Welcome to Ask Elazar, a column in which Eater staff writer Elazar Sontag answers your highly specific and pressing cooking questions.
I’m due to give birth soon, so if I can muster up enough energy in these last few weeks pre-baby, I’m hoping to make a few easy freezer meals to eat post-birth. Can you recommend a meal that (a) would freeze well in a large batch, (b) would be low-effort enough for a pretty uncomfortably pregnant/exhausted person to handle, and (c) doesn’t include beans because I hate beans? Thank you!
It must be so exciting slash nerve-wracking slash aahhh!!! to be preparing to welcome a baby into the world during this endlessly difficult and bizarre year. I have very little experience when it comes to new babies, but 2020 has made me something of an expert in stretching meals as far as they can stretch. I hope I can help with that one little piece of this puzzle.
If you’re a soup person, this would be a great time to make a (beanless) soup, and freeze it in quart-size mason jars. But when I’m feeling exhausted and just want to defrost something, most soups don’t feel quite substantial enough. So while some folks have embraced all sorts of broths and beans this year, I’m here to sing the praises of big-batch frittatas.
The nice thing about a dish like this is that you need little more than eggs — actually, you could make a deliciously plain frittata with just eggs, salt, and fresh herbs — and from start to finish it won’t take more than an hour to make. A big slice of frittata and a strong cup of coffee makes for a lovely breakfast, and you can also put together a bang-up dinner around a defrosted and re-crisped slice of the one-skillet dish alongside something green. If you’ve got the energy, throw together a little salad of radicchio and frisée, for instance, with a mustardy dressing. Or you can eat slices of warm frittata on crusty bread with goat cheese or a little pesto — the store-bought stuff is perfectly good in this case. Actually, any number of jarred sauces will improve a slice of frittata. You can’t go wrong with a dash of hot sauce, some salsa, a squeeze of ketchup, or a big spoonful of good grainy mustard.
You can make adorable mini frittatas in muffin tins, but as cute as that is, I prefer to make a big frittata in my 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet. In a pan this size, you can fit a full dozen eggs, plus ham, sausage, bacon, or vegetables For a family of two or three people, this’ll make for a meal straight out of the oven, plus plenty of leftovers to store in the fridge or freezer.
To get started, you’ve got to build the base of your frittata, which is as simple as whisking 10 to 12 eggs in a metal bowl, along with a tablespoon (or a three-finger pinch) of salt. This is also normally when you’ll add about a third of a cup of milk, cream, creme fraiche, or cream cheese, and maybe a big handful of shredded cheese — when I’m planning to freeze a frittata though, I prefer to leave my egg base free of dairy. I love the bouncy, not-as-creamy consistency of an egg-only frittata, and I’m wary of the texture a dairy-full frittata might take on when frozen. If your frittata isn’t destined for the freezer and you’re going full-on dairy, spinach and goat cheese is one of my favorite pairings.
Since you’re anticipating a much-needed break from cooking when your baby is born, think about buying a few dozen eggs plus plenty of add-ins like sausage or bacon, fresh herbs, and vegetables (if you’re adding meat, it’s important to cook it before adding to the eggs), and play around with flavor combinations to make two or three different frittatas. When it comes time to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat, and tilt in a tablespoon or two of olive oil to coat the pan. Pour the egg mixture in, and leave the pan on the burner until the edges of the frittata have begun to set, then carefully slide it into the oven on a middle rack. Bake until the eggs are set all the way through, wobbling the tiniest bit in the center when you shake the pan. This should take about 30 to 35 minutes, depending how much you’ve loaded your eggs with meat and vegetables. If you’re not quite sure about doneness, slide the tip of a paring knife into the center of the frittata, and if no raw egg bubbles up or is left on the knife, pull your pan out of the oven.
Freezing a frittata is just as simple as making one: Once the eggs are cooked, let the frittata cool to room temperature before you turn it out of the pan onto a cutting board, or divide it into slices in the pan, removing each slice individually. Wrap slices in plastic wrap or wax paper, pop each slice into a freezer-friendly zipper-lock bag, and label each one with a permanent marker. I like to note the add-ins prominently on the baggie, along with the freeze date, so I know how long it’s been in there — to ensure your frittata tastes just like it did when you made it, aim to go through your freezer stash within two-ish months. If you’re really planning ahead, you can even turn one of your frittatas into a bunch of ready-to-heat breakfast sandwiches.
To reheat your breakfast, lunch, or dinner (eating frittata three times in one day is totally acceptable), let a slice defrost fully in the refrigerator, then unwrap and bake it, until it’s warm all the way through and starting to crisp on the surface. In the time it takes for your slice to warm, throw together your salad, saute some potatoes, cook off a few sausages, or just lay on the couch, feeling supremely satisfied that you thought to make this dinner a month ago.