Although he grew most of the vegetables we ate, my father wasn't really much into cooking. He was in charge of salads and made eggs on Sundays, but that was pretty much the extent of it. Dad did, however, have a few signature dishes that he loved to prepare – and he did so with great gusto! One of those dishes was a frittata.
A frittata is a fancy, Italian name for a baked, open-faced omelet. It's an egg-based dish that usually contains a combination of various vegetables, cheese and meat. The cooking is started on the stove and then finished off in the oven. It's a first cousin to the Spanish tortilla de patatas , except that there is no flipping involved, making it much easier to execute.
My dad would thoughtfully plan what to include in his frittatas based on what was growing in his garden at the time. His favorite was filled with caramelized onions, fresh asparagus, mushrooms and big hunks of mozzarella cheese. He'd prepare each component of the dish separately and, with the skill of an architect, would carefully construct his creation before cooking it. Then, Dad would strut into the dining room, proud as a peacock and present his masterpiece. I can still see his face, beaming with satisfaction and delight!
While it looks rather impressive, a frittata is a super-simple dish to prepare, with lots of room for creativity. And it works equally well for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can put just about anything but the kitchen sink in it, too, making it a great choice for when you need to purge your fridge.
This frittata is filled with onions, potatoes, ham and Parmesan cheese, which is what I happened to have handy on the night I made it. If I had planned ahead, I would have probably also added mushrooms and some mozzarella or provolone chunks. Add a fresh green salad and a crusty baguette and you're good to go!
Potato, Ham and Onion Frittata
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 slices cooked ham, about 1/4-inch thick, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1/8-inch slices and quartered
12 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons heavy cream
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 1 tablespoon each of the oil and butter in your largest ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the ham and sauté until it begins to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
Heat the remaining oil and butter in the pan and add the onions and potatoes. Sauté until onions and potatoes are tender and golden, about 10-12 minutes.
Whisk the cream and Parmesan into the beaten eggs and season with the smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into the skillet and let it sit over medium-low heat, undisturbed, for several minutes until the bottom is set. Give the pan a couple of shakes to distribute the eggs.
Put the skillet in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the tops of the eggs are almost completely set. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 2 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.
Remove frittata from the oven and slice into wedges to serve. But be careful. That skillet will be screaming hot!