Monday, May 14, 2018

A Spring Potato Salad with Peas ... that’s just a little bit different…

I suppose that having kept a blog for over eight years…and having posted over 600 recipes…it is inevitable that I will someday inadvertently and unknowingly post a recipe twice.   It almost happened today.

This particular potato salad has been in my repertoire for many years.  I recently brought the class (“spring brunch”) in which the recipe originally appeared out of retirement.  While preparing to teach it again, I remade all of the recipes at home so they would be fresh in my mind.  I was struck by how much I liked the potato salad.  Then, it turned out to be a big hit with the class...much more so than I remembered.  It has been two weeks since I taught the class and during that time I have already made this salad again at least twice.  I decided this was an indication that I should share the recipe here.

Then, this morning, as I sat down to type, I had this niggling feeling that I might have posted it before.  Just in case, I decided to take a minute to check.  Sure enough…  I had.   Oops.

Rather than give up on the idea of a post entirely, I thought I would post the variation of the salad that we have been eating.  The salad as originally posted—and as I teach it—uses sugar snap peas.  The one we have been eating at home during the past couple of weeks uses shelling peas.  It is a variation worth knowing about.  So, here it is.  Whether you make this one—or the original with sugar snap peas…or maybe your own variation with asparagus …or haricot verts—it is delicious.  Enjoy!

Spring Potato Salad with Peas & Arugula

1 1/2 lbs. small waxy potatoes (Yellow Finn, Yukon Gold, Fingerling or Creamer-type)
2 T. red wine vinegar, divided
1 small to medium shallot, finely diced
1 t. Dijon Mustard
Salt & Pepper
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups green peas
3 oz. Arugula, rinsed, dried & stemmed as necessary
2 T. (or more) minced fresh chives
1 or 2 chive blossoms, if available

Scrub the potatoes.  Steam over simmering water until tender to the tip of a knife—20 minutes or so, depending on their age and size.  (If you prefer, you may instead cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain well.)  As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle halve or quarter them (depending on their size).  If using fingerling, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds.  Place the potatoes in a bowl and pour 1 T. of vinegar over them along with salt & pepper to taste.  Toss gently to combine.  Set aside for 10 minutes or so to allow the warm potatoes to absorb the vinegar.  Pour 1/4 cup of olive oil over the potatoes and fold in carefully.

While the potatoes are cooking, combine 1 T. of vinegar and the shallot in a small bowl; let sit for a few minutes to allow the vinegar to soften the shallots.  Whisk in the mustard.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of oil, adding it in a thin stream.  Taste and correct the seasoning and the vinegar balance—the vinaigrette should be fairly sharp. 

Blanch the peas in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender.  Drain and refresh under cold running water.  Pat dry and set aside. (If cooked ahead, refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

To serve the salad, place the arugula in a medium-sized bowl.  Season with salt & pepper and drizzle with a small amount of the vinaigrette.  Toss to coat.  Mound the dressed greens onto a serving platter.  Add the peas and herbs to the potatoes and toss.  Add a bit of dressing if necessary.  Taste and correct the seasoning.   Mound the potatoes and peas on top of the greens and scatter more herbs over all if you like (chive blossoms would be especially nice). 

Serves 4 to 6 as a side salad.  Serves 8 (or more) as part of a salad buffet.

Printable Version

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Coq au Riesling (Sautéed Chicken in Riesling Sauce)

For many years now I have been teaching a couple of classes that feature what I consider to be typical French bistro food:  Beef Daube, French apple tart, pot de crème, profiteroles with strawberry ice cream, tarte flambée, etc.  In the spring, I like to teach a class that includes a classic from the Alsace region of France:  Coq au Riesling (or Sautéed Chicken in Riesling Sauce).  Although this dish does not include ingredients that I typically associate with spring, I think the floral and acidic character that the wine gives to the sauce goes particularly well with asparagus.  So even though it is probably more often served in its homeland during the winter months (with red cabbage and spaetzle), I find myself thinking about it during the early, cooler days of spring.

