lunch, Meat Recipes

Prosciutto, Spinach and Basil Frittata

August 4, 2008


This is the Frittata that nearly didn’t make it. At the weekends I have recently been tormenting myself with what to cook for lunch. We normally get Drake (our son) down for a nap, which can last from 30mins to 3 hours depending on… er, depending on god knows to be honest.

So what normally entails is a rather fast lunch, so that we can get on and do something whilst he is sleeping. Often it is one of us run to the grocery store. If I have been a really slack bastard through the week and haven’t made my shopping list for groceries, then I am doing that. We have also been meaning to clear out the garage so we can get some exercise gear in there. Needless to say, the gear is still boxed up……

We want something fast, but have been bored to heck with sandwiches. Often one evening I will cook up a bunch of staples that work great in sandwiches, that will last a few days. Onion/fennel confit is one. The pickled shallots is another. Just little sidelines that really dress up a sandwich. But sandwiches just aren’t doing it anymore.

Sometimes you just need something eggy. But not heavy eggy. Light as a cloud eggy. With prosciutto, because as we know – Pork makes everything taste better! Drum roll… bring on the Fritatta! The classic Italian “omelette” if you will. The main difference here really is that instead of being cooked completely on the stove top, you cook it in the oven and broiler as well. The oven stage makes the whole thing raise up just beautifully, which helps with the lightness. The broiler makes it pretty 😀

So why did it nearly not make it? It was my own stupid bloody fault really. I have to try and screw up a good thing. This time it was with photography. I shoot all my food photography in our sun room (a room with a lot of windows). I never thought I would ever complain about too much light.. but it has too much light. Too much ambient light that is. It is really hard to get any kind of directionality to the light, even when your shot is right next to a window.

Now, I could go and put card over some windows before I shoot. That would be possible. However, with a 19 month old running around, you kinda know how that is going to end up. I started to look around the house for somewhere else to shoot. I ended up (on Danika’s recommendation I have to add) trying out the garage to shoot in. With the door up, I get great directional light which I soften off with a sheet of vellum. A white card acts as a great bounce, which gives me good fill light.

The perfect solution. It is also away from the little fingers of Drake – so I can setup before I start to cook, get everything perfect, and leave it without worry. I am certainly going to do this in the future.

So, what’s the problem you ask? And why the hell are you making such a meal out of telling it? you say. Well, the problem is the temperature. The garage is in the basement, which is 10degrees cooler than the rest of the house. This wouldn’t matter so much for seafood or meat – but something that comes straight out the oven, and has to stay warm otherwise it sinks like a stone… That is a problem!

My first set of photos for this bad boy were really bad. The thing was as flat as a pancake. So, I made another one. Yum. And instead shot that where I normally do – in a nice WARM sunny room. The lighting is worse, but the food looks better. And it is all about the food!

Right – back the food. A really great tasting FAST lunch. Seriously fast in fact. 15 minutes and this was done. Including chopping, and photos. The prosciutto added a nice salty edge, and made it taste a little more hearty. The basil gave a great floral note, and I er, like spinach with my eggs – that is why it is in there.

Really simple, and really fast to make.

If you are serving this for a few friends, it is pretty cool to cook it in a rustic dish. I LOVE cast iron for that. But eggs in cast iron can be tricky. Since the pan can get seriously hot, and hold that heat for a while, you do have to be careful not to get the pan too hot, otherwise you will burn your eggs. And that just plain tastes nasty, and you will end up with a swamp donkey of a frittata.

If you don’t have a cast iron pan… get one. They are amazing. But don’t go to Crate and Barrel and spend $100 on one either. Bugger off down the local Goodwill (or your thrift store of choice). They will most likely have a bunch all for less than 10 bucks. Don’t worry about the condition of them either.. You know how they say that if there was a nuclear fallout the only thing that would survive would be rats? Well, that should be rats and cast iron skillets. They are indestructible. If the surface looks a bit crappy, that will clean up with some Bon Ami and a good scratch pad. If it is really bad, use some wire wool.

Then, all you have to do is season it. Pour in about 1/2” of olive oil, and crank up some heat under it. When the oil gets hotter than a cashmere codpiece, let it stand really hot for 5 minutes or so (oil smoking), and pour out the oil. You can even wipe it gently if you want. Bingo. Seasoned. You can also bung said pan with oil in a 325F oven for 30 minutes too, if that is easier.

