My grandma was a cooking bad ass and this was one of her favorite things to cook. I added an ingredient and played with the method, but rest assured it is my homage to her. Simple and delicious, which is the theme after all!
Potatoes & Eggs – A Simple Rustic Meal for Any Time of Day
My grandma was born in downtown Cleveland, Ohio to parents that were 100% Italian. Her father had been raised in the Old Country and emigrated as a boy. Her mother’s land of origin is officially listed as Canada, since that’s where the boat on which she was born docked first. The boat had left Italy shortly before her arrival onto the planet. These parents of hers even married via arrangement, a practice that had not yet been left behind to their European roots when they reached adulthood in America. Although she was Italian American, she embraced the culture with all her being. She was the stereotypical matriarch of her clan, though she tempered the bossy, critical, domineering stereotype with her own virtues of wisdom, patience and acceptance of flaws, (which I assume were her Americanized traits?). Lol
More notably, my grandmother was the cook of her family. Anyone familiar with Italian culture knows that “family” means she was renowned for her skill amongst the extended: her brothers and sisters and cousins, their kids and husbands and wives, cousins of cousins… not just her own hearth and home. She held a black belt in the mastery of flavor. She masqueraded as a mere mortal, but was in fact a living recipe encyclopedia (though few bits were ever written down) who could feed scores of hungry folk with more satisfying food, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, better than any Top Chef contestant today.
The kitchen was her domain (though my grandpa held his own with a few steadfast recipes), where her spirit were so high and her attitude so lively that in my memories her feet barely touched the floor when she was cooking: she floated with glee. A master at home in her medium, so sure of herself and her art, it was as if she had anise cookies in her bones, homemade tomato sauce in her veins and olive oil in her skin… which may have been true, because she never did wrinkle. I can tell you for sure that her meatballs were bigger than any I’ve ever seen, in more ways than one.
She was a woman’s woman and a man’s woman too. She could take apart a lawnmower and put it back together. She hung drywall and repaired plumbing. She dug ditches and farmed when her livelihood depended upon it. Yet she rarely cursed, loved to sing and in her chest beat a heart so full of unconditional love I wondered sometimes how it didn’t burst with light.
She made frittatas all the time, since they are a hearty, high protein meal that is good for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. They are good hot, warm, room temperature and cold as leftovers. Her two primaries were zucchini with onions and potatoes and eggs. Today, we know how to add all manner of interesting fantastical flavor profiles to an egg pie that will make it full of color as well as taste for optimal presentation. I guarantee, though, that if you take a simple path back to her two favorites you will be impressed all over again at what simple zucchini & onions or potatoes can do to beaten eggs.
I missed her today. She’s been gone four years now and sometimes the loss still feels raw. We were so close. So I made her potatoes and eggs, or her “frittad” (her Italian dialect always ended voweled words with a hard sound, ex: riccota = “riggot”) just because it seemed like the thing to do. Love you, Grandma.
8 – 12 Eggs 1 Potato, thinly sliced 2 Sausage links, your preference
Set oven to 400 F
Whisk eggs, then mix in salt and pepper to taste
Add 1-2 tablespoons of butter or similar, then melt; pour eggs over potatoes and sausage
Turn off burner, sprinkle a liberal handful of Romano cheese on top, stirring it gently into the eggs
Pop the pan in the oven to bake for about 10 minutes
Note: My grandma did not include sausage in her frittata, and she did not pop her pan in the oven.Instead, she would cook the frittata on the stove top until the edges were obviously cooked, then flip the pan over onto a large plate or pan. At this point the uncooked half of the pie will be face down on the plate, which she would then slide back into the pan from the plate. When the entire frittata was finished, she would simply flip the whole thing onto the same plate and serve it there.
This generally requires a lot of oil or butter, or a non-stick pan with tall straight edges. In an effort to avoid both extra fats and non-stick coating, I just bake it off in the oven and cut it from the cast iron skillet.