Chicken in Riesling is an example of the classic, regional sautéed/braised chicken dishes that one finds all across France.  The method or preparation—brown, moisten and simmer—is fairly universal.  What separates each from the others—giving each its unique character and flavor—is the use of local and traditional ingredients.  In this case the particular wine (a dry Alsace Riesling) and a sauce enhanced with bacon and cream. Almost every version of this dish I have ever encountered also includes mushrooms.  And all include onions of some kind—most often pearl onions or leeks…but you will also find versions that use sliced shallots, or even just diced yellow onions.  I have seen versions that include carrots, but this seems to me to be an anomaly…and not very much in keeping with the fact that this is a “white” stew and really should be made with all white, beige/brown and pale green ingredients.

A finished half recipe...

I have posted two other recipes for French chicken sautés:  Poulet Basquaise from Southwestern France…and Poulet Valléed’Auge from Normandy.  Comparing these three examples is instructive.  It of course shows the similarity of method (mentioned above)…but it also shows how the personality of each dish is affected by how and when the “garnish” ingredients are added.  In the Chicken in Riesling the mushrooms and leeks are added at the beginning so they are cooked with the chicken…and remain in the sauce for service.  This way of incorporating the garnish lends a slightly rustic quality to the dish…and results in a dish that is a harmonious blending of the flavors of all the ingredients.  

In the Basque recipe (at least the version of it that I made) the peppers and ham that are cooked with the chicken are strained out before the sauce is finished.  Freshly cooked peppers and ham are then added just before service.  This creates a complex and refined sauce for a dish where the chicken, peppers and ham all have a distinct voice in the final dish.  

The Norman dish is a great example of one that straddles these two styles.  The mushrooms and shallots are cooked with the chicken…and left in the dish.  Then, freshly sautéed apples are added at the end with the cream.  This method gives the apples a prominent place in the final dish. 

I imagine there are cultural and practical reasons that these dishes came together in their respective styles...unfortunately I'm not familiar with the "whys."  As a cook though, I am fascinated by the differences in the results.

Of course I can’t end this post without commenting on the wine.  All Rieslings are not appropriate for this dish.  Riesling is a German grape.  But it is also grown in Alsace (which touches Germany…and due to its history is a bit of a cultural and culinary crossroads of the two countries).  German Rieslings are almost always sweet.  French are always dry.  This dish is French and should be made with a French-style dry Riesling…not a sweet German-style. You don’t have to use a French Riesling as long as the one you use is dry.  To make sure you are getting a dry one, look for the following on the label:  “Qualitätswein Trocken” on German bottles, “Dry” from Washington State.  Any  Riesling from New York State should be fine…and most Australian Rieslings from Clare Valley or Eden Valley will be dry as well. (Ask your purveyor if you are unsure.)  And finally, whatever you purchase, make sure you purchase enough so that you will have plenty to drink alongside this delicious dish.  It is of course the perfect match.

Coq au Riesling
(Chicken in Riesling)

2 slices thick cut bacon (2 to 3 oz.), cut cross-wise in 1/2-inch pieces
2 to 3 T. butter, divided
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 leeks (one if they are very large), white and pale green parts only, halved, sliced cross-wise into 1/2-inch pieces and rinsed in several changes of water—you should have 2 cups prepared leeks
1 1/2 c. Alsace-style Riesling (see note)
1 T. vegetable oil
A 3 1/2 lb. chicken, cut up (see note) or 3 lbs. chicken parts of your choice
Several sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 parsley stems
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 T. minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
lemon, if necessary
Salt & Pepper

Ingredients for a half recipe...

In a straight-sided sauté pan or wide enameled cast-iron pot, render the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon to a plate and increase the heat to medium-high.  Add enough butter to the pan to make 2 T. fat (if the bacon was very fatty, you will not need to add any butter).  Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft and browned—about 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and season with salt.  If the pan seems dry, add a bit more butter.  Add the leeks to the pan, along with a pinch of salt and cook until wilted, stirring frequently.  Don't let the leeks brown.  When the leeks have softened a bit (after about 5 minutes), add about 2/3 of the Riesling (a cup) to the pan and reduce by a third.  Set aside.

