that warm, exotic flavor. Then when I poured in the eggs and milk, I added more of the powder so the eggs, too, would be flavored with curry.

The result? Oh, my. And if you like sriracha, by all means serve it with the frittata. It takes it to another level altogether.

I stuck with brunch favorites for my next frittata. Working off the pleasing combination of cheese and eggs, I decided to create a frittata based on a cheese strata.

In a traditional cheese strata, the eggs and milk completely soak into the bread overnight, so you essentially end up with cheesy French toast. But for my strata frittata, I suspended cubes of toast in the cheese-filled custard. This way, it’s an egg dish rather than a bread dish.

And don’t forget the mustard. A half-tablespoon of Dijon is absolutely required to put this strata into the stratosphere.

No-bagel frittata

Yield: 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1/2 onion, chopped

4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped

8 eggs, lightly beaten

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons capers, optional

Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in smoked salmon and cook a minute or two, until it changes color. Set aside.

Pour eggs and milk into a large bowl. Add cream cheese in marble-sized chunks, along with capers and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs (if the salmon is salty, do not add more salt). Whisk until just mixed.

Add remaining tablespoon butter to skillet and stir to coat sides. Add egg mixture and place in oven. Bake until eggs are just set, 15 to 20 minutes.

Frittata Lorraine

Yield: 4 servings

8 eggs, lightly beaten

6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

4 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese, or Jarlsberg or Swiss

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, bacon, cheese, milk and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs, until just mixed.

Melt butter in an ovenproof skillet. Swirl around all sides. Add egg mixture and place skillet in the oven. Bake until eggs are just set, 15 to 25 minutes.

Hot mess frittata

Yield: 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1/2 potato, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes

Salt

1/2 onion, chopped

1 carrot, sliced thin

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup diced tomato

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, divided

5 medium mushrooms, quartered

1/2 zucchini, chopped

8 eggs, lightly beaten

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

Freshly ground black pepper

Sriracha, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an ovenproof skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and salt to taste, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, onions, carrots, green pepper, tomato and 1 teaspoon of curry powder. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, an additional 5 minutes. Uncover, add mushrooms and zucchini, and saute until vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, add eggs, milk, remaining 1/2 teaspoon curry powder and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs into a large bowl. Whisk together until just mixed. Pour into skillet and place in oven. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Serve with sriracha, if desired.

Strata frittata

Yield: 4 servings

8 eggs, lightly beaten

6 ounces sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

Salt and black pepper

2 pieces white toast, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, mustard, milk, and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs, until just mixed. Stir in cubes of white toast. Set aside for 3 minutes.

In an ovenproof skillet, melt butter, swirling around on all sides. Add egg mixture and place in oven. Bake until eggs are just set, 15 to 25 minutes.

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