He worked overtime--a lot. He also worked holiday mornings (Thanksgiving, Easter.... even sometimes Christmas). For the most part, these were his deli jobs. He had one job for several years that had him on the night shift--as a fruit-veggie man. I'd remember him coming home to have some "dinner" in the morning right before I left school. He had little time left in the day for anything...
But still he squeezed time in for me--to go fishing and crabbing on the Hudson, to show me how to plant in the garden, to go row boating in a local park, or to cook. Yes, Dad cooked--and he was a far better cook than my Mom (there, I said it) for the Holiday meals especially. He made the best roast beef, fist-sized meatballs, ,amazing roasted "Virginia" ham for Christmas, and a huge turkey for Thanksgiving. He was an expert at carving meats--after all, he was a Deli Man.
But it was his simpler meals that I remember most.... the comfort food. One of these was his "Potatoes and Eggs". Simple, quick, tasty and belly filling. I'll be honest, I never knew that what Dad was making was called a frittata until I was a grown man. There's an Italian idiom used when someone has screwed something up badly... “hai fatto una frittata". It literally means "you've made an omelet", but it refers to how a frittata can quickly become a mess. I consider it a tribute to the casualness of this dish. You'll rarely find a frittata on a restaurant's menu in Italy simply because it's a dish made by people in their homes. You'll rarely make a frittata perfectly and the same each time. Some come out wonderfully intact and can be sliced like a cake, while others will need to be scooped up out of the pan and piled rustic style on the plate. No matter, it's still delicious comfort food.
In our house, we have "Potatoes and Eggs" every so often, mostly for a lazy Saturday lunch, although it can be an excellent colazione (breakfast). What I love about it is how fast you can throw it all together (especially if you use canned New Potatoes and don't have to boil fresh potatoes)... and how I can change it up a bit each time, depending on what leftovers I have handy. Here's a basic recipe, sticking closely to how my Dad would make it...
(9-10" frittata for 2-3 people... OK, maybe for 4 if you eat like birds. You need a 9-10" non stick fry pan.)
The Basic Recipe:
1 can of "New Potatoes" (Del Monte has good quality potatoes, diced, sliced or whole)
2 tablespoons of butter (for frying)
2 tablespoons of light olive oil (for frying)
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated (and more for topping off the frittata)
salt and pepper to taste
small bell pepper, diced or julienned
caramelized onions (you would need to prep these beforehand)
diced ham, smoked bacon, prosciutto, pancetta or Guanciale, (fried beforehand)
cherry tomatoes (halved) or sliced wedges of Campari style tomatoes
roughly grated fontina, mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese
black pitted olives
Preheat your oven to 425 F.
- Beat the eggs until a little foamy, then add salt and pepper. You can add the Parmesan cheese to the egg mixture now.
- Pre-heat your fry pan for a minute and then fry the onions on low-medium heat until barely translucent in the oil and butter (the oil prevents burning, the butter aides in browning).
- After the onions are ready, place your potatoes in the pan and saute until browned. If needed, add a pat more butter. You can use either diced or sliced New Potatoes, but you can also use the whole type if you dice, slice or crush them a bit beforehand. Keep tossing the pan to prevent burning the onions or the potatoes. (If you'd like a little more heat, sprinkle a bit of red pepper flakes on the potatoes).
- Before adding the potatoes, make sure the butter and oil hasn't dried up in the pan. If the pan looks dry, drizzle in some olive oil, then Turn up the heat to a medium high flame. Once the oil is hot again, add the egg mixture. Move the potatoes around and make sure the egg mixture covers the entire pan all the way to the edges.
- Let the potatoes and eggs fry for 4-6 minutes until the bottom has browned nicely. Use a spatula to check underneath and pass it around the edges making sure it will separate from the pan.
- There are three ways to cook the top side. One is to use a plate on top of the fry pan, then inverting the plate and pan, and then slide the frittata back into the pan. (This can break the frittata if you're not careful). Now my Dad used to flip these (flapjack style), and I used to also, but I've since learned (after some flipping disasters) that there is a better way. Just place the fry pan into the oven and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the top has browned. At this point, you might think about adding some grated fontina to melt on top.
- Remove the Potatoes and Eggs from the oven (USE AN OVEN MITT!) and let it cool down for a minute or two. Next, take a spatula and try to separate it from the pan. If you can get it to slide, use the spatula to help slide it onto a serving platter. If not, no worry.... simply serve it directly from the pan. Some of these turn out a bit messy, but they always still taste great.
You can serve a slice (or wedge) of your Potatoes and Eggs with sliced, toasted ciabatta or with full blown garlic bread. We've made a dinner out of this by making a tomato and chopped black olive bruschetta to serve along with the frittata. It's also nice when paired with a small bowl of soup. We tend to have it by itself with a dollop of a simple marinara sauce (OK... or the way my Dad would serve it--with Ketchup). Top it off with marinara and more grated Parmesan cheese. If you like, add a small glass of Chianti or even a bottle of beer. It's comfort food. It's fast food for the Italian kitchen. It's just damned good.