Thursday, February 20, 2014

Basic Frittata with Leeks and Bacon

I have a very specific memory from my mom's kitchen.  (Okay, okay, I have HUNDREDS of specific memories from my mom's kitchen... this is one of them.)  I was in my late teens or early twenties, raiding my parent's refrigerator.  It must have been just after Christmas because there was leftover shrimp from our annual Christmas shrimp cocktail. I was enamored with the idea of omelettes at the time. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table paying bills while I whipped up an omelette heavy with dill and chopped shrimp. Mom hated it when we made a mess in the kitchen, but she was also inordinately proud that all of her children were able and willing cooks..

I remember thinking that maybe, when I was rich, I would settle down and open up a little breakfast joint that served only omelettes. (Did I say "enamored"? More like "obsessed".) The problem with this little fantasy is that omelettes are kind of a pain in the ass.

Now, more than a decade later, I find myself slightly less intrigued, but still very much "in like" with the idea of the frittata. Not surprisingly, it took a recipe from Joe's cookbook to show me how freaking easy they can be. As long as you have an oven-proof skillet, that is.

Everything you've ever loved in an omelette can be produced in frittata form. Case in point, I recently succumbed to a teensy bout of nostalgia and made one with shrimp and dill.
It was quite nice.

That's the only picture of it that I have, though, so that's why this post is about the one I made for lunch today.

Basic Frittata with Leeks and Bacon
Cooking times and methods stolen shamelessly from Joe Yonan's "Mushroom and Green Garlic Frittata"

2 eggs, beaten vigorously with a pinch of salt
1 strip of bacon
1 tsp oil (I used vegetable oil, but any cooking oil will work)
1 leek, sliced into 1/4 inch rings (Just the white and light-green parts. Save the dark green for soups, broths or compost.)
1 tsp cider vinegar
kosher salt
black pepper
1-2 oz Monterey Jack cheese

Set your oven to broil and adjust the rack so that if you put a pan in, the top will be about 4 inches from the heating element. (No need to measure here, 6 or even 8 inches is fine, just make sure you can fit your pan under the broiler... duh.)

In a small, oven-proof skillet, heat up 1 tsp of oil over medium heat. Season the bacon with a couple of twists of ground pepper. Fry the bacon (I cut the one strip into two pieces so it'd fit in the pan) until crispy.
When I fry bacon on the stovetop, I don't let the pan get so hot that it starts splattering everywhere. If you take your time, turning it every minute or two at a nice gentle sizzle and pull it out just before it looks perfect and set it on some paper towels, you'll have beautiful crispy bacon that shatters like glass under a knife (or your teeth.)
You'll also have a nice hot pan with just enough bacon grease to fry up the sliced leek with a pinch of salt.
Let these babies caramelize a bit. Feel free to walk away, pour yourself some coffee, read a couple of pages of your novel, before giving them a stir. Let them cook down until they're nice and soft and dark brown (even scorched) in some spots. Some pieces may stick to the pan in places, scrape them up with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

At this point, I screwed up. The plan in my head included throwing in a small minced clove of garlic here. It would have been spectacular. I forgot. Oh well. No biggie.

There's no need to be meticulous about time here... I think I cooked 'em for about 6-7 minutes. As long as they haven't been reduced to pieces of charcoal stuck to the bottom of your pan, they're gonna taste just fine. You can very well decide when they're done.

At this point, pour in 1 tsp of cider vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to get any bits of color off the bottom. Immediately turn the heat down to low. Let that sit for 1 minute so the pan can cool down a little and the vinegar can cook off.

Pour in your eggs and shake your pan to make sure that the egg can nestle in underneath the leeks. This will help keep the frittata from sticking. Let this sit on low for 2 minutes. (For this, I actually do set a timer). In the meantime, crush your bacon over the eggs. At this point, anything you want "in" the frittata can be added. Pre-cooked shrimp also works well... trust me.

When there's about 20 seconds left, sprinkle the top with cheese. I used Monterey Jack because I like the way it melts and didn't want anything too strong to overpower the leeks. I did see a recipe recently for a leek and goat cheese frittata that looked quite yummy.  If I had goat cheese, I'd use that... or brie, or taleggio, or maybe some sharp cheddar, or a sprinkle of finely grated parmesan... you get the point.

Add cheese here.
Pop the whole thing under the broiler.

Turn on your oven light.

I've tried, but I can't give you a definite amount of time it takes for this to happen. Joe says to broil for just a minute or two, but I think his broiler is waaaay more fancy (read: hotter) than mine. As it is, every time I make one, it takes a different amount of time. My general guidelines are:
  • No longer than 4 minutes
  • Just until any cheese in the very center of the frittata is melted
In the ingredients list, you may notice that I said to beat your eggs vigorously. There is a reason for this. If you just barely break up the eggs without giving them a good whupping, you'll end up with a delicious, eggy pancake. If you show the eggs you mean business, this will happen.
See how the outsides puff up and brown a little? I have no idea if it makes it taste better, I just think it's pretty.

Beat your eggs... it'll make 'em prettier. (Yes, there's a domestic abuse joke in there somewhere... but I'm not going to be the one to make it. Domestic abuse is no laughing matter.)

Slide the frittata out of the pan with a spatula. It shouldn't stick much at all. If you need to, run a knife around the outside (sometimes the cheese runs down the side, which makes a delicious cheesy crust, but can make the whole thing stick a little.)

Lastly, don't be sad that when you get the frittata onto your plate, it sags a little bit. The only thing holding it up was the crazy hot air from the broiler. It'll still be super-yummy.

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