Every cook needs a frittata to call his or her own. A chubby, big-as-a-plate, well-done omelet with a generous amount of add-ins, the frittata is a cook’s tabula rasa and a host’s best friend.
Known as a tortilla in Spain and in France’s Pays Basque, where the classic includes potatoes and often chorizo, it’s a regular on tapas counters everywhere. You can eat the frittata straight out of the oven, but part of its appeal is that it’s delicious at room temperature, which is how it’s served at wine bars. You can cut it into small cubes, spearable with a toothpick, and it will be perfect for nibbling standing up at a cocktail party. Or you can slice it into wedges, pair it with salad and bring it out with knives and forks at lunch, brunch or supper. Whatever you call it and however you serve it, it’ll draw fans.
Put most simply, a frittata is a jumble of vegetables and/or meat mixed into a bowlful of beaten eggs and cooked until done.
The add-ins are up for grabs. They can be a mix of leftovers, like small pieces of string beans, potatoes, zucchini, cauliflower, cabbage, roasted chicken or shrimp; snips of bacon; small hunks of sausage or ham. If you think they go together in general, then they’ll go together in your frittata.
For my accompanying frittata, I’m using spring onions, greens and the first of the tomatoes from my local farmers market. I don’t add the tomato slices until the frittata is half-done, so they can hold their shape but still flavor the mix. Oh, and I season the frittata with mustard, a nod to the mustard tart that a friend of mine from Dijon taught me to make.
As an easy rule of thumb: Anything you’re going to add to the eggs should be cooked ahead. You do that in part to soften the vegetables, because they won’t really be cooked in the frittata, and in part to rid them of excess liquid, so they won’t waterlog the eggs.
To make a hearty frittata, you need an ovenproof skillet with high sides. My favorite pan for this is my trusty nine-inch cast-iron skillet, but a nonstick pan will do just as well, and, while I like straight sides, sloping sides are fine.
The onions and garlic in the recipe need a quick cook in olive oil before you pile in the greens. I love using kale for this frittata because of its deep flavor, but spinach is delicious, as is chard. When you first toss in the greens, they’re so voluminous, they threaten to spill over the sides of the skillet. Worry not. Crank up the heat and stir without stop; within a minute, the heat and oil will have wilted the greens, and you’ll be able to mix them neatly in the pan. Taste as you go. You’re cooking the greens mostly for texture, so when they’re just the way you enjoy them, call it quits.
Wipe out the pan: This is a fussy step that shouldn’t be skipped. A clean pan means an easy lift-out when the frittata’s ready to be flipped out for serving.
As for cooking the frittata: It’s easy — so much easier than any kind of omelet. Pour in lightly whisked eggs and don’t do a thing for about two minutes. Then, run a spatula around the edges, gently nudging the eggs inward toward the center of the pan and just slightly upward, so the uncooked portions can slip into newly vacated real estate. Do that one or two times more, and then it’s hands off. Let the eggs go for a few more minutes, until they’re half-cooked — precision isn’t crucial here — then top the frittata with the tomatoes and some cheese and slide the pan into a hot oven to bake until the eggs are set and the frittata is beautifully puffed.
Done. Really. It’s all over except the decision-making: Have it hot? Room temp? Cold? Pack it for picnic? Break out the rosé? Hoard it for late-night snacking? Put out the word that there’s a party at your place? Told you. A frittata’s a dish with possibilities.
Photograph by Scott Suchman. (This story appeared in my Everyday Dorie column in Washington Post Food.)
Farmer’s Market Frittata
You can eat a frittata straight out of the oven, but part of its appeal is that it’s delicious at room temperature, which is how it’s served at wine bars in Spain and France. Cut it into small cubes for hors d’oeuvres, slice it into wedges or pair it with salad and bring it out with knives and forks at lunch, brunch or supper.
You’ll need a 10-inch ovenproof skillet for the frittata; choose a well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet.
Make Ahead: The cooled frittata can be wrapped and refrigerated a day in advance.
- 4 ounces greens, such as kale, spinach or chard, stemmed and finely shredded
- Kosher salt
- 3 medium spring onions or 2 bunches scallions, trimmed (white and light-green scallion parts)
- About 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic (green germ removed), minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 9 large eggs
- 3 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tomato slices, each cut into two half-moons
- 2 tablespoons grated or shredded cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or cheddar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
If you’re using kale, place the shredded leaves in a bowl, sprinkle them with salt and use your fingers to massage them for about 1 minute. (This isn’t necessary with other greens.)
If you’re using spring onions, cut them in half and slice into thin half-moons. If you’re using scallions, thinly slice the white and light-green parts.
Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil into the skillet over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, stir in the onions or scallions and the garlic, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Add the greens; increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until they are soft enough to enjoy, about 2 minutes (although kale might need a minute more). The greens will be a lot for the skillet, but they cook down quickly and dramatically. If the greens are sticking, drizzle in a bit more oil.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and mustard together in a mixing bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper (keep in mind that the cheese you use might be salty); stir in the just-wilted greens.
Wipe out the pan, which must be clean before you start the frittata or the eggs will stick. Return it to the stove top over medium-high heat.
Pour in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil shimmers, pour in the egg-greens mixture. Cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then run a flexible spatula around the sides, between the pan and the eggs, pulling the eggs gently toward the center and tilting the pan a little so that the unset eggs fill the space. Cook for 4 minutes (total time is about 6 minutes), running your spatula around the eggs and a little under them every 2 minutes. After about 5 minutes, the eggs around the edges will be set and you won’t be able to pull them in (but run the spatula around and under them anyway to keep them from sticking). At the 6-minute mark, the frittata should look half-done; if it doesn’t, cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.
Arrange the tomato slices over the frittata, sprinkle on the cheese and slide the skillet into the oven (middle rack). Bake until the frittata is cooked through to the center and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. It won’t brown much; if you want more color, run it under the broiler.
Transfer the skillet to a wire cooling rack; run a spatula around the edges. You can leave the frittata in the pan or unmold it. To do the latter, place a cutting board over the skillet, invert the frittata onto the board and then invert it onto a serving platter.
You can eat the frittata hot, like an omelet, but it is traditionally served at room temperature. The mustard flavor will be more pronounced once the frittata cools.