While the bacon, mushrooms and leeks are cooking heat a tablespoon of butter along with the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat.  Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper.  Add the chicken to the pan, skin side down, and brown all over, in batches if necessary to keep from crowding the pan.  Regulate the heat as necessary to maintain an active sizzle.  When the chicken is golden brown and the skin is crisp and well-rendered, transfer the chicken to a plate and pour off all of the fat.  Deglaze the pan with the remaining Riesling…bringing it to a simmer, reducing (by a third to a half), and scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan as the wine reduces.

Add the deglazings from the pan the chicken was sautéed in to the pan with the leeks and mushrooms.  Return the bacon and the chicken (skin side up), along with any accumulated juices, to the pan.  Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer and add the thyme, parsley stems and bay leaf.  Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid.  At this point you may either reduce the heat or transfer the pan to a 325° to 350° oven.  With either method, the goal is the maintenance of a gentle simmer.  You will note that there is only a small amount of liquid in the pan—perhaps coming a quarter to a third of the way up the sides of the meat and no more. 

When the white meat pieces are cooked through (to 150° or 155°…after about 15 minutes), remove them to a plate.  Continue to cook the remaining chicken until very tender and cooked through (a skewer inserted in the meat will not encounter resistance going in, or “grab” coming out)—another 10 to 20 minutes or so.

Remove the dark meat pieces to the plate with the white meat.  Remove the thyme, parsley and bay and discard.  Add the cream to the pan and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and a little lemon, if necessary.  Reduce the heat to very low, swirl in the parsley and return the chicken to the pan.  Cover the pan and briefly allow the chicken to heat through. 

Coq au Riesling is traditionally served with Spaetzle, rice, noodles or steamed potatoes.

Serves 4 to 6

  • Riesling is a German grape. In Germany it is almost always made into sweet wines. French Rieslings from Alsace are always dry wines. This dish requires a dry Riesling. French Rieslings can be very expensive…and, in the states, sometimes difficult to find. You may use any dry Riesling for this dish. When looking for a dry Riesling, choose one labeled as follows: Alsace, “Qualitätswein Trocken” from Germany, “Dry” from Washington State, any from New York State, and most Australian Rieslings from Clare Valley or Eden Valley. 
  • The chicken may be cut into 4 or 8 serving pieces (or you may use parts, as noted in the recipe). For these "Sauté-style" stews, the French traditionally cut the chicken into 8 pieces—2 legs, 2 thighs and 4 breast pieces. The four breast pieces are obtained by taking each split breast and cutting it cross-wise into 2 equal pieces. You may also simply cut the chicken into quarters—2 leg-thigh joints and 2 breasts. For both methods, the first joint of the wing may be left attached to the breasts. My preferred way to prepare this dish is with 2 breasts plus 3 leg thigh-joints or 6 thighs. I remove the breast meat from the bone before returning it to the pan to reheat it for service. The dish will then serve 6, each person getting a third of a breast and one piece of dark meat. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Salmon Baked with Fennel-Orange Butter….and served with the green vegetables of spring

I seem to eat more salmon in the spring than during any other time of the year.  I would love to say this is because of some innate hunger that I possess for all things seasonal (fresh wild salmon begins to hit the market during the spring), but sadly, I know this isn’t true.  I have no real long term experiential connections with the Pacific Northwest or the North Atlantic.  I think I have to admit that I just like the combination of the colors of salmon pink and spring greens on my plate.  It is so lovely to look at…and therefore it makes me happy.  And because of the reality that foods that share a season frequently have an affinity for one another, salmon is delicious with the green foods (asparagus, peas, fava beans, artichokes, greens….) of spring and early summer.  Beautiful and delicious...the ultimate combination.

