Caramelized Onion Frittata
One of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen are eggs.
Whatever preparation you make with eggs, whatever international recipe you follow, the results are always delicious. If you add the fact that eggs are easy to buy worldwide and relatively cheap, nutritious, low in calories, and can be kept in the fridge for several days, you have found an ally for your everyday cooking needs.
Now more than ever as we have been reassured by our family doctors that for healthy persons consuming an average of 1 egg a day is fine and does not affect bad cholesterol levels (my doctor told me so at least!).
Frittata is one of those dishes that has always existed. It’s perfect for the last-minute lunch, can be used to incorporate all kinds of vegetable leftovers and even pasta. It can be served warm or cold, thus easy to transport under the shape of a sandwich or for a picnic at the beach.
Often you hear the Frittata described as a crustless quiche: don’t be fooled, those are two different things. The French quiche is more custard-like, uses a lot of heavy cream and cheese, and it is always cooked in the oven. Italian Frittata is leaner and more set texture wise, and it is usually cooked in an oiled skillet and flipped at 2/3d of the cooking process. That’s by the way where the name comes from: frittata from “fritto”, meaning fried.
Personally, I love all kinds of frittata with vegetables. It works perfectly well with asparagus, zucchini, broccoli and so on. Today we will try the humblest version of all: frittata with caramelized onions. Another typical dish from the “cucina povera”, or “peasant cuisine”, it will leave you and your guests speechless for the perfect balance of flavors!
For 6 portions – 9” or 10” diameter skillet
6 yellow onions, medium size
1 & 1/2 cups of water
6 eggs, large, organic
½ cup milk
½ cup parmigiano cheese
Fresh herbs: your choice of parsley, or chives, or mint, or basil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1. Start by cooking the onions, as it takes a long time. Peel the onions, cut them in half and slice them thin, by hand or with the help of the food processor equipped with the slicer disk attachment.
2. Put the sliced onions in a non-stick pot. Add 1 & 1/2 cups of water and a couple of tablespoons of EV Olive Oil. Salt and pepper. Mix, cover, and turn on a medium flame.
It will take approximately one hour to cook. Stir from time to time. When the water is almost completely evaporated and the onions look soft, remove the lid, and turn on the flame to the maximum, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula scraping the side as needed. You need to caramelize the onions to extract all the sweetness. To do so, they must almost burn, becoming a nice light brown color. At that point there is no liquid left and they will be very thick. You will have approximately one cup and a half of cooked onions left.
3. While the onions are cooking, wash and chop the herbs you choose to add, grate the peel of half a lemon; mix the eggs with a whisk, add salt and pepper, add the milk and the parmigiano cheese, stir.
4. When the onions have cooled down add them to the egg mixture and stir with a spatula.
5. Turn on the flame under the nonstick skillet, drizzle with oil until the whole surface is covered, warm it up until it starts sizzling.
6. Pour the egg mixture in the skillet, distribute evenly if needed, lower the flame and cover. After 5 minutes, with the help of a spatula, scramble the center of the frittata a little bit so that the liquid part gets in touch with the bottom of the skillet: it will not affect the look of the frittata. Also, detach gently the borders of the frittata and let the liquid poodles flow towards the wall of the skillet, so that the mixture stiffens up.
7. When you see that the bottom of the frittata has reached a nice dark brown color, about after 10-12 minutes, remove from the flame, put an aluminum or plastic flat plate (like a cake plate or a pizza pan) inversed on top of the skillet. Holding the skillet with your weak hand, and resting your strong hand on the inversed plate, flip the frittata and put it down. Clean the skillet with a paper towel (in case some egg mixture is sticking), drizzle again with a tiny bit of oil, warm it up, and gently glide the frittata in the hot skillet, with the cooked side up. It will only take 3-4 minutes to cook this side, as most of the cooking happens on the first side.
8. Repeat the same operation with the flat serving plate: carefully lay it on top of the skillet, and flip the frittata once more.
9. It can be served immediately, or later at room temperature. Garnish with more herbs and serve with a salad for a great lunch or light dinner.
A Few Notes:
- If you do not have a flat plate to flip the frittata you can use the clean glass plate of your micro-oven, or a flat stainless-steel lid.
- Frittata can be used for sandwiches: in this case, make it in a bigger skillet so that it will result a bit thinner.
- You can make caramelized onions ahead of time and keep them refrigerated up to three days.
- You can freeze caramelized onions to have them handy for any other dish you can think of: a tablespoon adds deepness of flavor, a hint of sweetness, and you don’t even need to reveal your secret!
Elisabetta Ciardullo is the founder of Think Italian! Events. As Personal Chef she is an ambassador of the Italian cuisine and culture, bringing it into the private homes of Americans, as well as to many corporate clients in Los Angeles.