At the old Bean Blossom in Oxford, we worked with a limited inventory and a short menu. This was no ball-and-chain for our spontaneity. One morning, with no time to make crusts, we decided on quiches for lunch. So we made naked quiches, and they were beautiful.
These are called frittatas. (My Italian friend Olli says that’s what his gay cousin calls a roofie.) Most frittatas are just fried potatoes and eggs, the most basic dish imaginable. It’s also substantial (i.e., heavy), so unless you’re a real trencherman, a little goes a long way. I always add cheese, usually that Italian blend; if you’re a purist, freshly-grated Romano or Parmesan works, but anything will do in a pinch. This recipe is best made in a 9-in. skillet.
Peel and dice two waxy potatoes; you want about two cups. You can either pan fry these in hot olive oil with a minced clove of garlic or parboil, drain, and then fry. Either way, you want potato chunks that are cooked through and a bit crusty. Beat four eggs quite well, add to oiled skillet, and when eggs begin to bubble, sprinkle in the potatoes, stirring gently. At this point, I always add sweet peppers or spinach, then the cheese. Keep fiddling about until everything is mixed well, then pop in a hot over for about ten minutes.
While I worked in west Florida during the 1980s, I came to know people from all over the world. Then there was Ruby Ruth Reese, a down-home girl who grew up in what she called “the woargrass (wiregrass)” region of south Alabama.
Ruby Ruth (“Call me ‘Roo’”) had a heart of gold, but she was just as mean as she could be to all those displaced Yankees we worked with in Florida. She liked me because, as she once put it, “You’re just tryin’ to rise above your raisin’, like me.” She even claimed to have relatives in Tupelo, but I think she just said that because she knew I was homesick all the time. Hell, the only reason she knew about Tupelo was because of Elvis.
Roo told me she worked in a truck stop in Geneva County, Alabama during the Sixties, and if they knew you well enough, and you ordered something “to go”, you’d pay five dollars more, and they’d slip you a bottle of whiskey under the counter before you left. They also made what they called ham and egg pie that most of their customers would order to eat by themselves. Roo often made these for us to share on our lunch, which we took around two in the afternoon when we’d had a busy day. I’ve fancied it up a little bit with the cheddar cheese (she used American slices), parsley, and green onions. She’d fuss at me for that.
8 large eggs
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced cooked potatoes
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup diced ham
chopped parsley/green onion
salt and black pepper
Beat eggs and cream very well with salt and black pepper. Hint: add a splash of water, no more than a couple of tablespoons while beating; this helps the rise and keeps it moist. Heat an 8-in. skillet, add a half stick of butter. Once butter is sizzling, sauté onions and ham, then add half the egg mixture, shaking the pan as you do. Mix cheese and potatoes with remaining eggs. Once eggs begin to set, add the rest of the egg mixture, then pop into a very hot (450) oven until firm and lightly brown.