Recently I served some salmon with the early spring partners I wrote about in my last post (asparagus and mushrooms), along with some of the first beautiful spinach to make its way to my local farmers’ market this year.  I tied it all together with a compound butter flavored with fennel and orange—smearing the salmon with it before baking…and finishing the asparagus with it too.  

If you are new to fish cookery…or just don’t like the aroma that the frying of fish leaves in your home…then you will love the technique of baking fish with a compound butter.  I wrote about it for the first time several summers ago…and it is a method I turn to again and again.  Once you put the fish in the oven, you can pretty much ignore it (no worrying about regulating pan temperature, flipping the fish over or possible sticking...) and focus on the rest of the meal.  It comes out of the oven moist and flavorful (bathed in whatever aromatic flavor you have packed into your butter).  Most of the greasy particles (the source of the smell) remain trapped in the oven.   

This super simple technique makes this particular dish--which admittedly looks like it has a lot going on--surprisingly quick to prepare.  Even including making the compound butter from scratch…and stemming and washing the spinach…I was able to make this meal for two in under an hour.  If you decide to make it for more than two, it might take a bit longer…but not much.  Beautiful…delicious… and quick to make—you can’t ask for much more than that.

Salmon with Fennel-Orange Butter,
Spinach, Mushrooms, Asparagus & Hazelnuts

2 4- to 6-oz. portions skin-on salmon
2 to 3 T. fennel-orange butter
6 oz. asparagus, trimmed (3 oz. trimmed weight) and cut on a long diagonal
4 oz. crimini (or other favorite) mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 T. olive oil
1/2 T. butter
1/2 c. thinly sliced spring onions (about 3), use equal amounts of the white and green
5 oz. stemmed spinach, rinsed in several changes of water and roughly chopped if leaves are large
1 1/2 to 2 T. chopped toasted and skinned hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 425°F.   Place the salmon skinned side down on a small oiled, rimmed baking sheet.  Smear the top of each filet with 1/2 to 3/4 T. butter and season with salt & pepper.  Set aside.

Blanch the asparagus in a medium-sized sauce pan in boiling salted water until just tender—about 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain and spread the asparagus on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.  Set aside the (now empty) saucepan used for blanching the asparagus. 

In a medium sauté pan set over moderately high heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and tender—about 5 minutes.  Decrease the heat to medium and add a half tablespoon of butter to the pan.  Add the spring onions along with a pinch of salt and cook until tender—about 2 to 3 minutes. 

While the onions cook, place the salmon in the oven.

When the onions are tender, add the spinach to the pan (if there is no water clinging to the leaves from a recent washing, add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan with the spinach).  Cook, turning occasionally with tongs until the spinach is collapsed and tender.  If there is a lot of liquid left in the pan, increase the heat slightly until the excess liquid evaporates. Set aside and keep warm until the salmon is ready.

Check on the salmon—I like mine slightly under medium, so I start checking mine after about 8 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish.  I like to pull it when the white proteins have begun to become visible on the sides of the fish…or when an instant read thermometer reads about 115°F (or just under).

Remove the salmon from the oven.  Melt a tablespoon of the compound butter over moderate heat in the pan the asparagus was cooked in.  Add the asparagus and heat until sizzling.  Add the hazelnuts and toss. 

Divide the spinach-mushroom mixture between two plates.  Using a wide thin spatula, lift the salmon off of the baking sheet (the skin will have stuck and will remain on the baking sheet as you slide your spatula under the fish).  Place the fish on the bed of spinach.  Divide the asparagus and hazelnut mixture between the two plates, mounding it on top of the fish and allowing it to cascade naturally over the sides.  Serve immediately.

Fennel-Orange Butter

Zest of half an orange (about 1 1/2 to 2 t.)
Juice of one orange (about 1/3 c. juice)
rounded 1/4 t. fennel seed, toasted and crushed/ground to a powder
a small squeeze of lemon juice (1/2 to 3/4 t), to taste
4 T. room temperature butter
Salt & pepper

Strain the orange juice into a small non­reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently cook until reduced and very thick. Let cool to room temperature.

