Frittatas: Fancier than scrambled eggs, not quite as elegant as an omelet.
Frittatas live in that gray area between two of America’s favorite brunch foods, or rather the yellow area. A baked egg dish with various ingredients inside, they are hearty, not delicate; filling, not frilly.
That is why you can eat them at any time, for any meal and at any temperature — hot, warm, room temperature or chilled.
Best of all, they are the ultimate blank slate. You can make them with anything you like. You are limited only by your imagination.
Even with my limited imagination, I managed to come up with five examples. They range from spicy to savory to sweet, with meat, with seafood and vegetarian. Mostly, I drew my inspiration from other dishes, figuring that whatever works without eggs has a good chance of also working with them.
Like bagels and lox. It’s one of my favorite breakfast meals, and I often even have a scrambled egg or two (or three) on the side. In its honor, I made what I call a No-Bagel Frittata: smoked salmon, onions and maybe some capers cooked in a frittata.
I even mixed in some cream cheese. You can’t have bagels and lox without cream cheese, even if you aren’t using bagels.
It tasted even better than I’d hoped. The creamy tang of the cream cheese plays beautifully off the eggs, and the smoked saltiness of the salmon adds a lovely high note that is countered by the earthy undertone of sautéed onions.
But when I brought out all the frittatas to our hungry taste testers, the No-Bagel Frittata was not the one to go first. The one that was gobbled up almost instantly was what I call the Frittata Lorraine.
It has bacon in it, enough to imbue the entire dish with its irresistible flavor. And, of course, nothing goes with eggs like bacon, just as nothing goes with bacon like eggs.
Unless you add cheese. I added cheese — Gruyere, to be exact, though Jarlsberg or Swiss would also be good. And because I put milk in all of my frittatas to make them creamier and more custardy, I basically ended up with a crustless quiche lorraine.
My next effort is based on what is probably my favorite frittata I have ever had at a restaurant. It’s a mixture of vegetables mixed into the egg with curry powder, and sriracha sauce on the side.
For my version, I used potato, onion, zucchini, carrot, green pepper, mushrooms and tomato. I thought about celery, too, but that seemed excessive.
The trick lies in getting all of the bite-sized pieces of vegetables to the same degree of doneness. So I started with the potato, which takes the longest, added the onion and carrot, and finally ended up with the rest of the vegetables. While these were cooking, I seasoned them with curry powder so the vegetables would have that warm, exotic flavor. Then when I poured in the eggs and milk, I added more of the powder so the eggs, too, would be flavored with curry.
The result? Oh, my.
And if you like sriracha, by all means serve it with the frittata. It takes it to another level altogether.
I stuck with brunch favorites for my next frittata. Working off the pleasing combination of cheese and eggs, I decided to create a frittata based on a cheese strata.
In a traditional cheese strata, the eggs and milk completely soak into the bread overnight, so you essentially end up with cheesy French toast. But for my Strata Frittata, I suspended cubes of toast in the cheese-filled custard. This way, it’s an egg dish rather than a bread dish.
And don’t forget the mustard. A half-tablespoon of Dijon is absolutely required to put this strata into the stratosphere.
I saved dessert for last. This time, my inspiration came from crepes suzette, those delicious orange and butter-filled treats.
For my Suzette Frittata, I put fresh orange juice and zest into my eggs, along with sugar and more butter than usual. I also increased the amount of whole milk I used to make a creamier dessert.
But that’s not the best part. With traditional crepes suzette, you flame the dessert with ignited Grand Marnier to create a superb sauce. I didn’t want a sauce with my frittata, but I did want the Grand Marnier. So I simply added it to the egg mixture.