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Suplee: put whatever you want into frittata

By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3

It’s coming up on the weekend again. I have to try to figure out what to cook for the family. Oh, the drudgery.

There is truth to the old maxim that the cobbler’s children have no shoes, or the plumber’s pipes always leak (perhaps that is a little too personal to make public, so I’ll recant that after publication.)

You see, I really don’t care to cook at home. I do it when I teach and I cook at both restaurants when needed, and I’m just an old, salty son of a gun when it comes to it. Yet, I do understand that my kids deserve to eat.

And that’s about where I stop. I am a terrible father. At least I can admit it while stocking the pantry with cans of soup, cellophane-wrapped Japanese and Korean ‘noodle specialties’ (I made it through college and most of my bachelorhood on those things, so don’t knock them) and cereal.

This weekend, however, I plan on bringing an old classic back that I haven’t made in a while; the frittata. And, I am embarrassed to say that I have always noted that the frittata is Spanish.

I was wrong, and I am glad to have been corrected. Apparently, ‘frittata’ is the Italian word for this wonderfully eggy creation, while the Spanish call it a ‘tortilla’….although not that tortilla.

So what exactly is a frittata? Simply put, make a quiche and put it straight into a pan instead of dough, and you get a frittata…I mean a tortilla…but not that tortilla.

Want to have even a little more fun? Leave the dough out of it, make your filling and then soak some stale (or butter-toasted) chunks of bread just like you would with bread pudding, and bake that off. Then, it’s a strata. Oh, the fun you can have with this cacophony of crazy concoctions.

And there are two pluses to making any of the three dishes that I just explained. Actually, I’ll make that three.

One, they last for a long time in the refrigerator if cooled properly and wrapped (but no longer than seven days).

Two, they freeze exceptionally well, which serves us parents well while we wile our way through the various responsibilities that we have on our shoulders.

And, three? This is probably my favorite ‘plus’ of them all. And this is the fact and fortune that you can literally put whatever you want to put into these custardy delights, as long as it makes sense.

But, who does it have to make sense to? You! Who am I to say that you can’t put chocolate in your crab strata? I would not dare.

What I would suggest, however, is a nice combination of meats and seafoods. If you go this route, precook said proteins before putting them in your final dish.

There are few things more disgusting than boiled meat, and meat boiled in eggs is right at the top for me. But, again, you do you.

After the meats and seafood, the world is your oyster, as Shakespeare so eloquently coined, or whomever was actually writing his plays.

And speaking of oysters, did you know that if you add oysters and some other familiar ingredients to a frittata, you have what is called a “Hangtown Fry,” a delicacy of a town in California made famous by how may thieves they hung during the Gold Rush.

Since the oysters came by train, they were literally worth their weight in gold.

Who knew that frittatas could be so entertaining? And yet, as interesting as it is to me, my job is to make these, serve them to my children, and relish in the eye-rolling that I get when I try to share my excitement. Isn’t that at least one of my duties as a decent father?

serves 6

8 large, whole eggs
½ c. cream or milk; dealer’s choice
1 medium potato, diced and blanched
½ red bell pepper, roasted & peeled
2 c. baby spinach, blanched (yielding about 1/3 c.)
½ c. sharp cheddar cheese
3 tbsp. grated parmesan
½ c. crispy bacon or dry chorizo (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Whisk together the eggs and milk thoroughly
  • Add remaining ingredients gently, but completely, so as to not break up anything
  • Get a cast iron pan (for this much you could probably use an 8-10” pan) nice and hot. However, don’t get it smoking hot. You want a crust on the bottom, but there’s no reason to burn it. Think ‘paella’
  • Add clarified butter, a high flashpoint oil or pan spray
  • Add your mixed frittata to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes, again making sure that it isn’t burning on the bottom
  • Remove pan from the range and place in your preheated oven
  • Cook until the eggs have risen well-above the top of the pan. Even though it will still jiggle, you are looking for a firmness in the finished product
  • As it cools, it will deflate. As long as it is set, it is ready to serve
  • Serve this with a fresh arugula salad, fruit salad or breakfast potatoes (despite the fact that it may be a bit redundant as they’re already in the main dish. But, who doesn’t like breakfast potatoes? Seriously?)

—Paul Suplee is a Professor of
Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic Community College
and owner of boxcar40.
Visit him at