Place the reduced juice in a small bowl with the fennel, lemon juice and butter and cream together.  Season to with salt & pepper—adding more lemon juice if the butter seems flat tasting or too sweet. Set aside.  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Early Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Peas & Mushrooms

It isn’t really “early” spring anymore.  We are a full third of the way in.  Usually I would call that mid-spring.  But this year, here in the mid-western United States, it still looks and feels like the very early days of spring—chilly and wet, with new bright green grass….and the very beginnings of green visible in the trees.  In most years we have had a full display of the glories of the spring blooming trees and bulbs by now.  So far this year I’ve only seen daffodils and the cold-hardy hellebores in my garden.

I have been grateful to have had the luxury of leaving the detritus of fall and winter on my flower beds longer than usual.  But as I have begun to work in the garden during the last few days, I am aware that spring is going to pop the minute we get warm.  And when it does, it’s going to happen at hyper-speed.  Other things that need attention will, for a short while, receive quite a bit less.  Which brings me to today’s post.

I don’t know when this quick little pasta appeared in my repertoire, but I can find pictures of it…and variations thereof…dating back several years.  I’m not sure why I never shared it before.  I always begin to make it sometime in March—right about the time the asparagus from California starts showing up in the grocery store…and the little bags of fresh peas start showing up at Trader Joe’s.  During the very early days of spring, when I’m super tired of winter’s vegetables, these two items are great to have on hand…and I use them regularly for our evening meals.  They are wonderful with mushrooms, and the three in combination are perfect in pilafs, salads, frittatas…and quick pastas.

This pasta should be seen as a template for a basic, spring vegetable, pantry pasta.  You can replace the thyme with tarragon…or even rosemary.  The dish is nice with a little parsley thrown in at the end too.  Dill would also be delicious added at the end—it just isn’t something I usually have in my pantry.  I happened to have pancetta when I made it this time, but if you have prosciutto, you can use that.   Just start the scallions/spring onions in a bit more oil or butter and add the julienne (or minced) prosciutto with the asparagus and peas.  If you have fava beans, they would be delicious in place of the peas.  If you need a bit more protein (because you’ve spent the whole day digging, mulching and hauling in the garden….or straining your brain and your patience over your taxes…), this pasta would make a great bed for a nice piece of salmon…or a boneless chicken breast. 

Besides being delicious, versatile and an early harbinger of the delicacies of the spring market to come, this pasta is very quick to make—from raw ingredients to table in about 30 minutes.  I guess you could say it’s an all around perfect dinner for even the busiest of spring days. 

Orecchiette with Mushrooms, Asparagus & Peas

1 T. olive oil, divided
1 oz. minced pancetta
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 T. butter, divided
2 to 3 spring onions or scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1/3 to 1/2 c.—use equal quantity of white and green portion)
1/2 T. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 c. peas
2 oz. (trimmed weight) asparagus, cut on a short diagonal 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick (to make 1/2 cup)
1/2 c. chicken stock or water
1/2 lb. orecchiette
1/4 c. (3/4 oz.) finely grated Parmesan

Render the pancetta in 1/2 T. of the olive oil in a wide sauté pan (large enough to hold the vegetables in a snug single layer and also accommodate the cooked pasta) set over medium low heat.  When then pancetta is crisp (after about five minutes) remove to a plate.  Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium high.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until browned and tender (about five minutes).  Season with salt & pepper and reduce the heat to medium. 

Add a half tablespoon of the butter to the pan.  Add the spring onions, along with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally until wilted and tender—about 2 to 3 minutes.  

Add the thyme, peas, asparagus and the cooked pancetta, stirring to coat the vegetables in the onions and fat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Add the stock and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cover the pan, leaving the lid slightly ajar and continue to simmer gently—checking occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t evaporated—until the vegetables are just tender…about 6 to 8 minutes.  Set aside until the pastas is ready.

