Dalai Mama Dishes

by Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

Dalai Mama Dishes

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

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Hakuna Frittata

Posted May 11, 2009
Find more about dinner , eggs , frittata , dalai mama
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It's a problem-free philosophy!

The humble makings of a humble--but excellent--dinner.

Here it is, minding its own business while it cooks in the pan.

See how fancified it gets when you serve it from a cake stand? We had company over.

Company who were compelled to serve themselves with their own fingers given the choice of serving utensils which was none.

A napkin under the chin or a cartoon case of the mumps? You decide.

One young dinner guest loved the frittata so much that she actually said, "I love this." Hakuna frittata.

You don't remember this song from The Lion King? Really? It means no worries about serving eggs for dinner yet again. They're inexpensive and easy and nutritious.  It also means just because you're running your kids' school fundraising auction doesn't mean you can order a pizza 10 nights in a row so get to cracking some eggs into a pan because it's dinnertime already.

Because this is a food column I won't go on and on about the auction. (Bonus points for remembering the name of this rhetorical device!) But I will say that, without actually having ever had a wedding personally, it felt like a wedding. A wedding where you spent the months beforehand saying, in every single place you happened to be (the pizza parlor, the gynecologist), "Oh, hey, would you be willing to donate something?" (a pepperoni party pie, a pap smear). The kids became overly familiar with the drill. In fact, when I parked in front of the police station once, Ben said, "Are we going in to ask for a donation?" (Up for auction: "Call 911, and the police will come to your very own house!") When I laughed and said I was really just parking there, Ben said, "Oooh, you should see if they'd be willing to donate 'strip searcher's assistant for a day.' I would so bid on that." When Birdy asked, Ben explained, "That's the person who makes sure you're not hiding a knife in your butt." What, no bidders?

Anyways, the auction was tons of fun, and friends and I loved pulling it off together, but oh my gosh did the meals suffer around here. We ate a lot of Trader Joe's frozen this and that (the spanikopita is actually pretty good, and so are the Chinese dumplings--sometimes I think about starting a blog called, "What's good at Trader Joe's"?) Also we ate a lot of pasta and pesto, a lot of pizza. And eggs. I know you're starting to think this column is underwritten by the Egg Council, but I swear it's just that eggs are so cheap and good, and they cook quickly without a lot of fuss. (Picture me standing on a cliff with a lion cub in my arms: The Circle of Eggs!)

I make frittata primarily in the spring, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I often put asparagus in it (in this case, we had asparagus on the side). Or because I like to serve it at room temperature, which gives me a festive mild-evening feeling about things. It's good hot too, or cold, and you can add anything to it that you like. Really, the only way to screw it up is to cook it in a cast-iron skillet, which will--forgive the absurdity of this statement-- make it taste eggy. You know, in that metallic-eggy way that makes me literally shudder. (I just shuddered.) Ideally you'll have a stainless-steel skillet that won't stick, or else you can do it in a non-stick one, but then you can't put it under the broiler or else all the canaries in your zip code will die of Teflon poisoning. If you're using non-stick, flip the frittata onto a plate and slide it back into the pan to cook the other side a bit.

But really, even if you're in the middle of plotting your fundraising auction or your own wedding, you have time to make a frittata--it's like a cross between an omelette and a quiche, but without a gooey inside (shudder) or a tricky crust (which I can be too lazy to make). And a frittata with a salad and some bread makes a perfect meal that your kids may eat uncomplainingly, even if it is, as my daughter occasionally reminds me, "not exactly my favorite dinner in the whole wild world." That's okay.

Hakuna Frittata
Serves 8
Active time: 15 minutes; total time: 40 minutes

I love adding cooked potatoes to this (I think it's a lot like a Spanish torta this way), but you can add nearly any cooked ingredients: broccoli or greens (make sure they're very well drained), cooked bacon or diced ham, sautéed mushrooms or onions. You can't go wrong.

2 cups cubed potatoes (I peeled 3 Yukon golds and diced them into ½-inch pieces)
10 eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 tablespoon finely chopped herbs (I used a mix of parsley, chives, lemon thyme, and celery leaves. Basil is delicious. Or tarragon. And mint with potatoes and fresh goat cheese is heavenly.)
1 heaping cup grated cheese (I used Monterey jack, but you can use any cheese you like. I had also intended to sprinkle on some freshly grated parmesan before popping the frittata under the broiler, but I completely forgot.)
2 tablespoons butter
Balsamic-Butter Sauce (optional, see below)

Steam the potato cubes until cooked: I do this in one of those old UFO-style steamers (the kind that always seem to have one missing segment), covered, over rapidly boiling water for about 8 minutes. Bite into one to make sure it's completely tender-hearted.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs well with the salt, then stir in the herbs and cheese. Begin heating the butter in a wide skillet over medium-low heat until it gets nice and foamy. (A recap of the skillet issue: the ideal skillet is neither non-stick nor cast iron, but one that is oven-proof and not inclined to stick despite its lack of non-stickness, if you follow me here. I use a wide well-seasoned stainless steel pan. Your other choice is to do this in a non-stick pan. Instead of running it under the broiler, you will need to slide the frittata onto a plate and then flip it back into the pan to cook the top side. This does not tend to go very well for me, but you may have better luck.)

Stir the cooked potatoes into the egg mixture, then tip the whole thing into the pan. Cover the pan and cook the frittata gently for around 10-12 minutes, or until it looks quite set around the edges but is still raw-eggish in the center. Pop the pan under a pre-heated broiler for around 2 minutes, until the center is set and the whole thing is lovely and puffed and browning. Serve hot or room temperature with the balsamic-butter sauce or salsa or some other condiment of your choosing.

Balsamic-Butter Sauce
Here's a quick little sauce to puddle next to a slice of frittata. It's tangy and silky-rich, and it also makes a delicious accompaniment to grilled meat.

½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons cold butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a tiny little pot or pan, reduce the vinegar over medium heat until it is just about half boiled away (about 4 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until it is all incorporated and the sauce is smooth and blended. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve small spoonfuls over or next to the frittata.

Get a printable version of this recipe.

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Hakuna Frittata

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About Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of the memoir, Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, available online and in bookstores nationwide.

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