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CHEF'S CORNER

 
The Incredible Egg - Frittatas and Stratas
by Deirdre Cooper

 

 

Sometimes its nice to have a change from the usual. It is so easy to get into a dinner rut and wonder what else is out there that doesn't involve chicken. Or, heaven forbid, the chicken didn't defrost!
 
Fun to say and easy to make Frittatas (from the Italian for fried), and Stratas (layers) are egg based dishes associated mainly with Italy and Spain (tortilla espanol, not the taco variety). They make a great brunch or lunch main dish and a wonderful dinner change of pace. Frittatas are similar to an omelette or a quiche and can be made simply or with additional ingredients of almost any variety added. A frittata may be baked, or started in a frying pan and finished in the oven. You probably have all the ingredients on hand for an interesting, quick and attractive dish. This is also a great way to use up leftover potatoes, vegetables, sausage, tomatoes, cheese, etc.
 
Preparing a frittata is different from preparing an omelette in that more air is incorporated into the eggs which allows for a fluffier result. I put my eggs in the blender with a small amount of cold milk just before pouring them over the filling of choice. The finished product can be served directly from the pan, or flipped out onto a serving plate and sliced into wedges. From there you can add a green salad, a vegetable, or pasta salad - add great bread and dinner (or brunch or lunch) is ready.
 
Following are some of my tried and true frittata recipes. Feel free to add your own touches, you almost can't make a mistake.
 
Pancetta and Parmesan Frittata

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust, room temp.
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 2/3 c whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tbls finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 tsp salt - 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

  •  
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Press the crust into a 9 inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges, set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel and drain. Beat the cream, milk, eggs, and salt in a bowl to blend or in a blender. Stir in cheese, pancetta and parsley. Pour the cream mixture into the crust. Bake until the filling puffs and is golden on top, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting into wedges and serve.
     
    Frittata Florentine with Goat Cheese
  • 4 slices (1 inch thick) sourdough bread
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese (3 oz)
  • 2 tbls cold milk

  •  
    Heat broiler, with rack about 4 inches from heat. Place bread on a baking sheet and brush both sides with 2 tbls olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and broil until golden.
     
    In large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbls olive oil over medium. Add scallions and as much spinach as will fit, adding the rest as it wilts, season with salt and pepper. This should take only 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in goat cheese and transfer spinach cheese mixture to a bowl. Put toasted bread slices in bottom of skillet and spread spinach-cheese mixture on top. Blend the eggs in a blender or whisk on a bowl with two tbls.cold milk. Pour eggs over bread- spinach-cheese mixture in skillet and cook over medium heat until it begins to set. Finish in 350 degree oven until firm but not dry. Serve straight from the pan.
     
    Frittata with Bacon, Fresh Ricotta, and Greens
  • 12 oz applewood-smoked bacon, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 cup sliced shallots
  • 12 cups (packed, 12 oz) assorted coarsely chopped greens (such as kale, chard and mustard greens or spinach)
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 12 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese (about 1 3/4 cups)

  •  
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon in 12 in diameter oven proof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour bacon drippings into bowl, reserve. Return 2 tbls drippings to skillet. Add shallots and saute until golden. Add half of greens and toss until beginning to wilt. Add remaining greens and saute until wilted, tender and dry, about 15 minutes. Transfer greens to plate and cool.
     
    Rinse and dry skillet. Beat eggs and salt to blend in large bowl. Whisk in 3/4 c Parmesan, then greens and half of bacon. Stir in ricotta, leaving some clumps. Heat reserved drippings in skillet over medium heat. Pour in egg mixture, spread greens evenly. Sprinkle remaining bacon and 1/4 cup Parmesan over eggs. Cook over medium heat until just set at edges, about 8 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Cut around frittata to loosen, slide out onto platter. Let cool slightly, slice into wedges and serve.
     
    Ham and Cheese Frittata
  • 1 cup diced fully cooked ham
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup cottage or ricotta cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

  •  
    In large ovenproof skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, saute the ham and onion until ham is lightly browned and onion is transparent. In a bowl, combine the eggs, cottage or ricotta cheese and pepper and pour over ham mixture. As eggs set, lift edges, letting uncooked portion flow underneath. When the eggs are almost set, lay tomato slices on eggs and sprinkle Cheddar cheese on top and broil until cheese is melted and eggs completely set. Serve directly from pan.
     
    The above recipe lends itself to many substitutions. You can saute onions and brown potatoes in the skillet and pour the eggs over and then bake in the oven, top with cheese, if desired. Cooked broccoli or sausage pieces also make a nice combination. Use your imagination!
     
    Chicken and Orzo Frittata
  • 1 cup cooked orzo pasta
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • approx 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup diced roasted red peppers
  • 1 tsp salt - 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 scallions, chopped

  •  
    In a large bowl combine the eggs, ricotta, and creme fraiche until the eggs are thoroughly beaten and all ingredenits combined. Add the cooked orzo, chicken, scallions, parsley, peppers, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
     
    Pour mixture into a 1 1/2 qt baking dish and baked for 25 minutes. Turn on the broiler. Place the pan under the broiler until golden on top, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a salad, this is a hearty main dish meal.
     
    The Strata is different from the Frittata in that it can actually be assembled way ahead of time and put in the oven just before serving. This comes in really handy on holiday mornings when you want to participate in the festivities, but have a hungry crowd waiting. It is also great for overnight guests when you can just put on the coffee and turn on the oven. Like the frittata, fillings can be varied and you can add your own favorites. Here are a few samplings from the Strata file.
     
    Christmas Morning Strata
  • 1 1/2 lbs pork sausage meat or sweet breakfast sausage cut in small pieces
  • 1 12 oz loaf French bread
  • 8 large eggs \ 1 quart milk
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarrella cheese - 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • chopped parsley for garnish - salt and pepper to taste

  •  
    Grease 13 x 9" glass baking dish. In skillet over medium heat, cook sausage meat until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink. Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes. In baking dish, combine sausage and bread cubes. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper and pour over sausage mixtures. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
     
    In the morning, preheat oven to 350. Bake strata, uncovered, 1 hour. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheeses and bake 15 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes for easier serving. Garnish with parsley.
     
    Overnight Caramel Strata
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tbls light corn syrup
  • 12 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

  •  
    Combine sugar, butter and corn syrup in heavy small saucepan. Stir mixture over medium-lo9w heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring to boil. Pour into 13x9x2 inch blass baking dish. Tilt dish to coat bottom evenly, cool.
     
    Arrange 6 bread slices ins ingle layer atop caramel, trimming to fit. Cover with remaining bread slices. Whisk milk, eggs, vanilla and salt in bowl toblend. Pour over bread, cover and chill overnight.
     
    Preheat oven to 350. bake strata uncovered until bread is puffed and light golden, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Invert each portion on plate so that caramel side faces up. Garnish with fresh fruit and serve.
     

    Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
     
     
     
     

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