About the time you add the stock to the vegetables, drop the pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water.  Cook until the noodles are al dente.  Drain the pasta, saving a half cup or so of the pasta cooking liquid.  Add the pasta to the vegetables and toss to combine.  Cut the remaining butter into 3 or 4 pieces and add.  Toss and stir the pasta until the butter has emulsified into the sauce and the noodles and vegetables are coated in a light, buttery film of sauce.  If the pasta seems dry, add enough pasta water to obtain a fluid sauce.   You may add some of the cheese to the pasta, tossing/stirring to combine—or save it all to pass at the table.

Pasta serves 2 to 3.  Recipe is easily doubled—simply choose a pan wide enough to accommodate the vegetables and pasta as described above. 

Printable Version

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Simple Mushroom & Green Vegetable Frittata for Spring

As we were enjoying a mushroom and asparagus frittata for dinner the other night, I found myself thinking:  “this is so delicious…I should put it on my blog.”  This thought was immediately followed by the thought that I had probably posted way too many frittatas over the years and so I probably didn’t need to post this one too.  But then I looked at the recipe index and discovered that on balance, I really hadn’t posted that many frittatas.  It just happens that we eat them a lot (I love them)…so I figured that I must have posted a bunch.   And since I haven’t…   And since this one is just perfect for spring…  I decided to share it after all…along with a few thoughts on my basic frittata method.

The method for this one is the same that I always employ.  I cook my filling ingredients—in this case sautéed mushrooms and blanched asparagus—fold them into some beaten eggs, pour the whole thing into an oiled and very hot non-stick sauté pan, cook over moderately high heat while simultaneously shaking and stirring the contents of the pan, let it sit for a minute or two over low heat to sort of solidify and firm up…and then finish it under the broiler (to give it a bit of puff and a nice golden brown surface).  The whole operation from the time the eggs hit the pan to the time you pull it out from under the broiler takes less than five minutes.

I wouldn’t be surprised though to learn that this is not how you make frittatas.   It seems to be an unusual method.  I have only seen it described in two cookbooks:  Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking and The Union Square Café Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano. 

I have been thinking about all of this because I will be teaching this frittata in a class this week.  I always teach this rather fast and furious method, but it has occurred to me that the other, more usual, method (pouring the eggs over the filling ingredients in a moderately hot non-stick pan and then transferring it to the oven where it cooks for 10 minutes or longer) might be a better place for the frittata novice to begin.  You have to be confident and move with speed and purpose if you are going to make it with the method I  describe above.  The slower, baked method seems a little less intimidating.

So in preparation for this class, I made this frittata both ways (and have included instructions for both in the recipe).  The good news is that it is delicious using either method.  But I have to say that in my opinion the fast method produces a lighter and more tender final result.  This may be just me.  I have a chef friend who uses the baked method—and her frittatas are always tender and delicious.  You should of course use the method you prefer…but if you have never tried the quick method, you should give it a try at least once.  Maybe even do your own test—making the same one using both different methods so you can compare and contrast.

If you are new to frittatas this one would be a great one with which to begin.  It is simple…with not too many ingredients.  If you know how to sauté mushrooms and blanch green vegetables, you are most of the way there.    I happen to love the combination of eggs with asparagus and mushrooms, but this frittata will work with pretty much any cooked green vegetable.  It is in fact a great way to celebrate and enjoy all of the lovely spring vegetables that will be appearing soon at your farmers’ markets…not to mention the new spring onions and beautiful local eggs that will be right there with them. Since the parade of spring vegetables is just getting started, there will be many opportunities to hone your frittata making skills…and choose the method you prefer…during the weeks to come. 

Asparagus & Mushroom Frittata

This frittata is a template for any mushroom and spring, green vegetable frittata.  Feel free to  substitute blanched peas and fava beans, diced/sliced cooked zucchini, or turned, cooked (poached, braised or roasted) and sliced or diced artichoke bottoms for the asparagus…or use a mixture of two or more.  Aim for 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked green vegetables.