Prosciutto, Spinach and Basil Frittata (serves 2)

4 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

small handful of grated cheddar – preferably Irish or British

tiny handful of parmesan cheese

4 slices of prosciutto, roughly chopped up

5 basil leaves, cut into a thin chiffonade

handful of spinach leaves

freshly ground black pepper

Turn your oven on to 425F.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk until combined. Add in the cheese, and mix to combine. Season with the black pepper (a good pinch). We aren’t going to add any salt, the prosciutto will take care of the saltiness.

In your oven safe skillet, cook the prosciutto in a little oil, until crisp. Remove the prosciutto from the pan. Add the spinach to the pan, and keep it moving. When it has just wilted, remove from the pan and coarsely chop.

Into the same pan, pour the egg mixture. Toss in the prosciutto, basil and spinach. Gently mix. Heat over a low/medium heat until areas start to thicken (the egg cooks). When these cooked areas start to form, bung the pan into the oven.

Cook in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the whole thing has just set. To check – reach into the oven (using a towel) shake the pan a little. If the middle of the frittata wobbles, then it isn’t set yet.

When the frittata has just set, crank your oven onto broil. Put this pan straight under the broiler, and broil to give a slightly browned top.

Cut into slices, and serve with a great tomato salad.

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  • nina August 4, 2008 at 5:40 am

    Oh I can relate to your story. A perfect meal has been buggered up so many times, because we had to eat it cold or re-heat it….just for the perfect shot! And compared to your shots, mine is not even perfect at all!!
    Luckily for you, frittata is as good cold as it is hot.

  • andreea August 4, 2008 at 9:20 am

    i wish i’d have a sun room: )
    love the story. totally agree with the cast iron pan. now tell me more about that intriguing cork-pan-holder?! 🙂

  • Y August 4, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I love fritatas as a great quick and easy meal. Too bad the boy isn’t too keen on them, so I haven’t actually cooked one in ages.

  • matt wright August 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Andreea – the pan holder was an idea I completely half-inched out of a magazine. Just get yourself a bunch of corks. If you have some alcoholic friends, that will make that stage go much faster. Now, bugger off down you favorite home improvement store and get some of those metal pipe ties (the ones that you tighten down using a screwdriver). Make yourself a nice round of corks, put the pipe tie around it, and tighten down. For this trivet I used two pipe ties connected together – just to make it larger.

  • Brittany August 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    I love both frittatas (I have absolutely NO problem eating them cold- the next day even..) and cast iron! Now if we could only agree on the buttermilk : )

    I also love the wine cork trivet…you are so damn creative.

  • Judy August 4, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Great looking frittata! I love my cast iron pan for these!

  • Rasa Malaysia August 5, 2008 at 4:36 am

    Matt, I love frittata. Yours looks like a star with the right combos.

    I love it that you are so creative to use corks as the base for the photo. 🙂

  • Nate August 5, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    What Rasa said. I was originally drawn to the photo not by the food but by the cork stand you created using a piece of hardware normally seen in the garage. Ingenious reuse of wine corks! As soon as you polish off another bottle, just loosen the bands and add the new cork in.

    +10 points for that.

    Oh, and thanks for the tip about not getting the CI pan too hot.

  • White On Rice Couple August 6, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Ahhh, the challenges of food photography. Sorry, I kinda laughed at your frittata falling flat. It’s happened to me many times….but we are food bloggers dammit! If all else fails ( and falls) make the damn dish again for the picture! 😉

    Bravo on the success of your second dish attempt and the photograph. Double bravo on using cast iron. We’ve got a couple that are in use all the time, but they are so friggin heavy! I’m afraid the shelf that it’s on is gonna collapse!

  • Anticiplate August 6, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Cute pot holder! I always make an extra portion for my pictures. The food is cold, but the camera will never know:)

  • matt wright August 6, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    WoRC – It was funny, I only actually noticed the first one when I processing the pictures.. That was a “ahhh fuck it” moment for sure.. Thankfully I had another 4 eggs, and was still hungry enough for more frittata!

    The weight is the only problem with cast iron, and that it doesn’t react quickly (to , er, say the least) to heat change. Bloody awesome for bacon though!! I love cooking on cast iron though – feels really rustic. Just shows you don’t need Al-Clad to have to a good time in the kitchen 😀

    Anticiplate – that is a good idea.. Kinda cost prohibative for me on some dishes though – especially with some of the higher end seafood dishes. I find that quite a few dishes (especially frittata!) look way worse cold – fish is a good example, and a lot of sauces just loose their sheen too.

  • Wind Attack August 7, 2008 at 3:17 am

    I will agree that the cork thing is very neat and makes this picture go from awesome to amazing. Very nice work!