Author Archives: John Ottensmann

Corned beef hash frittata

Corned beef hash frittata

I recently ate breakfast out and ordered corned beef hash with poached eggs, a favorite. Now the moment eggs are paired with anything, I immediately think “frittata.” The combination seemed so obvious.

Mentioning that I was going to do this, the suggestion was made that I put a poached egg on top of the frittata. My first response was that this would be redundant. After all, the frittata itself included the eggs. But as I thought about this, I recalled how wonderful it was when the nice, runny yolk of the poached egg mixed with the hash. So topping with a poached egg it would be.

I’ve certainly poached eggs before, dumping the eggs into hot water and cooking for a while. They generally tasted fine but didn’t come out looking quite as nice as the well-formed poached eggs in pictures and when done right in restaurants. But now I would be putting the egg on top of a frittata and taking a picture to post on the blog.

I went online to do some research on how to make poached eggs. I found a number of different suggestions. Most have you breaking the eggs individually into custard cups first and then carefully putting each egg into the water. Swirling the water as you were doing so was a common suggestion. But the approach I followed came from a YouTube video from the Food Network’s Alton Brown. I followed his instructions exactly, down to using a ruler to measure the depth of the water and a thermometer to get the correct temperature. Rather than attempt to describe it, I’m including a link to the video:

Corned beef hash frittata

1 cup cooked canned corned beef hash
oil

3 eggs
oil

1 egg

Cook the corned beef hash in a skillet until it starts to get crisp. I like it when it just starts getting crisp. Others prefer it crispier. Measure out 1 cup for the frittata. Make sure it is well broken up for mixing into the eggs. This is especially important if it was cooked crispier.

Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the corned beef hash into the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

While the frittata is cooking, start poaching the egg. Have the water barely simmering. Break the egg into a custard cup or other small bowl and carefully slide it into the water. Cook for 4–1/2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon

Preheat the broiler. Place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate. Place the poached egg on top.

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Pasta Caesar salad

Pasta Caesar salad

The idea for this salad comes from a horse show. When my daughter was growing up, she competed at horse shows (hunter/jumper/equitation). Horse shows are all-day affairs (and multiple days for the larger shows). So obviously people need something to eat during the day. While the very largest shows attracted multiple outside food vendors, most of the shows had a small snack shop with very limited (and very often uninspired) offerings.

One of the shows we went to, in Tennessee, had some of the better food, much of which was homemade. And one item on the menu was pasta Caesar salad. It consisted of pasta and romaine lettuce mixed with standard bottled Caesar dressing, topped with a few croutons. This became an instant favorite for us. It was such a nice change from the normal horse-show fare–good to have something fresh.

For this pasta Caesar salad, I add chicken to the pasta (farfalla) and romaine to make a main-course salad. It has Parmesan cheese freshly grated over the top. The croutons have to be freshly made, with garlic-infused olive oil, the same as the croutons for my salmon Caesar salad. For the dressing, I make a lemon vinaigrette with olive oil, including Worcestershire sauce, exactly the same ingredients used in the classic Ceasar salad described by Julia Child (except, of course, the egg is not included).

Pasta Caesar salad

1 cup small cubes of Fremch bread (or other similar, firm bread)
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1–2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

4–6 ounces cooked chicken breast, in bite-sized pieces
1 cup or a little less cooked farfalla (about 2/3 cup or so uncooked)
2 cups romaine lettuce, cut into fairly small pieces
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4–5 drops Worcestershire sauce
fresh ground pepper

Cook the farfalla in advance so it can cool. This would also be a good time to make the croutons.

I have two different approaches for incorporating the garlic with the olive oil for making the croutons. The quick way is to mince the garlic and put it in the pan with the olive oil as you start heating the pan. This works, but leaves small dark bits of garlic at the end. The more time-consuming approach is to put the garlic, minced or pressed, into a small bowl with the olive oil. Mash the garlic in the olive oil with the back of a spoon for at least a minute or so to infuse the olive oil with the garlic. Then strain the olive oil into the pan, leaving the garlic in the bowl.