3/4 lb. medium asparagus, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1-inch lengths on   a short diagonal (about 1 3/4 c.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 to 6 T. good olive oil, divided
4 to 5 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 2 cups)
1/2 T. butter
1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
6 to 7 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 oz. Fontina, cut in a 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup)
1/3 c. (1 oz.) finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan or a mix of the two

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.  Add the asparagus and cook until tender—about 2 to 4 minutes.  (It is better for a frittata to slightly over cook the vegetables rather than to undercook them.)  Scoop out the asparagus and spread on paper or kitchen towels to cool. 

Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium high to high heat.  Add a tablespoon or so of the oil.  When the pan is hot, add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and caramelized.  Reduce the heat slightly and add the butter.  When the butter has melted, add the green onions to the pan along with a pinch of salt and cook until wilted and tender.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until ready to make the frittata.    

When ready to prepare the frittata, return the pan of mushrooms to moderately high heat and add the asparagus.  Heat the vegetables through while you preheat the broiler and heat the frittata pan.  Place a 10-inch non-stick sauté pan (I prefer French steel pans) over moderately high heat.  Break the eggs into a bowl and beat just to break them up.  Season with salt (I find that about a half teaspoon of kosher salt is about right…but you should adjust to suit your taste) and pepper.  Drizzle a small amount of oil over the hot vegetables and toss to combine.  Fold the hot vegetables and the cubed cheese into the eggs.   Add a tablespoon or so of oil to the skillet. When the skillet is hot (the oil should be almost smoking), carefully swirl the pan to make sure the oil is coating the bottom and part way up the sides of the pan.  Add the egg mixture.  The eggs should begin to set immediately.  Shake the pan back and forth with one hand, while with the other you alternately stir in the center and lift at the edges (in order to let the uncooked egg run underneath those that have coagulated) using a heat-proof rubber spatula.  Continue cooking—stirring, shaking and lifting—until the eggs are mostly cooked but still a bit liquid-y (there will be large curds of coagulated egg and some liquid eggs). This should only take a minute or two.  

Reduce the heat to very low and allow the frittata to sit without stirring for a minute or so.  During this time, use your spatula to even up and sort of pat the eggs and vegetables into a nice even cake, running the spatula around the edge occasionally—dribbling in some more oil around the edges if the eggs appear to be dry and sliding the pan back and forth a couple of times to make sure the frittata isn't sticking.  This final couple of minutes of stove top cooking will give the frittata the opportunity to set up into a solid cake. 

When the frittata is mostly set, place the skillet under the broiler and broil just until the surface is no longer moist—about 30 seconds.  Sprinkle the cheese over the surface and broil until the cheese melts—another 30 seconds.  Slide the finished frittata onto a platter or cutting board and let sit for a minute or two.  Cut into wedges and serve.  The frittata may also be served at room temperature.  Serves 4 as an entrée, or 8 as part of a buffet.

Notes & Variations:
  • This frittata is delicious with the addition of fresh herbs: minced parsley, picked thyme, chopped tarragon or finely sliced basil. Add the thyme with the scallions. Add the other herbs to the eggs with the vegetables. 
  • You may use any green spring vegetable along with—or instead of—the asparagus: blanched peas or fava beans, sautéed/roasted zucchini and poached/braised artichoke bottoms are all particularly nice. Aim for 1 1/2 to 2 cups total volume of cooked vegetable. 
  • If you like, add a 2 or 3 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in 1/4-inch strips. Add with the asparagus to the mushrooms when you are heating the vegetables through. 
  • Alternate, baked method: Heat the frittata pan over moderate heat, add the oil and then the cooked vegetables. Heat the vegetables through (on the stove top…or in the preheated oven). Pour in the beaten, seasoned eggs. Make sure the vegetables are evenly distributed. Scatter the cubed Fontina over all, giving the pan a small jiggle to help the cheese settle in. Transfer to a 400° oven and bake until the eggs are almost set…about 10 minutes. Scatter the parmesan or pecorino over the surface and run under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Let the frittata set for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
  • The asparagus in this recipe are peeled so they will cook more evenly and so the diner can easily cut through the frittata without running into the tougher bits of skin. If you have never peeled asparagus, check out my basics post.  
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