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Frittatas: Egg dish good anytime of day

Daniel Neman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Frittatas live in that gray area between two of America’s favorite brunch foods, or rather the yellow area. A baked egg dish with various ingredients inside, they are hearty, not delicate; filling, not frilly.

Best of all, they are the ultimate blank slate. You can make them with anything you like. You are limited only by your imagination.

Even with my limited imagination, I managed to come up with five examples.

Like bagels and lox. It’s one of my favorite breakfast meals, and I often even have a scrambled egg or two (or three) on the side. In its honor, I made what I call a No-Bagel Frittata: smoked salmon, onions and maybe some capers cooked in a frittata.

I even mixed in some cream cheese. You can’t have bagels and lox without cream cheese, even if you aren’t using bagels.

It tasted even better than I’d hoped.

But when I brought out the frittatas to our hungry taste testers, the No-Bagel Frittata was not the one to go first. The one gobbled up almost instantly was what I call the Frittata Lorraine.

It has bacon in it, enough to imbue the dish with its irresistible flavor. And, of course, nothing goes with eggs like bacon, just as nothing goes with bacon like eggs.

Unless you add cheese. I added cheese — Gruyere, to be exact, though Jarlsberg or Swiss would also be good. And because I put milk in all of my frittatas to make them creamier and more custardy, I basically ended up with a crustless quiche lorraine.

My next effort is based on what is probably my favorite frittata I have ever had at a restaurant. It’s a mixture of vegetables mixed into the egg with curry powder, and Sriracha sauce on the side.

For my version, I used potato, onion, zucchini, carrot, green pepper, mushrooms and tomato. I thought about celery, too, but that seemed excessive.

The trick lies in getting all of the bite-sized pieces of vegetables to the same degree of doneness. So I started with the potato, added the onion and carrot, and then the rest of the vegetables. While these were cooking, I seasoned them with curry powder so the vegetables would have that warm, exotic flavor. Then when I poured in the eggs and milk, I added more of the powder so the eggs, too, would be flavored with curry.

And if you like Sriracha, by all means serve it with the frittata. It takes it to another level.

I stuck with brunch favorites for my next frittata. Working off the pleasing combination of cheese and eggs, I decided to create a frittata based on a cheese strata.

In a traditional cheese strata, the eggs and milk soak the bread overnight, so you essentially have cheesy French toast. But for my Strata Fittata, I suspended cubes of toast in the cheese-filled custard. It’s an egg dish, rather than a bread dish.

And don’t forget the mustard. A half-tablespoon of Dijon is absolutely required to put this strata into the stratosphere.

I saved dessert for last. This time, my inspiration came from crepes suzette.

For my Suzette Frittata, I put fresh orange juice and zest into my eggs, along with sugar and more butter than usual. I also increased the whole milk I used to make a creamier dessert.

But that’s not the best part. With traditional crepes suzette, you flame the dessert with ignited Grand Marnier to create a superb sauce. I didn’t want a sauce with my frittata, but I did want the Grand Marnier. So I added it to the egg mixture.

No-Bagel Frittata

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 onion, chopped

4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped

8 eggs, lightly beaten

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons capers, optional

Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, melt 11/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in smoked salmon and cook a minute or two until it changes color. Set aside.

Pour the eggs and milk into a large bowl. Add cream cheese in marble-sized chunks, along with optional capers and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs (if the salmon is salty, do not add more salt). Whisk until just mixed.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to skillet and stir to coat the sides. It’s fine if some of the onions and salmon stick to the sides. Add egg mixture and place in oven. Bake until eggs are just set, 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving using unsalted butter: 279 calories; 22 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 292 mg cholesterol; 17 g protein; 4 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 0 g fiber; 667 mg sodium; 104 mg calcium

Frittata Lorraine

8 eggs, lightly beaten

6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

4 ounces shredded Gruyere cheese, or Jarlsberg or Swiss

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, bacon, cheese, milk and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs, until just mixed.

Melt butter in an ovenproof skillet. Swirl around all sides. Add the egg mixture and place the skillet in the oven. Bake until eggs are just set, 15 to 25 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving using unsalted butter: 347 calories; 26 g fat; 12 g saturated fat; 403 mg cholesterol; 25 g protein; 2 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; no fiber; 587 mg sodium; 367 mg calcium

Strata Frittata

8 eggs, lightly beaten

6 ounces sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

Salt and black pepper

2 pieces white toast, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, mustard, milk, and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs, until just mixed. Stir in cubes of white toast. Set aside for 3 minutes.

In an ovenproof skillet, melt butter, swirling around on all sides. Add egg mixture and place in oven. Bake until eggs are just set, 15 to 25 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving using unsalted butter: 383 calories; 28 g fat; 14 g saturated fat; 427 mg cholesterol; 25 g protein; 10 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; no fiber; 539 mg sodium; 417 mg calcium

Suzette Frittata

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon orange zest, minced

1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Salt

1/2 cup whole milk

2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, add eggs, zest, orange juice, 1/4 cup of the sugar, Grand Marnier and salt to taste (remember, you are seasoning 8 eggs). Whisk until just mixed. Add milk and whisk again until just mixed.

Melt butter in a large, oven-proof skillet, swirling it around all the sides. Add egg mixture and place skillet in oven. Cook until eggs are just fully set, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn oven to broil. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar evenly over the top and broil on the top rack for 3 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving, using unsalted butter and large eggs: 298 calories; 16 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 390 mg cholesterol; 14 g protein; 21 g carbohydrate; 18 g sugar; no fiber; 195 mg sodium; 96 mg calcium

Hot Mess Frittata

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 potato, cut into 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes

Salt

1/2 onion, chopped

1 carrot, sliced thin

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup diced tomato

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, divided

5 medium mushrooms, quartered

1/2 zucchini, chopped

8 eggs, lightly beaten

3 ounces (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole milk

Freshly ground black pepper

Sriracha, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an ovenproof skillet, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt to taste (potatoes need a lot of salt), cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, onions, carrots, green pepper, tomato and 1 teaspoon of the curry powder. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, an additional 5 minutes. Uncover, add mushrooms and zucchini, and sauté until all the vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, add eggs, milk, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon curry powder and enough salt and pepper for 8 eggs into a large bowl. Whisk together until just mixed. Pour into the skillet and place in oven. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Serve with Sriracha, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving, using unsalted butter: 241 calories; 15 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 386 mg cholesterol; 15 g protein; 12 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 170 mg sodium; 106 mg calcium