No.10: Spinach & Artichoke Frittata (with Pancetta)
One of my obsessions is the muffin pans. Its versatility is endless – I use it for baking but also for cooking in general – on rare occasion, as a shape holding container for my steamed pork buns. It also seem to keep my potions in control and I can carry my own food on the road; avoiding to stop by my favorite deli to get that awesome egg sandwich in the morning and thinking after… What’s in this thing??? So a few years back, I started to make eggs in the muffin pan. I think it might have been very popular method to cook small meals in the muffin pan by then, and it was a natural flow for me to experiment.
frittata [frih-TAH-tuh] An Italian OMELET that usually has the ingredients mixed with the eggs rather than being folded inside, as with a French omelet. It can me flipped or the top can be finished under a broiling unit. An omelet is cooked quickly over moderately high heat and , after folding has a flat-sided half-oval shape. A frittata is firmer because it’s cooked very slowly over low heat, and round because it isn’t folded. ~ Herbst, Sharon Tyler and Ron Herbst. The New Food Lover’s Companion. 4th ed. New York: Barron’s, 2007. Print. p. 276
Frittata, what I call a cousin of an omelet, comes from the derived Italian word, friggere, which means to fry. So it should be “fried” not “baked.” This explains why it usually made in the frying pan/skillet with oil requiring flipping. I broke that rule by baking but with a generous amount of oil in each cup of the muffin pan to create similar environment as “frying.” The essential main ingredient is eggs, usually many of them. By mixing other ingredients, such as herbs, veggies, cheese, and meats, it creates totally different experience to the egg eating. And it becomes this gorgeous all-in-one meal. Well, hello, eggs.
I made Frittata with different veggies in the past although there’s one ingredient that I always came back to, Spinach. I grew up with a lot of them as my mom used to say I can’t be like the Popeye the Sailor Man if I don’t eat them. The best combination I’ve found was the spinach and artichoke, which seems to be getting rave reviews around me, and have been expanding my experiments around those two ingredients. Past couple of years, I’ve included caramelized onions, and more recently, pancetta. As a bacon lover, I used good amount of bacon with no reservation for a while but I ran into the problem when I used this fancy-pants bacon with a strong hickory flavor. I felt like throwing a tantrum. So substituting to pancetta gave me the pork flavor without the smokiness of the bacon that often has, without sacrificing the taste.
Now, this frittata solves a couple of problems for me; it can be made ahead, and it’s a real food – I know what’s in it. It’s a protein-rich quick breakfast without a stop at the deli.
Adapted from various sources
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + more to coat the muffin pan
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts*
- 2 cup chopped baby spinach
- 1/3 cup minced pancetta
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup cheese mix (Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese) or use a cheese of your choice
- Salt and white pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F and oil the muffin pan generously with the olive oil.
Heat the sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, butter and minced garlic over high heat. Add onions and sauté over medium heat for 20 minutes until golden. Caramelized onions should look pasty. Add panceta and sauté until panceta releases the fat. Add artichoke and sauté for 1 minute, then spinach and white pepper and continue to sauté until spinach is welted, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, set the pan aside to cool.
Meanwhile, put eggs and milk in a large bowl, add cheese mix (or cheese of your choice), lightly whisk again. Put the spinach mixture into the bowl and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the muffin pan. Each cup should be filled about 2/3 of the way. Place the pan in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Bring down the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Do a quick toothpick test to confirm the doneness - insert a tooth pick into the center of the frittata and a tooth pick should come out clean when done. Each frittata should be nicely golden and not burnt.
Cool the frittata in the pan. Serve warm.
I used frozen artichoke hearts, chopped and measured to 1 cup. You can use the ones in the jar as long as it is in the water; the canned and bottled versions are often marinated. You want to use the NON-marinated artichoke hearts here, otherwise the frittata will have a strong vinegar flavor. The spinach, artichoke & pancetta mixture can be used in other things, such as warm spinach dip, pasta, or even rice pilaf. When storing in the fridge, I completely cool the frittata in the muffin pan and store them in the air tight container. I usually don't leave them in the fridge for more than 2 days but can be frozen. Reheat in the microwave or convection oven before serving.