Heat the olive oil and garlic (however included) in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and start turning them over with a spatula and wooden spoon to get the bread coated with the garlic-infused olive oil. It may seem like the bread is getting a little soggy with the oil, but don’t worry, this is part of getting them set up to brown and turn into the tasty croutons. Keep turning the croutons over frequently. You don’t have to do this continuously, but you need to turn them over a lot because you want the bread to brown on all sides, and this isn’t like when you’re cooking a few flat things and can just turn them over once to cook the other side. After a few minutes, the croutons will start to brown. I’ll be turning them more frequently at this point to be sure the croutons brown on all sides. Stay with them because it now goes very quickly. When they are lightly browned and toasty—a couple of the croutons may even start to look a little darker—remove the pan from the stove and put the croutons into a dish. (They’ll cook more if left in the pan.)

Mix the farfalla, romaine, and chicken in a bowl. Whisk or shake in a jar the oil, lemon juice, Worcester sauce, and fresh ground pepper. Pour over the salad and toss so everything is coated with the vinaigrette. Put the salad on the serving plate. Grate Parmesan cheese over the top and add the croutons.

Shrimp frittata Alfredo

Shrimp frittata Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo is a great classic and with chicken or shrimp makes a wonderful main course. Many, many years ago, we had shrimp fettuccine Alfredo in a restaurant which had, in addition to the shrimp, broccoli and julienne carrots. This is a great combination. I have made shrimp fettuccine Alfredo this way ever since.

It struck me that the same combination would work in a frittata, without the pasta, of course. Alfredo sauce requires only butter, cream, and Parmesan cheese. For the frittata I’ve omitted the butter but included lots of Parmesan and some cream along with the shrimp, carrots, and broccoli.

Shrimp frittata Alfredo

3/4 cup cooked shrimp in small pieces
3/4 cup small broccoli florets
1/2 cup julienne carrots
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons cream

3 eggs
oil

Put the broccoli into boiling water, cook for 1 minute, and drain. Put the carrots into boiling water, cook for 3 minutes, and drain.

Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl, add the cream, and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the shrimp, Parmesan cheese, carrots, and broccoli into the eggs. Do the broccoli last to minimize the stirring that would break up the florets. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

Preheat the broiler. Place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate.

Greek chicken tostada

Greek chicken tostada

The idea for this salad came from a (very Mexican) tostada I had for lunch recently at the Huntington Library and Gardens near Pasadena. Most tostadas top the tortillas with the standard refried beans made with pinto beans. This tostada used black beans instead, making it distinctive and very good.

This got me thinking about whether some other types of beans might also be used to make a tostada. How about garbonzo beans/chickpeas? And you can buy this with the beans already mashed up and seasoned, ready to use: hummus.

Once I decided to make a tostada with hummus, an Eastern Mediterranean theme was obvious. I chose Greek, with feta cheese and Kalamata olives, but I wanted something else. Since I was already using one dip from that part of the world, I thought about tzatziki, the Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce/dip, which I really like. But it didn’t seem to be quite right putting dollops of tzatziki on the tostada. Instead, I put cucumber pieces on the salad and made a dressing based on the ingredients in tzatziki.

I started the dressing with my standard vinaigrette ingredients of 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, to which I added 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt. This produces a slightly thickened dressing that you might call a tzatziki vinaigrette and would be one option. I decided I wanted a thicker, creamier dressing more like tzatziki and added a third tablespoon of yogurt and then a fourth. My suggestion is to proceed in this way, stopping when you get a consistency that you like.

I think the key to this salad is moderation and balance. You don’t want too much of any one ingredient such that it dominates.

Greek chicken tostada

4- or 5-ounce piece of chicken breast
2 corn tortillas
vegetable oil
hummus
spinach, chopped
1 cup (or so) cucumber, in small pieces
Kalamata olives, cut in half
feta cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill

Bake the chicken breast in advance. When cool, pull it apart to make shredded chicken.

So the dressing can be well chilled, an hour or so before serving, mix the olive oil, lemon juice garlic, dill, and the yogurt. Start with 2 tablespoons yogurt and whisk everthing together to see the consistency. If desired, add more yogurt to get your preferred consistency. Refrigerate the dressing, as it should be well-chilled before serving.

