The old man’s Sunday Spanish Omelette or how I learned to appreciate a frittata

I’ve shared this previously, but both my parents could cook.  My mom spent several of the early years of her marriage to my dad learning to cook haute cuisine for dinner parties.  But, the dishes I cherished were her baked ziti, pasta e Fagioli, and lasagna.  Her version of eggplant parmigiana was considerably less messy and heavy than my dad’s, but they had some battles for supremacy in the kitchen over that dish.

The old man had a habit of picking and choosing his spots to cook.  No matter the weather, chili with kidney beans served over yellow rice and topped with diced onions and grated cheddar was a go-to dish.  He’d supplement the chili with cornbread in one of the family skillets.  I didn’t realize until much later that he was a proponent of Northern cornbread – it was sweet, not savory.  He’d make me cheesy, buttery grits for breakfast throughout elementary and junior high school.   When you’re that age, you have time to sit and chat during breakfast and those were some sweet memories.

By my freshman year in high school, I was catching a ride to school with a neighbor, and breakfast was reduced in time and perhaps quality.  With that said, cheese and butter were still very much in play, as he’d broil the remnants of french bread from Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market we had in the kitchen and out the door I’d go with a foiled encased hunk of toasted cheese.  

The other breakfast he would always make for me, mostly on weekends, was what he called an omelette or Spanish omelette made with potatoes and baked in a cast iron skillet.  Growing up with these wedge-shaped slices of egg concoction often left me confused.  It wasn’t quiche – no buttery crust – and it wasn’t the omelet you’d find at the Denny’s or IHOP of my youth.  The omelette was always dense, savory and it seemed he’d put it together out of whatever we had in the kitchen – credit to the old man for the vision and economy.

It wasn’t until many years later that I recall being introduced to the term frittata and the history behind the name – as an adult, I love knowing my old man had the right of it when he called it both an omelette or Spanish omelette.  Of course, he took liberties with the ingredients, but he established a definitive meal to convert leftovers into breakfast or brunch magic.  

Through the years, I’ve found the frittata to be perfect for nearly any meal.  The versatility continues when it comes to ingredients. Whether I’m doing a Whole30, eating Paleo, or just ready to use whatever is available in the kitchen, the frittata never fails to be a filling meal and the leftovers work for any meal of the day. 

Here’s a basic rendition of what my dad perfected.  I call it the Sunday Fritatta.

Basic ingredients:

  • 8-10 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (omit if eating Whole30 or paleo)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I like pickling or sea), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 large Yukon gold potato, diced into half-inch chunks
  • 2 cups greens of your choice (kale, collards, spinach) (2 ounces)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion diced finely
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, such as Colby Jack, cheddar or Havarti (optional)

Optional ingredients (depending on what leftovers or additional ingredients I have):

  • Diced or chunked bell peppers (I go for color here)
  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Heirloom tomato tossed with thyme, oregano, basil, olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper
  • Steamed radishes

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Crack your eggs into a blender, add half the salt and pepper and blend for 30 seconds on high.  Let the eggs rest for five minutes, add milk and pulse 3-4 times.  Set aside. 
  3. Ease one tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet and stir the onion with a wooden spoon until translucent and tender. 
  4. While the onions are working, steam the potatoes in a Ziploc Zip ‘n Steam bag for 3-4 minutes or until the contents are tender.  Add the potatoes to the onions in the skillet, drop in the remaining salt and the pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and stir with a wooden spoon until the potatoes begin to brown, roughly 5 minutes.  
  5. Stir in the greens, thyme, and garlic – the smell at this point should be amazing.  
  6. Add leftover or remaining optional ingredients and stir the entire mixture 2-3 minutes with a wooden spoon. 
  7. If you aren’t confident in the nonstick ability of your skillet, transfer the ingredients to a large bowl and ensure the skillet and its sides are well lubricated with olive oil or the cooking spray of your choice. Return the ingredients to the skillet. Flatten with the wooden spoon into a uniform layer.
  8. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet over the contents.  Make sure all ingredients are entirely covered by the eggs.  
  9. Sprinkle the cheese over the contents of the skillet – I’m generous here and like to get a nice coat across the top.  
  10. Move the skillet from the stovetop to the middle rack of the oven. 
  11. Bake the frittata until the eggs are set, roughly 12 to 15 minutes depending on your oven.  At 12 minutes, I use a toothpick to gauge if the eggs are set.  If the toothpick comes out wet, I give it an additional few minutes.  
  12.  Once the frittata is set, I turn on the broiler for about 90 seconds to bring about a nice, crispy top.  Once the top is browned, pull from the oven.
  13. Let the skillet cool for at least 10 minutes. Flip the skillet over a serving plate and gently tap the bottom to release the frittata – this will be the ultimate test of the skillet’s nonstick ability – then slice and serve. Always avoid cutting in the skillet to avoid utensil marks.
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