Spring Frittata with Asparagus, Feta, and Basil

Stacey writes: I’ve made a few frittatas over the years, none memorable. I have a brunch coming up next week and I’m thinking I’d like to try one. This, of course, could be a really bad idea. Advice? Also, two friends coming are vegetarians.

Tony’s take: I’m a big frittata booster. To start with, they’re scalable: easy to prepare, ample enough to feed a crowd, and ok to serve however (warm, room temp, re-heated). Frittatas also give off a composed, professional vibe essential for the kind of gathering you’re describing. And, entertaining aside, these stylized Italian eggs (basically an omelette, but sturdy and open-faced) are perfect when your fridge is empty (they top my Weeknight Top 5: category “dishes I make when I have nothing to make”; spaghetti all’aglio, olio e pepperoncino and non-depressing takes on grilled cheese are also in there). So if you get this recipe down, it’ll be good to you. And, trust me, it most definitely will impress. Here’s how:

My idea: We’ve not quite hit spring, but I would lean in that direction. Continental asparagus (ie: from Mexico or Southern California) are finally coming to market, sweeter (and more, well, alive) than their hard-traveling Peruvian counterparts. Roast the spears with olive oil until tender. Then fold into the eggs with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled feta. The salty tang of the cheese complements the sweetness of the asparagus while the basil, my favorite with eggs, perfumes the finished dish. If/when vegetarians are not part of the picture, mix in some sliced prosciutto or ham; or try wild mushrooms, but make sure to sauté them first so they don’t leach off moisture. My method for making frittatas (see below) is part stovetop, part oven. I suggest preparing the eggs about a half hour before your friends arrive. The frittata will be coming out of the oven just as the bell rings. Then serve with standard brunch fare (or whatever you were thinking of): a crusty-whole grain loaf of bread, some fruit, something sweet, and so on….

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My technique: The Larousse Gastronomique or Oxford Companion may definitively categorize the many different egg preparations, but I think of this stuff more simply: an omelet is stovetop with a fold, a Spanish tortilla is stovetop but with a full flip, and though I’ve seen it vary in Italy, a frittata is part stovetop, part oven, flip optional. I do like how frittatas begin on the stovetop; it gives them a running start which helps them cook quickly and uniformly. On the stovetop, I employ a scrambling (scribbling) motion with a silicone spatula, moving until the eggs start to firm up. I then transfer the skillet to a hot oven (make sure the pan is ovenproof so you don’t melt a plastic handle!) and cook until the eggs set and brown lightly; the heat of the oven should puff them up a bit. Slide onto a cutting board, let cool for a couple of minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

The recipe:

Serves 6 to 8

1. Roast the asparagus: Heat the oven to 425F. Cut 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb., trim off the ends first) into 1 1/2-inch pieces and toss with 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. each kosher salt and pepper. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and roast until the asparagus brown lightly and are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Leave the oven on for the eggs.

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2. Mix together the ingredients: In a large bowl, beat 10 large eggs with sprinklings of salt and pepper (about 3/4 tsp. each; don’t go crazy with the salt as the feta is plenty salty). Fold in the asparagus, 6 oz. crumbled feta (about 1 ½ cups), 4 sun-dried tomatoes (thinly sliced), and 12 basil leaves (torn).

3. Saute the frittata on the stovetop: Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet (nonstick is fine provided it doesn’t have a rubber handle) over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering hot, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour in the eggs and gently stir and scramble, using a heat-proof silicone spatula, until the eggs start to form soft curds, 3 to 4 minutes; stirring the eggs helps avoid a browned bottom crust from forming.

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4. Bake the frittata: Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the top turns golden brown and the eggs set and just firm up, 8 to 12 minutes.

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5. Serve: Slide the frittata out onto a cutting board and let cool for a couple of minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

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