Going in the other direction on temperature, I think the hummus and chicken, which will top the cooked tortillas, should be closer to room temperature, so take them out of the refrigerator an hour or so before making the salad.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, put in a tortilla, cook for about 30 seconds on each side until it starts to crisp up. You want it a little crispy but not as hard as a tortilla chip. Repeat with the second tortilla.

Put the tortillas side-by-side on a plate. Spread on a thin layer of hummus. Add the shredded chicken, then the chopped spinach, and on top of that the cucumber pieces.

Whisk the previously made dressing and spoon on top the salad. Top with a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese and the Kalamata olives.

Mac and cheese frittata

Mac and cheese frittata

You may think this sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Comfort food. Simple, familiar, satisfying. I think a basic frittata can be comfort food. But what is perhaps the ultimate comfort food? Macaroni and cheese. So why not make a macaroni and cheese frittata?

I like to use a mix of cheeses. This time it was cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan. The previous time I made this I used some goat cheese rather than the Parmesan. So use what you have and what sounds good.

Macaroni and cheese is often made with a crumb crust, so this time I topped the frittata with some buttered bread crumbs. Or you can just top with some extra cheese, which I have also done.

Mac and cheese frittata

3/4 cup cooked macaroni (about 1/3 cup or a bit more uncooked)
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

3 eggs
oil

1/2 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespooons bread crumbs

Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the macaroni and the cheese into the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

Preheat the broiler. Mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter. When the 5 minutes cooking on the stove are up, sprinkle on the buttered bread crumbs and place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate.

Spinach, artichoke, and shrimp salad

Spinach, artichoke, and shrimp salad

This salad was directly adapted from a great side salad that came from one of the Le Cordon Bleu cookbooks. My daughter has made it multiple times with meals, and so have I. It occurred to me that this would also work great as a main course salad with something added. Shrimp seemed to be just the thing to go with this salad.

I’ve used the frozen artichoke hearts when making this salad. I’m usually happy with the canned, but the frozen just seem to work better here.

Spinach, artichoke, and shrimp salad

1 cup shrimp, cooked
1 cup frozen quartered artichoke hearts, cooked

baby spinach
8-10 black olives, cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cook the shrimp and artichokes earlier in the day so they can cool. Cooking 2 minutes once they come to the boil is sufficient for both.

Assemble the salad with the spinach, artichokes, olives, shrimp, and pine nuts. Whisk or shake in a small jar the oil and lemon juice. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Grate Parmesan cheese over the top.

Taco frittata

Taco frittata

I wanted to keep this simple. To me, the basic ingredients of a traditional taco are the seasoned ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. So that’s what I included, except for the lettuce, of course, which I wouldn’t put in a frittata.

For the tomatoes, I find Roma tomatoes are firm and work well for cutting up for a frittata. And for the cheese, I used half sharp cheddar and half Monterey jack, as I had both in the refrigerator. You can obviously vary this. Shredded cheese mixtures specifically for Mexican food would be another possibility.

Taco frittata

1/4 pound ground beef
taco or other southwestern seasoning
oil

1/2 cup tomatoes cut into small cubes
1/2 cup shredded cheese

3 eggs
oil

Heat a bit of oil in a pan. Brown the ground beef, adding a very generous amount of the taco or other seasoning.

Clean out the pan. Put the eggs into a good-sized mixing bowl and beat just to mix them up. Add a bit of oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add a small amount of the eggs to the pan to set the bottom of the frittata to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to medium low. Mix the ground beef, tomatoes, and cheese into the eggs. Pour the mixture into the pan. Cook this for about 5 minutes to set the bottom and sides.

Preheat the broiler. When the 5 minutes cooking on the stove are up, place the pan under the broiler, about 6 to 7 inches below. Cook until the top is set and just starts to brown. This is about 1–1/2 to 2 minutes for me, but watch closely.

Remove from the broiler, loosen up the sides with a spatula if necessary, and slide the frittata out onto the serving plate. Serve with salsa.