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03/05/2017

~ For those times when you just gotta have: Frittata ~

IMG_6383Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or late night snack, a frittata is a relatively-easy quick-to-make, hunger-satisfying meal.  It tastes great served hot, warm, at room temperature or cold, and, leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave, which make it perfect for those who brown bag lunch.  A bit of slicing, dicing or chopping is typically required, but it's minimal, and, since frittata can be a tasty way to use up yummy leftovers, there are times when no knife is necessary.

IMG_6402As per my Italian girlfriend Eileen, her mom and grandmother made frittata to stretch leftovers -- to turn them into a family-friendly meal. There was no set recipe, and, sometimes it resembled a big mess that tasted really good.  "Hai fatto una frittata", loosely translates to "something like a mess", "you've made quite a mess", or "something a bit crazy". She went on to explain that while frittata was never a formal meal that would be served to guests, in their community, meatless versions were regularly served for dinner during lent.

Learning to make a frittata is a valuable culinary lifeskill.

Commonly referred to as "the Italian version of an omelette", a frittata is a concoction of whisked eggs and cream, sliced, diced or chopped previously-cooked vegetables, meat or seafood and/or grated cheese.  I prefer to compare it to a custard-like quiche without a crust rather than an omelette because, like a quiche, a frittata is traditionally round and rather thick -- not at all elongated and comparatively flat (like the French and American omelettes I've encountered).  There's more.  I think of an omelette as something that goes from stovetop to table in a few short moments -- that's not the case with a frittata, which takes 30+ minutes.

IMG_6345Start it on the stovetop in a oven-safe skillet & finish it in the oven, or:

assemble the ingredients in a casserole & bake it in the oven. 

IMG_6358The egg mixture is poured into the same oven-safe skillet (usually cast-iron), the vegetables and or meats have been cooked or placed in.  The Frittata is started on the stovetop for a few moments, just long enough to allow the bottom of the mixture to solidify a bit, then finished in a moderate oven for 30-45 minutes depending on its size and the recipe.  That said, a frittata can be prepared in the skillet entirely on the stovetop, or, in a casserole entirely in the oven (usually to make a large-size frittata).  Frittata can be served directly from the pan, but, family-friendly-sized frittata is often inverted onto a platter, to reveal its golden crust, then sliced into wedges.

IMG_6362Add vegetables or a combination of vegetables, as long as they are cooked first.

Sautéed vegetables or a medley of vegetables, any kind you like, can be added, as long as they are cooked in some manner first.  Why?  Vegetables, particularly those that contain lots of liquid, unless cooked first, will render the frittata watery.  Root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots, won't fully-cook if not given a head start on the stovetop.  Onions and/or garlic are almost always added. Other options include asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, peas, and/or mushrooms.  They all work great.  Extremely watery vegetables, like tomatoes, summer squash and and zucchini work well too, but the extra step of seeding prior to sautéing is recommended.

Add previously cooked & diced or shredded meats or seafood too. 

When it comes to meat or seafood, the same rules apply:  if it's cooked first it can be added. Leftover diced porcine, like ham or sausage crumbles, along with crispy-fried bacon bits are my three meaty favorites, and, crab meat or shrimp, or both, are divine.  My teenage boys liked frittata made with diced salami or pepperoni as a late night snack.   That said, if you like to eat steak with your eggs, by all means, throw in slivers of that leftover roasted or grilled red meat. Feel free to disagree, but, for my taste, poultry has no place in a frittata -- there is just something about chicken or turkey in an egg dish like this that I find unappealing (save it for a sandwich).

With a formula, a frittata can be made for two, a few or a crew.

IMG_6287The Italian word "frittata" derives from the word "friggere", which roughly means "fried".  This is why frittata is traditionally associated with a skillet, namely a cast-iron skillet.  If a casserole dish is more convenient, by all means use one -- simply season and sauté your fillings ingredients in a skillet, and toss them into the bottom of a casserole that has been sprayed with no-stick spray, add the whisked egg and cream mixture and bake as directed.   To make three sizes of frittata in either an oven-safe, deep-sized cast-iron skillet or in a casserole, measure as follows:

10" cast-iron skillet or 3-qt. casserole = 12 ex.-large eggs, 1 cup cream, 6 cups filling*

8" cast-iron skillet or 2-qt. casserole = 9 ex.-large eggs, 3/4 cup cream 4 1/2 cups filling*

6" cast-iron skillet or 1 1/2-qt. casserole = 6 ex.-large eggs, 1/2  cup cream 3 cups filling*

*I don't include grated melting cheese (American, cheddar, gruyère, fontina or mozzarella) or crispy-fried bacon bits in the filling total because neither adds a lot of overall volume.  Add 1 cup, 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup cheese, &/or, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons bacon bits.

