HYDE PARK, N.Y. — Next time you are faced with a hungry crowd, do not despair. The deliciously adaptable and nutritious frittata is a simple dish that can satisfy large and small gatherings for any meal of the day.
Eggs, a large, oven-proof skillet and creative use of any available ingredients in your cupboards or refrigerator are all you need to prepare this hearty, open-faced omelet.
Frittatas are far from an average omelet. Unlike the single-serving, made-to-order French omelet that demands skillful pan handling and constant attention, the Italian frittata uses basic cooking techniques.
Precooked ingredients, such as potatoes, meat and vegetables, are blended with the eggs, and the mixture is cooked on low heat until it sets. The omelet is finished under the broiler for a quick browning. It's that simple.
Olivier Andreini, associate professor in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America, suggests this as an alternative cooking method: "Set the egg mixture over low heat in an ovenproof saute pan. Place the pan into a 375 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggs become firm. Let the frittata rest outside the oven for 10 to 15 minutes and invert it onto a serving plate." During hot summer days, Andreini enjoys his frittatas served at room temperature topped with a green salad.
The most challenging aspect of making a frittata is selecting the ingredients. With its boundless versatility that welcomes nearly every delicious and colorful additive, it's not easy to decide. From pasta, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes to feta, artichokes and black olives, most ingredients can be delicious additions.
Use fresh vegetables and herbs, replace a portion of whole eggs with egg whites to reduce the fat content, or include leftovers. Be inventive. Your guests will never know that last night's supper is this morning's feast.
The following recipe is from The Culinary Institute of America's "Breakfasts and Brunches" cookbook (Lebhar-Freidman 2005, $35).
12 ounces lean bacon, diced
2 cups minced onions
2 cups diced and cooked Yukon Gold potatoes
16 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the broiler.
Cook the bacon in a large (10- or 12-inch) nonstick, ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan over medium heat until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour off any excess fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the skillet. Add the onions and saute them for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and continue to saute them until they are lightly brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the onion-potato mixture in the skillet and stir gently to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover the skillet, and cook until the eggs are nearly set, about 5 minutes.
Remove the cover and place the skillet under a broiler to brown the eggs lightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Once browned, remove from the broiler and allow the frittata to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges and serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 290 cal., 23 g pro., 12 g carbo., 17 g fat, 1,210 mg sodium, 45 mg chol., 1 g fiber.