Cremini and Leek Frittata
So to go along with yesterday’s post, here’s another great easy breakfast idea. It’s not quite as quick in the morning as muesli, perhaps, but it does come together quickly for a hot breakfast, and with a couple of slices of bread, you can make a killer breakfast sandwich if you want. If you don’t already know what a frittata is, you’re in for a treat. It’s basically an omelet without the fussy rolling or flipping. I realize that the ingredients aren’t exactly seasonal, but leeks and mushrooms together make one of my favorite vegetable combinations. It’s irresistibly earthy, and the leeks are just the right amount of mild and sweet oniony-ness so as to not overpower the mushrooms. The parsley brightens everything up, and come on, cheddar. All held together by custardy eggs.
One thing I try to always emphasize when people ask about my food philosophy is that it’s best to stay simple. But when you stay simple, you need to use the best quality you can afford, because every ingredient is exposed to your palate. Plus, with a short ingredient list, it costs less and there’s less chance of flavors competing with each other. It’s easier to find harmony. This is simple, straightforward, and we need do things right here. So for the cheese especially, get a good quality cheddar if you can. I prefer to use Kerrygold Aged Cheddar. It has the right balance of tang, sweet, and just enough funk to it without being blue-cheesy. It browns beautifully and has such a great sharp cheddary flavor that you really don’t need to use a ton for it to hold it’s own. Plus, it’s made from milk from grass-fed cows, and that makes this hippie-mom really happy. If you can’t find Kerrygold, any sharp cheddar will work well.
And can we talk about mushrooms for a second? I lurv mushrooms. But only when they’re cooked right. Are you shaking your head and saying, “ew! Mushrooms are smily and spongy and … a fungus!”? If that’s the case, I’m here to tell you that you’ve never enjoyed a properly prepared mushroom. Oh darling, they are not meant to be slimy or spongy. They get rich and slightly sweet, even garlicky, when they are given a chance to caramelize. And the texture changes completely. They go from spongy and squeaky to meaty and I’m salivating right now. If you’re new to the world of caramelized sautéd mushrooms, I urge you to give it a try. Oh, and I’m sorry, I can’t help you about the fungus part. They are in fact the “flowering” part of a fungus, and … well, all I can say is that some fungi are awesome.
The key to a good mushroom sauté is to wipe clean with a damp paper towel instead of washing (washing adds extra water into your already water-logged sponge of a mushroom), and most important: give them plenty of room in the pan. In fact, the above photo might even be a bit crowded on the far left. I know, I know, thy shrink up eventually and it feels like a waste of space, and doing it in batches feels like a waste of time, but I promise you it’s not.
See, mushrooms are a ghastly 90% (give or take, depending on the variety) water. You say they’re spongy because … they are totally sponges! And water is the great enemy of caramelization. Caramelization is when the sugars in the food come to the surface and get that amaaaaaazing golden brown color. And we all know color is flavor. So according to that logic, water (-retention) is the enemy of flavor. And guess what happens when you stack water logged sponges on top of each other and apply heat? They steam. And with so much excess water in the skillet, by the time you evaporate all of that liquid, you have mushy, rubbery, slimy, overcooked mushrooms. So, long story short, don’t overcrowd the mushrooms. Cooking them in batches is your best friend.
Oh, and this isn’t just a great breakfast food. It’s also good with a simple salad for lunch or dinner. And it’s so easily varied, it’s worth putting it into your regular rotation. Enjoy!
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, wiped clean*, stems trimmed, and sliced thinly
- 4 small or 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced and washed**
- 8 large eggs, preferably cage-free
- 1/3 cup whole milk, or unsweetened milk alternative
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
- fine sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons butter for cooking
- Preheat oven to the highest temperature it'll go to, (with mine, that's 600°F) adjusting the oven rack to the upper-middle position.
- In a large skillet, melt 1-2 teaspoons of butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, season with a small pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and evenly browned. Transfer to a medium bowl, and wash your skillet.
- Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat and melt about 1-2 teaspons of butter. Add only enough mushrooms to make one even layer in your skillet. Add a pinch of salt, toss, and then cook without stirring, until they've shrunken significantly and the bottom side has a light golden color. Flip over the mushrooms, and cook until the second side is browned. Transfer to the same bowl as the leeks and repeat with the remaining mushrooms. You may need to cook them in 3 batches, depending on how thinly you sliced them and how large your skillet is.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, parsley, a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste with a fork until evenly mixed.
- Once the mushrooms are all cooked, add the leeks and the rest of the mushrooms back to the skillet (if you have an oven-safe nonstick skillet, you may want to transfer the contents for this remaining portion for ease of removal of the finished frittata), lower the heat to medium low, add a tablespoon of butter, and once melted, add the egg mixture. Once the eggs begin to set, pull a side of the eggs to the middle of the pan using a rubber or silicone spatula, tilting the pan to redistribute the eggs. Repeat 2 or three times. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, and place in the oven. Cook in the oven until the egg is completely cooked and the cheese begins to brown, about 8~10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. (Especially if you're using a stainless steel skillet, this step is essential. The steam will help the eggs to remove the pan more easily) Once cool, cut into wedges and serve.
- *To clean the mushrooms, use a damp paper towel and wipe the caps. I've learned that it's best to start at the center of the cap and work your way to the edges to avoid peeling away some of the outer layer.
- **To wash leeks, trim the root end and dark green parts, cut in half lengthwise and slice into 1/2 inch piece crosswise. Wash thoroughly in a colander submerged in a bowl of water, lifting the colander out and replacing the water several times until the water is clear of dirt and debris. Drain and shake off excess water before using.
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