Bake @ 325º:  6" skillet/20 min.; 8" skillet/25 min.; 10" skillet/30 min.

Add 6-8 minutes extra baking time for any frittata baked in a casserole dish.  Why?  A frittata started in the skillet is hot -- a frittata assembled in the casserole is not. 

IMG_6400Tips from Mel:  You can substitute half and half or whole milk, but anything less than full-fat dairy renders a rubbery rather than an unctuous frittata.  The worst mistake to make is to overbake a frittata.  If it's deep-golden on top, it's over-cooked in the center.  It should light in color and barely set, so, be sure to check it often during the cooking process.  Season your filling ingredients appropriately when sautéing them, to taste, with salt, pepper and/or herbs or spices. The same goes for the egg mixture:  whisk in the salt and pepper before pouring it into the skillet or casserole. Adding cheese?  Choose one with a good melting quality.  Aged cheeses, like Parmesan or Pecorino, which add sharp, salty flavor, don't melt great, but work nicely grated over the top of the finished frittata.  Never stir the frittata after the egg mixture has been added.

For three sizes of my Italian Sausage, Peppers 'n Onion Frittata:

IMG_62912, 1 1/2 or 1  cup diced, previously cooked meat or seafood (Note:  In the case of  hot or sweet Italian sausage, start with 16-, 12-, or 8- ounces, prior to sautéing.)

1, 3/4 or 1/2  cup diced onion

3, 2 1/4 or 1 1/2   cups diced, cooked vegetables or a combination of vegetables, your choice (Note: I'm using green bell pepper, red bell pepper and mushrooms today.

sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper, for lightly seasoning vegetables 

1, 3/4 or 1/2  cup grated melting cheese (Note:  I'm using yellow cheddar today.)

12, 9 or 6  extra-large eggs

1, 3/4 or 1/2  cup cream

3/4, 1/2, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper, for seasoning egg mixture

diced grape tomatoes, for garnishing frittata

minced parsley, for ganishing frittata

finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnishing frittata

IMG_6295 IMG_6299 IMG_6302~ Step 1.  Using an old-fashioned hand-crank egg beater, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper together.  Set aside.

IMG_6307 IMG_6311 IMG_6313 IMG_6316~Step 2.  Place the sausage in an appropriately sized skillet over medium-high heat.  Sauté, using the side of a spatula to break the meat into small bits and pieces, until cooked through, about 6 minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the sausage from the skillet to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, allowing the flavorful drippings to remain in skillet.

IMG_6318 IMG_6321 IMG_6324 IMG_6325 IMG_6328 IMG_6329~Step 3.  Adjust heat on stovetop to medium.  Add the  onion, bell peppers and mushrooms.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.  Using the spatula to stir almost constantly, sauté until vegetables have lost about half of their volume and are just starting to show signs of browning (which means they are becoming very flavorful), about 6 minutes. Adjust heat to low.  Add and stir in the sausage, then sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.

IMG_6332 IMG_6335~ Step 4.  Drizzle in egg mixture and allow to cook on low for 2 minutes.  Do not stir.  Place in 325° oven to bake, until puffy and very lightly brown, about 20 minutes for a 6" skillet, 25 minutes for an 8" skillet and 30 minutes in a 12" skillet.

Inverted or not, cool in skillet about 15 minutes prior to slicing:

IMG_6376For those Times When You Just Gotta Frittata:  Recipe yields instructions to make 3 sizes of frittata.  In frittata language, each egg used = 1 serving.  In my kitchen:  12 egg frittata = 10-12 servings.  9 egg frittata = 6-8 servings.  6 egg frittata = 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; 2-cup measuring container; old-fashioned hand-crank egg beater (optional); appropriately sized oven-safe skillet or casserole of choice; spatula; large slotted spoon; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b01a5118fde1c970cCook's Note:  For a variation on the today's eggy theme, one of my family's favorite dinners is my recipe for ~ An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche ~.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 2, 3, 12, 14, 19 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

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