Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Non Frittata

Lidia Bastianich's Frittata with Asparagus with Scallions is not exactly a frittata. But then, when you're Lidia Bastianich--the real doyenne of Italian cooking, as far as I'm concerned, whose recipes have never failed me--you can call a mess of gently scrambled eggs, lightly cooked asparagus, crisped up prosciutto and melted onions whatever you want.

In the recipe's introduction, Lidia explains, "This is a different sort of frittata, not the neat golden round of well-set eggs that's probably most familiar. Here the eggs are in the skillet for barely a minute, just long enough to gather in soft, loose folds, filled with morsels of asparagus and shreds of prosciutto." It's a pretty brilliant combination, actually, and who cares if it's a far cry from the perfectly pan-shaped version? My lackluster supermarket was out of scallions, so I used a large onion, which turned out fine. Next time, however, I will definitely use a nonstick skillet, as my stainless steel one is still showing evidence of the frittata-non-frittata (need to get my hands on some of this).

After being away from home for awhile, this was the perfect dinner: warm, homey and uncomplicated. I'm not going to turn my back on the traditional frittata, but I'll surely turn to Lidia's version again.--S

Frittata with Asparagus and Scallions/Frittata Asparagi e Scalogno

Serves 4 as a light meal or 6 as an appetizer

1 lb fresh, thin asparagus spears
4 oz prosciutto or bacon, thick slices with ample fat (about 4 slices)
1/2 lb scallions
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
8 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Snap off the tough bottom stubs of the asparagus, peel the bottom few inches of each spear, and cut them crosswise in 1 1/2" pieces. Slice prosciutto or bacon into strips, or lardoons, about 1 inch long and 1/3" wide. Trim the scallions, and cut crosswise into 1" pieces.
2. Pour the olive oil into the skillet, scatter in the lardoons, and set over medium heat. When the strips are sizzling and rendering fat, toss in the cut asparagus, and roll and toss them over a few times. Cover the skillet, and cook, still over moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the asparagus is slightly softened, 5 minutes or so.
3. Scatter the scallion pieces in the pan, season with a couple pinches of salt, and toss the vegetables and lardoons together. Cover the skillet, and cook, shaking the pan and stirring occasionally, until the scallions and asparagus are soft and moist, 7 or 8 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs thoroughly with the remaining salt and generous grinds of black pepper.
5. When the vegetables are steaming in their moisture, uncover the skillet, raise the heat, and cook, tossing, for a minute or so, until the water has evaporated and the asparagus and scallions seem about to color.
6. Quickly spread them out in the pan, and pour the eggs over at once. Immediately begin folding the eggs over with the spatula, clearing the sides and skillet bottom continuously, so the eggs flow and coagulate around the vegetables and lardoons.
7. When all the eggs are cooked in big soft curds—in barely a minute—take the skillet off the heat. Tumble the frittata over a few more times to keep it loose and moist. Spoon portions onto warm plates, and serve hot and steaming.

Recipe courtesy of Lidia's Italy

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