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Let’s face it — even for those of us who truly love to cook, there are those days when we would just rather not. It’s an unfortunate situation, to be sure, particularly when duty calls and we have to come up with something that looks like a decent meal. At those times even deciding what to cook can be a challenge, and when it happens to me, on that rare occasion, I head for the fridge and grab a carton of eggs.

Like butter, eggs are a perishable staple that should always be on hand. Scrambled, fried, poached or boiled, nature’s most perfect food offers endless possibilities. How about an omelet for one of those lazy days? You have a choice of three distinct types: namely, an American omelet, in which the filling is mixed with the eggs, has some wrinkles and is lightly browned; a classic French omelet, where the filling is added after the eggs are set, has no wrinkles and is not browned; or an Italian Frittata, which differs from the other two in three significant ways:

  • American and French omelets are cooked very quickly over moderate high heat whereas a frittata is cooked very slowly over very low heat.
  • American and French omelets should be moist and creamy, though not runny, whereas a frittata is well set and firm, but certainly not dry.
  • American omelets are folded in half and French omelets are rolled or folded into a tapered cigar-like shape whereas a frittata is flat and perfectly round.
  • A well-made frittata, accompanied by a simple salad, is perfect for lunch or a light supper, or even for snacking. And it’s just as good served at room temperature as it is right out of the pan. An endless number of fillings can be included, such as cheese, ham, cooked vegetables, and various herbs. Search your fridge; there’s bound to be some leftovers to incorporate in your frittata.
  • But remember: no matter what filling you choose, it’s all about the technique, which will always remain the same. Here’s how to do it.


Basic Frittata with cheese, etc.

Serves four

6 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 cup grated Parmesan (or Swiss) cheese
½ cup filling of choice
3 tablespoons butter

  • Heat the broiler in your oven
  • In a bowl, beat the eggs until the whites are well blended into the yolks
  • Add the salt, pepper, cheese, and filling of choice
  • Mix well
  • Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat
  • Just when the butter begins to foam, without browning, add the eggs
  • Turn down the burner to as low as you can
  • Cook (very slowly) for about 15 minutes until the eggs have set and only the very top is runny
  • Place the skillet under the broiler for about 1 minute (or less), just until the top of the frittata has set
  • Loosen the frittata with a heat resistant rubber spatula and slide it onto a plate
  • Cut into wedges and serve

Note: To cook the top side of the frittata, some cooks prefer to flip it like you would a pancake.

Some opt to slide it onto a plate, turn it over onto another plate and then slide it back into the pan.

Trust me, the broiler works best.

Remember: A frittata should not be browned on either side.

This is a winner, folks, even on those days when you would just rather not.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...