Monday, September 22, 2008
I’m usually disappointed by egg-based dishes such as frittatas; they seem to turn out either too dry or too watery, and usually bland, the kind of sad, mysterious blandness that seems to persist no matter what other ingredients are involved. Yet I bullheadly keep trying them because they always sound so seductively wholesome and cozy and nourishing, despite all the evidence suggesting that maybe I just don’t really like eggs as much as I think I do. And finally my stubborn deludedness has been rewarded! I grudgingly tried this recipe because it called for six eggs and, due to a little miscommunication with myself (“We need more eggs! I’ll just buy a dozen at the farmers’ market…Oh, wait, it was last week that we needed more eggs, and I already went to Whole Foods and bought a dozen, so now I have…many, many eggs”), I needed to clear some eggs out of my refrigerator, stat. What a fortunate mistake that turned out to be, because this recipe, from Andrea Chesman’s Serving Up the Harvest (which I just put on hold on the library based on the strength of this dish), found via The Kitchn, conjured up the exact frittata I had always dreamed of.
The flavors here are ideal—zucchini and potatoes are a match made in heaven, onions and ham always liven things up, and Cheddar is hands-down my favorite cheese but seems underused in cooking outside of mac-and-cheese-contexts—but I’m convinced the technique is the real magic ingredient here. While the recipe steps might sound fussy, they happen surprisingly quickly and easily and are vital to the success of the finished dish. (In particular, don’t skip salting the zucchini—allowing it to drain much of its liquid before cooking prevents the frittata from getting watery.) How else to explain the exquisite texture of this frittata? Everything was perfectly cooked. The potatoes give it a firm structural integrity (I was astonished at how beautifully it sliced into clean wedges that maintained their shape even after being bounced around in my lunchbag on the way to work), and the underside was pleasingly browned, yet the eggs remained fluffy and creamy—gone the dry crumbliness that has plagued so many of my past frittata attempts!
I wouldn’t change a thing, except to add a pinch more salt, either to the beaten eggs or to the potatoes or to both. Otherwise, the only salt in the recipe is what’s added to the zucchini to drain them, plus of course the salty flavor of the ham. While the reviewer at The Kitchn thought her version was perfectly salted (maybe because she used regular bacon, which tastes saltier than the all-natural ham I used?), I thought mine could have been kicked up a tiny bit more (potatoes just cry out for salt). I sprinkled salt and pepper (and a little fresh basil) over the wedges before serving, but the salt really would have been better integrated inside the frittata. Still, this was just a small flaw, and it became less important as the flavors seemed to deepen and develop in the leftover servings. Oh, the leftovers! The frittata was so large, I cut it into eight slices, and then it turned out to be so filling that I couldn’t eat more than a slice at a time, so suddenly we were faced with six containers full of leftover frittata, which worried me. But the leftovers were fabulous. We had frittata for dinner on Thursday night, lunch on Friday, dinner on Saturday, and lunch again on Sunday, and we never tired of it—in fact, after we polished off the final sliced, A asked, “When are you making this again?” The leftovers were so happy that they inspired me to add some new info at the end of the recipes I post here: A “leftover potential” rating. I used to hate leftovers so much when I was younger, and now I adore them—if I’m going to go through the trouble of cooking, I want it to last me for more than one meal, and if it’s something delicious, I want to eat it more than once. I rely so much on leftovers for cheap, easy, healthy lunches every day at work and no-fuss meals on the weekends, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of them! Eventually, hopefully, I’ll go back and add that information to all the previously posted recipes. Eventually.
A final note: I didn’t have any serving plate large enough to hold the finished frittata, so I had to use a big plastic cutting board, and my Calphalon oven-proof skillet is so heavy I can barely hold it in one hand, especially while wearing clumsy oven mitts, and A wasn’t home to help me out, so I didn’t feel equipped to try the nifty inversion of the frittata onto the plate described in step 7. Instead, I took a deep breath, gripped the handle of the skillet in both oven-mitted hands, and flipped it over as fast as I could, dumping the frittata out onto the cutting board on the counter. Usually I’m not too coordinated with such things, but it worked just fine! There’s more potential for the frittata to get bent or broken with this technique, but I think if you’ve cooked it sufficiently and are using a nonstick pan that will release it easily, the frittata will be solid enough that you can pull it off nine times out of ten.
1 medium-large zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus additional salt to taste
4–5 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds red potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced into half-moons
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ pound smoked Canadian bacon or ham, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1. Combine the zucchini and 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and toss well. Set aside to drain for 30 minutes.
2. While zucchini is draining, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large, well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or ovenproof nonstick skillet. Add the potatoes and onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, flipping and stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon, but keep the skillet on the burner.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Transfer the zucchini to a clean kitchen towel and pat dry. Add the zucchini and ham/bacon to the skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until zucchini is just tender, about 4 minutes. Remove zucchini and ham/bacon with a slotted spoon, but keep the skillet over the heat.
5. Beat the eggs and pepper to taste in a medium bowl until well blended. Fold in the potatoes, zucchini, ham/bacon, and cheese.
6. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet as needed to lightly coat the bottom. Pour in the egg mixture, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook without stirring until the bottom is set, about 10 minutes.
7. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top is set, 5 to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes.
8. Place the serving plate on top of the skillet and carefully invert. The frittata should fall out of the pan. Cut into wedges and serve.
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: High. Reheats well, the wedges maintain their shape, and the flavor continues to develop. Great for breakfast as well as lunch or dinner. We made the frittata on Thursday night and continued eating it happily all weekend long.