I’m pretty much always the first one up on Christmas morning (originally because I was more ridiculously excited to open presents than anyone else, now it’s because I’m hungry before anyone else!), and while I wait around for all the other creatures to start stirring, I put on a pot of coffee, and I start cooking this frittata for our Christmas Day brunch.
This year, as I sautéed the onions and whisked the eggs, the ghost of Christmas past beckoned me to look back on young Emily, back when we first started serving this dish for Christmas. I had no idea what a frittata was in those days. I just knew that this thing that we were eating was, creamy, flavorful, and delicious and made me feel like it wasn’t even so very horrible to be eating something with vegetables, even for breakfast! I also loved the word “frittata,” and ran around saying it dramatically, as though I was casting a spell. “Frittata!” (Yes, I was an obnoxious little kid.)
This is actually kind of a glorified version of a frittata. The frittata is a fabulous, easy Italian dish, like an omelet that is baked so you don’t have to worry about flipping, or a quiche without the bother of making the crust. I often make a frittata when I can’t figure out what else to do for supper, because it just requires quickly sautéing your choice of vegetables, pouring several whisked eggs (whisked with as many Tbs. milk or cream as you have eggs) over them, sprinkling with your choice of cheese, and baking for 10-30 minutes (depending how large it is), until the eggs are cooked.
I think our Christmas morning frittata may actually qualify as a strata – or almost a savory bread pudding – because it has cubed bread in it. But as long as the baked egg dish nomenclature accuracy police aren’t stopping by your house, I’d say call it whatever floats your boat, especially “yummy.”
This frittata takes a little bit of time, but most of that time is inactive baking time. It would work quite well to prepare the vegetables the night before you want to serve it and put them in the baking pan with the bread cubes and cream cheese. Then just add the eggs and grated cheese in the morning, toss it into the oven, and bake. It makes a truly fabulous brunch dish for a crowd or to bring to a potluck.
It’s really quite simple, but in spite of the simplicity, I think the cream cheese in it gives it this feeling of decadence that wins compliments from everyone who tries it. (No, I don’t think cream cheese is very good for you. No, I don’t care in this particular instance, because it is just so yummy!) This recipe also lends itself to playing around with some variations. Mix up the vegetables and the type of cheese you use. For example, try mushrooms, or broccoli, or spinach, throw in some smoked salmon or pieces of sausage. But, I’d say keep the onion and garlic because they really give it a flavor boost.
- 3-4 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 zucchinis
- 2 summer squash
- 1 yellow, 1 red, and 1 orange bell pepper (the different colors are for looks, you could do all one color if you wanted)
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 cups of stale bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 7-8 eggs
- ¼ cup cream (or milk, but if it’s Christmas, definitely go for the cream!)
- 2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground pepper
- Slice up the zucchinis and summer squash into rounds, removing the stems first. Take the stem and seeds out of the bell peppers and slice them into strips. At this point I usually put the vegetables aside into a big bowl because I run out of room on the cutting board. Take the skin off and slice up the onion, and peel the garlic cloves and mince them as well.
- Get out two large frying pans (unless you have a seriously massive frying pan in which case you can fry in one), and heat half of the olive oil in each pan. Divide the onions and garlic between the two pans, and sautee them until they soften, about 5 minutes. Next add half of the sliced veggies to each pan and sautee them, stirring occasionally, until they are good and soft, probably about 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the oven to 350?F. While the veggies cook, get out a large baking pan (9X13) or casserole dish and spread the bread cubes in the bottom. Cut the cream cheese into little chunks and scatter them amongst the bread cubes (and when I say scatter, I really mean, unstick them from your fingers and glop them about – cream cheese isn’t the easiest to work with).
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper. When the veggies are done, add them to the egg mixture and stir in 3/4 s of the grated cheese. Pour this into the baking pan over the bread and scatter the rest of the cheese over the top. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the eggs are set and the cheese is bubbly – have a cup of coffee while you wait. Serve warm from the oven, and be prepared to feel extremely fortified and ready to face the prospect of shoveling the 2 feet of heavy snow that just may have fallen over night!