Monday, 24 January 2011

Leftover Mac 'n Cheese: Mac 'n Cheese Frittata

On more than one occassion, my cooking has been criticised as unnecessarily complicated, and to a certain degree, I'd agree. Give me a big enough kitchen and the right cooking toys to do the job and I'm sure the kitchen won't look like a complete mess... maybe. Anyway, after last night's culinary fun, I packed up the leftovers and tried to think of what I could specifically do with the left over mac 'n cheese. And what I've "cooked up" (get it? ha ha..) is an incredibly simple recipe inspired by David Rocco's Pizza Pasta Recipe, which I had first seen on the Cooking Channel over the summer: mac 'n cheese frittata.

At its basest level, a frittata is in many respects somewhere between an omelette and a quiche, the egg base of which is whisked/beaten to introduce air. It can start off fried (like an omelette) and finished baked (like a quiche) or under a salamander/broiler. For simplicity's sake (again, I said this recipe is incredibly simple), it's all stove top.

In one bowl, I used a fork to really beat up an egg, making sure the yolk and whites were smooth. To this, I added a half of my leftover mac 'n cheese and coated the pasta with egg. I then incorporated the rest of the leftovers, making sure all of the mac was coated in egg fairly evenly. I had about 1.5 c leftover mac 'n cheese to work with; depending on the recipe, you may be beating up quite a few more eggs, but one was perfectly delicious for the amount of pasta I had. Now, if this were to be prepared omelette style, we would have started cooking the egg, adding the ingredients and then folding it over until fully cooked. For a quiche, we would have been adding milk and cream to the egg base and putting this all in a crust with the ingredients. In frittata style, we're basically going to plop the mix onto the pan.

But first, let's finish up the mix: to our egg-coated mac 'n cheese, add 1/3 cup total of cheese; in this case, I used some of the same cheeses that were in the pasta already: sharp cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese. Add some ground black pepper and salt to taste (remember, you already did this when you first cooked the pasta). I actually forgot to add the seasoning and was perfectly content without it. [As a side note, if you want to share the joy with another person, perhaps two at most, beat up more eggs and add more cheese or a sauce. Frittatas are typically served by the slice but, in this case, this was too good to save for later!]

In a heated pan with a few teaspoons of olive oil, plop the mix; since I had a square pan to work with, I shaped it into a circle the best I could with my spatula. Listen to the sear that begins to form as soon as the pasta hits the pan and try and restrain yourself as you begin to re-smell the pasta and cheese. After about 5 min, give the pan a gentle shake to see if the pasta moves as a single unit. Once it does, drain off any excess oil with a paper towel, etc. This is particularly important as you're about to do the toughest thing of the whole recipe: flip the frittata. And you don't want hot oil to scald your skin, yes?

Now, I was under the impression the frittata would be a single fairly solid mass at this point (and perhaps it would be if I cooked a spaghetti version as David did), but I was wrong. Despite the large spatula, simply flipping it over broke the frittata into quite a few section. Since the other side still has to cook, and as long as you're quick enough, you can still pretty much reform the frittata to a more impressive state of being. In any case, once it's flipped over, finish cooking the other side. Again, you'll know if it's all done when the frittata starts moving in a single mass. Transfer to a plate by simply sliding it out of the pan.

So that I could be sure the more correct flipping method was true, take a plate that will fit the size of the frittata and put it on top. Then, quickly flip the pan upside down, making sure to not drop the plate below. (If you did this for the first flip in the first place, just quickly slide it back onto the pan to finish cooking.)

All of this took place within a time frame no more than 15 min (not including picture taking time), as I had a meeting to go to. That said, I tried this both hot and cold, and either way, this is simply delicious and deliciously simple to make. Click here for more photos.

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