A frittata is like the illicit love child of an omelet and a quiche; clearly descended from both but not traditionally welcomed with open arms into the best kitchens.
It’s a shame since frittatas have so much to offer. They have the eggy goodness of an omelette and the creamy, custard-like quality of a good quiche.
What exactly is the difference between the Italian frittata and its uppity French relations, omelettes and quiches?
An omelet can be made with whole eggs or egg whites and strictly speaking, shouldn’t have any toppings mixed in with the eggs. They become incorporated into the omelet when it is folded over them while cooking on top of the stove.
A frittata can also be made with either whole eggs or egg whites but the toppings are actually mixed in with the eggs. They start out cooking on top of the stove but usually go into the oven or under a broiler to finish.
Quiches usually (but not always) have a crust and are considered a custard since they are made with eggs and cream or milk and are baked in the oven. The fact that quiches are usually made with whole eggs and custards with only the yolks doesn’t seem to disqualify quiches from the custard category.
A well-made frittata is a nearly perfect food. Cheap, quick and easy, a good way to utilize leftovers, delicious hot or at room temperature, they’ve got it all. A bad frittata is a sad, pathetic, rubbery mess but it’s pretty easy not to make a bad one. The main thing is not to overcook it. You’re going for creamy and custardy here, not spongy and rubbery.
A lot of recipes include dairy in the quest for creaminess. Milk, cheese, sour cream, cremé fraiche are all options but this is not the time to go low fat. Use a half cup of dairy for every dozen eggs or a quarter cup for six eggs. Don’t go smaller than that. It will be too hard not to overcook and frittata is the perfect leftover, useful for breakfast, lunch or dinner at any temperature.
Slow baking is another way to keep things smooth and custardy. Cook at 300°F. instead of the usual 400°F. for a little longer. Since you’ll start off cooking on top of the stove and ultimately end up in the oven or under a broiler, use an oven-proof skillet. Well-seasoned cast iron is ideal as it’s equally at home on the stove or in the oven and is also beautiful as a serving piece. Just remember that cast iron holds heat. That’s what makes them cook so well. Your eggs will continue to cook for a while after removing from the heat so take your frittata out of the oven as soon as the eggs begin to set.
The only way you can mess up your frittata is to overcook it, so don’t do that. Be sure and pre-cook all of your toppings so that as soon as the eggs are cooked, you’re done.
There’s no reason not to serve your frittata from a cast iron pan but if you do want to attempt to remove it from the pan, don’t lift it with any utensils. Place a cutting board, plate or whatever you want to flip it onto, over the top of the skillet. Flip them (the skillet and the thing you are flipping it onto) at once and the frittata should slip out of the pan onto the surface, if indeed your skillet is as well seasoned as you thought it was. It will be upside down but life is about trade-offs.
Some recipes will tell you to slide the frittata out of the pan onto a serving dish with a spatula but The Mount Airy News test kitchen does not approve that maneuver.
Slow-Baked Broccoli Frittata
10 large eggs
2 1/2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 medium (1-pound) head of broccoli (4 cups once trimmed)
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1/8 tsp. plus a large pinch of dried chile flakes
1 squeeze lemon, to taste, for serving
Preheat oven to 400° F. Crack the eggs and whisk together with the Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper, and set aside. Separate all the broccoli florets from the base leaving the stem attached and then cut floret pieces in half (you can cut any especially large ones in quarters so all are evenly sized). In a 10- to 11-inch oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the broccoli in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the broccoli develop a nice brown color on one side, then turn everything over and season to taste with kosher salt. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the broccoli until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. In a separate sauté pan, cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, adding kosher salt to taste. Cook the onions for about 3 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Reserve onions on the side. Once the broccoli is fully roasted and tender, transfer the sauté pan back to the stovetop and reduce the oven temperature to 300° F. Over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the broccoli pan and add the garlic and chile. Cook the garlic and chile for 1 minute carefully so as not to burn the garlic. Add the cooked onions to the sauté pan with the broccoli and mix well. Add the egg and cheese mixture and let cook for 30 seconds over high heat. Transfer the pan to the 300° F. oven and let the frittata cook until the eggs are just set. Should be about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and then turn the frittata out onto a serving plate. Squeeze lemon juice over the top, drizzle extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan to taste.
8 large eggs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
3 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
3 large fresh sage leaves, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a medium ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in egg mixture. Spoon dollops of ricotta evenly over. Cook until frittata begins to set, about 2 minutes. Place in oven; bake until just set, 7-9 minutes. Slide the frittata onto a platter. Cut into wedges; serve hot or at room temperature.
Bacon and Potato Frittata
8 large eggs
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon
3 tbsp. grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small onion, or more to taste, chopped
2 garlic cloves, or more to taste, chopped
2 to 3 cups spinach or arugula, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted peppers, or to taste
3 ounces sliced Provolone (5 to 6 slices), optional
Preheat broiler. Whisk together eggs, basil, parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl then pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat. Add potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Cover skillet and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring a few times, until potatoes are just tender, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the potatoes with a slotted spoon to bowl containing the bacon. Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and sauté onion and garlic over medium-high heat until pale golden, about 4 minutes, then add spinach and sauté until just wilted. Gently add the potatoes and bacon, the roasted peppers, and remaining tablespoon oil into onion mixture, spreading it evenly. Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables and cook over medium-high heat, lifting up cooked egg around edges with a heat-proof rubber spatula to let uncooked egg flow underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until it appears mostly set, with a moist top and center, 3 to 5 minutes more. Remove lid. If using Provolone, broil frittata 5 to 7 inches from heat until set, but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes, then top with an even layer of cheese and continue to broil until browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes (watch carefully). If skipping the cheese, broil frittata until the top is lightly browned, 1 to 3 minutes (making sure it doesn’t burn). If using a nonstick skillet, slide the frittata onto a serving plate. If using a cast-iron skillet, cut and serve wedges directly from the skillet.
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. olive oil
8 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream or milk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped bottled roasted red sweet peppers
1/2 cup sliced kalamata or pitted ripe olives
1/4 cup slivered fresh basil
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup onion-and-garlic croutons, coarsely crushed
2 tbsp. finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
Preheat broiler. In a large broilerproof skillet, cook onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons hot oil until onion is just tender. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat together eggs and half-and-half. Stir in feta cheese, roasted sweet pepper, olives (if desired), basil, and black pepper. Pour egg mixture over onion mixture in skillet. Cook over medium heat. As mixture sets, run a spatula around the edge of the skillet, lifting egg mixture so uncooked portion flows underneath. Continue cooking and lifting edges until egg mixture is almost set (surface will be moist). Reduce heat as necessary to prevent overcooking. In a bowl combine crushed croutons, Parmesan cheese, and the remaining tablespoon of oil; sprinkle mixture over frittata. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until top is set and crumbs are golden. Cut frittata in wedges to serve. If desired, garnish with fresh basil leaves. Makes 6 servings.
Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.