If you want to make an omelette that serves a group of people, forget the fold and make a frittata or tortilla, two European-style egg dishes cooked deliciously round.
According to the Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink, the Italian word frittata, pronounced free-TAH-tah, is derived from the Latin frigere, which means “to fry.”
In a frittata, what’s being fried is a mixture of beaten eggs accented with one or more complementary ingredients, such as cheese, vegetables and mushrooms. A typical omelette sees toppings set on two to three beaten eggs, then cooked until almost set. The omelette is then folded, sealing the toppings inside and creating a half-moon shape. Frittatas, on the other hand, are not folded, and the complementary ingredients are often mixed in with the eggs, with some colourful ingredients to decorate the top, as was done in today’s recipe.
An omelette cooks relatively quickly, usually serves one and is set directly on the serving plate. A frittata, on the other hand, is cut into slices before plating and yields multiple servings. Because of that, a frittata requires more eggs and a longer cooking time.
There are three ways to cook a frittata: One is to get the under-side and middle of the eggs cooked before carefully flipping the frittata over and cooking the other side. In Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano, he does that by setting a plate over the pan, and then carefully inverting the plate and pan, releasing the frittata on to the plate. He then slides the frittata back into the skillet and cooks the other side. That technique is fussy, and other books, such as the impressive tome The Foods of Italy, don’t require you to flip the frittata. Instead, once the eggs are almost cooked but still a little wet on top, the pan is set in the oven and the top of the frittata is broiled until golden and cooked through.
In other books, instead of broiling, the frittata, once about three quarters cooked, is baked in the oven a few minutes to finish the cooking.
A Spanish tortilla is definitely not a Mexican tortilla (a thin flatbread used to make such things as burritos, quesadillas and other creations). Instead, it is similar to a frittata in that it is made with eggs, is omelette-like and is cooked in a round shape, but there are more complementary ingredients compared to the eggs.
There are numerous varieties of tortilla in Spain, but the most common is tortilla de patatas (tortilla with potatoes). Beaten eggs are heartily mixed with a generous amount of sliced or cubed potatoes and onion, then slowly cooked in a lot of olive oil until tender, but not browned. Other ingredients are sometimes added to this style of tortilla, such as the chorizo sausage and bell pepper used in today’s recipe. I found recipes for tortilla that were cooked in similar ways to frittatas, completely on the stovetop, on the stovetop and then broiled, or on the stovetop and then baked.
Frittata and tortilla can be served warm or at room temperature, for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even dinner, accompanied by a salad, bread and wine. Tortilla can also be enjoyed cold, served as a tapa or packed for a picnic.