One of the things I love about cooking around the holidays is experimenting with all the ingredients in my refrigerator. Although I have a great time planning our Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s feasts, I think I enjoy the impromptu ones even more. Take Christmas breakfast this year: although I had every intention of making cinnamon rolls the night before Christmas so we could have freshly-baked ooey gooey deliciousness in the morning, an ill-timed head cold forced me to bed early. So there we were, Christmas morning with no buns. What we did have, however, was a fridge full of fresh and luxurious holiday ingredients.
After my daughters had their fill of opening the slew of presents Santa left, I sidled into the kitchen and opened the fridge. As I stared at the contents, I started to get hungry. My cold was subsiding and my nasal passages were starting to be able to discern smells again. As I scanned the shelf before me, I realized I had all the makings for a great frittata: eggs, baby spinach, pancetta, ricotta, parmesan, and heavy cream. It didn’t take long to mix everything together, and once I did, my mother commented on how the pancetta’s pink color coordinated with the green spinach to make a lovely Christmas color combination. I stared at my plate and felt a bit like an accidental Martha Stewart until I looked up and was brought back to reality by my messy kitchen. Even better than how it looked, however, was the fact that the eggs, ricotta and heavy cream had merged into a gorgeous custard, with the pancetta, spinach and Parmesan adding both salty and savory flavors.
The foods I had on hand worked well for my needs, but I could have easily used a variety of other items many people have lying around during the holidays. If you have a refrigerator full of random leftovers from holiday menus, just use whatever sounds good to make your own great holiday frittata. Some items you may want to use are cheeses left over from an appetizer platter, crème freche, ricotta, heavy cream, baked ham, sausage, pate, or al dente vegetables. There’s nothing like a frittata to make the most of a 1/2 cup of leftover whatever.
I’m also including my recipe for breakfast sausage, which I made on Christmas morning to go with the frittata. I like to start with sausage meat from my local butcher, but you could just as easily cobble this dish together using mild Italian pork or chicken sausage, or bratwurst. Any sausage you like is fine as the real flavor comes from adding a few more ingredients to the meat. Sometimes I add rosemary, spring onions and mustard, but I have also tried and liked adding a tablespoon of maple syrup, thyme, and shallots. You could also toss in a tablespoon of fruit chutney.
Most of us don’t have heavy cream and aged cheeses sitting in our refrigerators on a daily basis, so if you have holiday foods left over, make the most of them. Chances are your cupboard will revert back to a more modest and healthier ingredients list in a week or two and the opportunity will be lost.
Serves 4 – 6 people
1/2 cup ricotta, crème freche, or sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped pancetta, sausage or bacon
1/2 cup fresh spinach or arugula
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Place olive oil and your meat of choice into a medium pan that can go into the oven for 5-7 minutes or until your meat is lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, whisk your eggs in a medium bowl until they start to get frothy.
4. Whisk in the ricotta, crème freche or sour cream and then add in the 1/2 cup of heavy cream or whole milk (please note that you should only use one of each ingredient, i.e., not heavy cream AND whole milk).
5. Once the meat is browned, add your spinach or arugula to the pan and sprinkle on a dash of salt. Mix and set in the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until the greens wilt.
6. Add the Parmesan to the egg mixture and then add it to the pan and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the eggs become semi-firm.
7. Switch your oven to broil and place the pan about two inches beneath it. Broil your frittata until lightly browned and then quickly remove from the oven.
“Homemade” Breakfast Sausage Patties
Makes 8 – 12 sausages (depending on how large you make the patties)
6 sausages (chicken or pork) or 1 pound sausage meat
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped spring onions or shallots
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. Remove sausage meat from their casings and place meat in a medium bowl.
2. Add all the other ingredients and then form sausage into patties.
3. If making baking in the oven, place the patties on a large baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes on each side or until the patties are thoroughly browned.
4. If making on the stove top, heat a large pan on medium high and fry patties on each side until browned and thoroughly cooked through.