by Beth Goodwin, AOOA Culinary Director
If there’s one thing we can count on through the seasons at AOOA, it’s eggs. Eggs of all kinds: chicken, duck, goose, and dinosaur. Okay, kidding on the dinosaur – but the size of our goose eggs come pretty close. We use these eggs in many of our dishes at the farm, from sweet to savory, and sell them to our patrons by the dozen or per piece for the biggies (duck, duck, goose, I’m looking at you).
One of my favorite ways to showcase the farm’s daily egg haul is with our frittata. While an omelet is eggs (typically) cooked in butter and folded, a frittata is (usually) cooked in olive oil and flat–albeit thick and sturdy if it’s a good one, so maybe “open-faced” is a better way of thinking about it. Although the word frittata is Italian, the dish that is frittata has roots in early Arab cuisine; a descendent, like the omelet, of whatever the ancient version of today’s Persian kookoo (kuku) was.
The Frittata of the Day has been a fixture on the AOOA farmstand menu since the beginning, and for good reason: it’s an edible amalgam of our farm’s bounty. Thoroughly whisked and seasoned eggs ferry us through the seasons with an endless variety of possible fillings: heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and basil in the summer; hakurei turnips, pumpkin, and peppers in the fall; gold potatoes, caramelized onions, and cured pork belly in the winter; and, now in spring, tender mushrooms, wild baby greens, and ramps await.
Filling fun aside, a frittata can take many shapes and is easy to make at home. Any oven-safe pan will work and the dish itself is an excellent vehicle for leftovers of all sorts. I like to say a frittata is the perfect meal at any time of day (or night). I like to use three eggs per person as a starting point. Cream or added dairy is a matter of personal preference. (I abstain, more info on that below.) My other tip: Don’t skimp on the filling–this is not an omelet, there will be no folding. You get a hefty and scrumptious frittata by using a 1:1 to 1:2 ratio of egg to filling.
For being a most simple dish, a frittata offers rich and wholesome satisfaction. Because a frittata knows no limits (except eggshells), instead of writing a traditional recipe, I have provided a set of principles to guide you on your next frittata journey.
I look forward to seeing you at the farmstand soon – either ordering a Frittata of the Day, or buying a dozen to make your own!
Frittata Guiding Principles
EGGS: Use chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, emu, whatever you can get your hands on (legally). There’s no wrong egg to frittata: every egg has its nutritional and gustatory benefits. Using a mix of eggs is excellent too! At the farmstand, we often mix chicken with duck and aren’t bashful about cracking in a goose.
FAT: If you’re using a non-stick or silicone pan, a brief spray or brushing of fat is all you’ll need to make sure your frittata let loose at the end of cooking. Olive oil or avocado oil is great and butter is nice, too, but if you really want to add some luscious luxury to your frittata, go for the duck fat.
FILLING: Veggies: Most vegetables should be par-cooked before adding them to your frittata. Sure, they’ll cook more while you’re baking the thing, but you want vegetables at least 75% cooked before you mix them with the eggs. Vegetables lose a lot of volume and exude a lot of water when cooking (especially greens), so by pre- and/or par-cooking your vegetables, you’ll avoid ending up with a soggy and deflated frittata. Especially for long-cooking vegetables like onion, shallot, potato, leek, beet, and carrot, pre-cooking is essential. The only veggie green I don’t pre-cook is fresh herbs in order to preserve their peak flavor. Cheese: Consider using soft cheeses, like chèvre, ricotta, or feta – they will melt gloriously into the eggs and make it all taste sublime. When I make a frittata, instead of adding milk, I like to add in a soft cheese: it has way more flavor than the milk and serves the same egg-fluffifying purpose. A bit of grated Parmesan is delicious, too— a mere 1-2 tablespoons lends the whole dish a mouth-watering umami perfume. Meat: While certainly not mandatory, a bit of crisped smoked fish, ventreche, bacon, prosciutto, or pancetta is never a bad thing in a frittata. Also delicious: duck prosciutto, salami, mortadella, culatello, gravlax, cured herring, smoked turkey, whitefish…I could go on but we’d never get to how to cook the thing!
ASSEMBLY & COOKING: Break the eggs, compost the shells, then whisk the eggs, and in that order. That’s all you need to start a frittata. Don’t be afraid to really whisk the eggs, agitate them in a way you never would a person. If you don’t have a whisk, use a fork. If you don’t have a fork, use chopsticks, or a cocktail shaker. Remember to let your filling (see: Guiding Principle #3) cool slightly before you stir it into your eggs so you don’t end up with a scramble city on your way to frittata town. And always season your egg mixture! Salt (or some seaweed if you are sodium chloride conscious) is essential, fresh cracked pepper divine, and don’t be afraid to taste the eggs for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Definitely don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with new seasonings–every type of smoked and not smoked paprika, sumac, Aleppo, turmeric, garlic, chilies, dehydrated herbs or vegetable powders, zaatar, dukkah, and Urfa Biber are excellent additions not to be missed. To cook your frittata, simply bake it! No convection needed. If it’s a smaller frittata, cooking it in a pan on the stove like an open-face omelet also works; you don’t need to flip it, just cover the pan to steam and set the top. Bake time will vary depending on the size of your pan and density of your filling but I like to cook mine between 325-350F and start checking for doneness after 10-15 minutes. (For a pan larger than 6” you can start checking after 25 minutes.) Note that the middle will cook the slowest and continue to cook after you take it out of the oven so best to remove your frittata from the oven whenever the eggs are still soft but holding their shape all the way through.