My Italian friend Simona says, “When in doubt, make a frittata.”
And she is right. A frittata is the ultimate spontaneous, refrigerator-foraged meal. With some good cheese and pasture raised eggs, lingering leftovers can be resurrected, even elevated, especially when accompanied by a glass of wine and a salad. Simona’s pasta frittata is a great example. Now those are leftovers to write home about.
A frittata can be more deliberate of course. Special seasonal ingredients can be celebrated in a frittata, like the asparagus here, which has already peaked and is now waning fast. In this recipe, the goat cheese and asparagus combination is almost a cliché. I say almost because: think about it. A cliché has an undeserved negative connotation. It evolves from a truth that is repeated so often that we become inured to its virtues. I am a champion of many food clichés. On a quest for more exotic, scintillating (and sometimes dismal) dishes to excite our palates, we dismiss the tried and true as tired and sad. If you want to up the ante on the excitement taste meter with soy foam, be my guest. I’ll take the asparagus and goat cheese combination any day, and I don’t care who knows it.
To make a good frittata, you have to understand eggs. Yes, it is a simple dish, but like many simple dishes, you need outstanding ingredients and thoughtful execution. I’m not trying to scare you—it isn’t difficult to make a frittata. It’s just that so many people have complained to me that they have not had success (too dry, rubbery, etc.) that I think there are a couple of points worth noting. Pay particular attention to steps 5 and 6 in the recipe.
The maxim: when you cook eggs, walk on eggs. Eggs are delicate. Treat them kindly and you will be rewarded with soft, creamy curds that melt in your mouth instead of dry, chalky bites that stick in your throat. By treating them kindly I mean take care to protect them from high heat. Cook them slowly. Don’t rush. Give them the time they need. In other words, what’s your hurry? This is a quick supper; you don’t need to take ruinous shortcuts.
Slowly cook the eggs (step 5) over medium to medium-low heat until they begin to set. At that point, run a metal spatula (or a rubber spatula if you don’t have a metal spatula) around the edges of the pan and tilt the pan so that the uncooked eggs on the surface dribble into the gaps at the edge of the pan. Repeat this until the eggs are about 3/4ths of the way cooked.
Finally, place the pan under the broiler (step 6), but far from its harsh direct heat. Leave the oven door ajar. Watch carefully, and wait for the top to puff and brown lightly. You are looking for a light golden brown color, not a deep brown. Let the frittata rest for a minute or two. Slide it onto a plate and serve, or cut it into wedges and serve from the pan.
Of course, don’t be limited by asparagus and goat cheese. Oozy, melty cheeses like taleggio or fontina or cheddar are good paired with vegetables. The possibilities are endless.
Asparagus and goat cheese frittata
Makes 1 10-inch frittata
1 pound asparagus, trimmed of tough ends and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium leek, white part only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
2 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) crumbled goat cheese
1. Set an oven rack about 10 inches from the broiler. Turn on the broiler. Have on hand a 10-inch non-stick skillet with a heatproof handle.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a colander.
3. In the skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the asparagus to the skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Stir in the tarragon, parsley, chives, goat cheese, and more salt and pepper. Pour the eggs over the asparagus in the skillet.
5. Adjust the heat to medium-low. When the eggs begin to set at the edges, run a spatula around the pan, and tilt the pan to allow the uncooked eggs to run to the sides. Repeat once or twice, until the eggs are almost set.
6. To finish cooking, set the pan in the oven, leaving the door ajar. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the top of the frittata is slightly puffed but not deeply browned. Cut into wedges and serve.