Our favorite weekend brunch is frittata.
It’s also one of my favorite dinner dishes when I can get away with it. I realized that I was pushing the limits when my Darling pointed out last Thursday that we’d had frittatas three times that week. Oops.
Frittatas appeared on our menu, ironically, through one of my periodic spasms of indecision over dinner.
“Why don’t we have breakfast for dinner?” my Darling asked. “We haven’t done that in ages, we all like it, and it’s quick.”
“Cool,” I said. “But I think we’re all bored with scrambled eggs. Why not make omelets?”
After agreeing that this was a good idea, we set about chopping, cutting, stirring and sauteing. I whipped up eggs and milk while the skillet was preheating. We dropped in just the right amount of butter, waited for it to melt, and then poured them in. When the eggs were about half cooked, we tossed in the sauteed onions, added some green peppers, threw in a few mushrooms, and waited until time to fold the egg over.
This is where my omelets always fall apart – figuratively and literally.
This time was no different. When I had finished failing to fold the omelet, accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth, we had something that resembled scrambled eggs after all. They were just stuffed with all our omelet fixings. Grrr.
“There has to be an easier way to do this,” I thought. “An open-face omelet would be so much easier than all this turning and folding and flipping.”
Enter the Italian frittata.
My favorite version of this dish is actually Spanish, a tortilla de patata. It was one of my favorite snacks when I studied in Madrid during the summer of 1987. I’ve made it a few times but as a more traditional omelet that just happen to be stuffed with shredded potatoes. Now, though, frittatas have become one of my go-to dishes when I’m out of ideas and need to get something on the table. They’re a regular feature of weekend brunch. Super easy and tasty, they’re also excellent for clearing out the fridge when you have a few mushrooms, half an onion, and a handful of spinach left over from another meal. We’ve even used kale and leftover breakfast sausage. I could imagine potatoes, tomatoes, or olives. This is pretty much a “whatever you need to use up” dish.
At our house, here’s how we often go about it. Only the eggs are absolutely required. Everything else is optional, but it should be as organic as possible, of course.
Frittata a la Medlock
- Onion (we always have white, sometimes red, occasionally yellow)
- Bell pepper (green, red, yellow, orange, purple… you get the idea)
- Mushroom (white, portabello, shitake, whatever)
- Cheese (what kind do you like?)
- Butter or olive oil (or both)
- Preheat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. If you’re using oil, go ahead and let it warm up with the skillet. If you’re using butter, save it until just before you start sauteing vegetables so that it doesn’t burn before you start cooking.
- Chop onions, peppers, mushrooms, and other vegetables you plan to use. I prefer a fairly coarse chop, but my Darling likes finer pieces.
- Saute vegetables, starting with those that take longer to cook. I like to put onions in first, but my family sometimes complain that I overcook them. If you’re using potatoes, those would definitely come ahead of anything else. Add soft ingredients like mushrooms nearer the end. Leafy vegetables should cook just long enough to wilt.
- Whip up your egg mixture. Normal people are probably good with one or two eggs each. Teenagers, I’ve discovered, like more. Five or six are not too many for the Bouncing Baby Boy. I like to add a lot of milk, about half or two-thirds as much as the volume of the eggs. You want them frothy, so beat the heck out of them. A fork or whisk works just fine, but I could imagine a mixer doing a nice job as well.
- Spread your sauteed vegetables evenly in the skillet, then pour your egg over them. Stir to mix well, then leave them alone until the egg sets up so that the bottom is firm but the top is still runny.
- If you’re using it, spread cheese over the top of your frittata.
- At this point, you have a choice. You can finish cooking your dish on the stove top like fried or scrambled eggs. Or you can pop it in the oven set on high broil for a few minutes to cook the top layers and to lightly toast the cheese.
- Let cool, slice into pieces, and serve. If your family is like mine, “slice into pieces” is optional. They usually just scoop it straight out of the skillet.
Now I’m hungry. By the way Darling, guess what’s for dinner?