Potato, Spinach, and Gruyere Frittata

 In the first years I was learning to cook, I decided to plan a brunch for a group of friends back in Rhode Island. As I do when orchestrating any dinner party, I spent days carefully planning the menu, torn between pancakes or French toast, what kind of fruit to include in the fruit salad (does anyone even really like honeydew melon?) and whether I should serve the maple syrup cold or hot. After much deliberation, I decided on pancakes, bacon, omelets and fruit salad. I imagined myself serving up stacks of golden brown pancakes and fluffy omelets to my impressed friends, alla Nigella Lawson.

However, while I had been extremely enthusiastic about choosing the menu, I hadn’t quite worked out the logistics of the actual brunch. As I soon found out, making pancakes for a group of eight hungry people is not as easy as one might think – each pancake has to be cooked and flipped individually, making it far from easy to prepare for such a big group. Cooking up a big pan of bacon is equally dicey, as too much bacon in the pan adds up to a lot of grease that can splatter all over the kitchen (and onto the cook). Nothing, however, proved to be as time consuming as flipping eight individual omelets, one by one.

As my friends enjoyed their slightly cold pancakes, I dodged grease from the bacon pan as I prepared ham and cheese omelets, sweating over the hot stove and refusing help, as only a good host should (“Me? No, I’m fine! Really! Just six more to go!”) Thank god for the fruit salad.

Nigella Lawson I was not.

Though the brunch ended up being for the most part successful, I’ve since learned how to more practically plan a meal for friends. I’ve also learned to make a frittata.

For those of you who don’t know, a frittata can be described as a baked open-faced omelet — it is Italy’s answer to the French quiche or the Spanish potato tortilla. Had I known how to make a frittata at the time of my brunch for eight people, I would have saved myself a lot of time and energy, as the frittata is cooked in the oven, can be made in advance, and is simply sliced and served — a lot easier than making individual omelets. It can be served hot or at room temperature, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or, of course, brunch, and wait, there's more -- it can even be sliced up and used as a filling for sandwiches. 
When I went to make this frittata last weekend I realized I was down to the last drops of olive oil, was out of yellow onions, and had milk a day past its expiration date (whoops -- so much for being an organized cook). I substituted butter for the olive oil, a red onion for the yellow, and cream instead of milk, with great results. Indeed, the frittata is an extremely versatile dish -- here I've used two types of cheese, plus crispy potatoes, leafy fresh spinach, and salty prosciutto (yum) but feel free to use this recipe as a suggestion and include whatever vegetables, cheeses, or meats you have on hand. Enjoy!

POTATO, SPINACH, AND GRUYERE FRITTATA

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 small red or yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large potato, peeled and diced into small pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach
6 large eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
3 ounces sliced prosciutto, chopped (optional if you want a vegetarian frittata)
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Heat the butter in a heavy 9 1/2-inch diameter oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the potato and season with salt and pepper, then cook until golden brown and cooked throughout (taste a piece to make sure it's not still raw). Remove the potatoes from the pan and set aside.  
 
Next, in the same pan, saute the onion until soft. Add the spinach and toss with the onion, adding a tablespoon or so of water as you go until it is wilted. Add the potato back into the pan and stir gently to combine.
 
Preheat the broiler. Whisk the eggs, cream, cheese, and prosciutto (if using) in a medium bowl to blend. Season the mixture well with salt and pepper. Stir the egg mixture into the vegetable mixture in the skillet. Let the eggs cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes, or until the bottom begins to set. 

 
Place the skillet in the oven and bake the frittata until the eggs are set and the top is puffed and lightly browned, about 5 more minutes. Let the frittata cool slightly, then cut into slices (remove the slices from the pan with a spatula) and serve either hot or at room temperature. Serves 6-8.





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