Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

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Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:16 am

So what, other than the obvious point that one is French and the other Italian, is the difference between an omelet and a frittata? There's no denying that the finished product is similar, but the results certainly aren't identical. Nevertheless, I like them both.

The key to me is that an omelet is made over screeching high heat and takes only a minute or two to fashion from start to finish. It's the 50-yard dash of egg dishes. Call the frittata a mile run, then: It's cooked low and slow and gently develops its texture over 15 minutes or so of gentle cooking on stovetop or in the oven.

But yeah, they're both essentially a round, flat delight fashioned from eggs and filling ingredients. Either way, what's not to like?

Tonight I went the frittata route, looking at a fairly empty refrigerator and pulling out celery, onions and garlic as filling ingredients and Grana Padano cheese and black pepper as topping.

The procedure is as simple as one, two, three:

1. Chop celery, onion and garlic fine and saute them in olive oil in a nonstick skillet until browned and somewhat softened. Set aside and wipe out the skillet.

2. Crack three eggs: Humane and natural cage-free free-range strongly preferred; for me, I won't buy or eat industrial eggs now that better alternatives are easily available. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with one tablespoon water for each egg and a bit of salt and pepper. Stir in the reserved veggies.

3. Put a little more olive oil in the same skillet and put over high heat. Pour in the egg and veggie mixture and give it about a minute to set while sprinking 1/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese over the top. Reduce heat to very low, cover and leave for 15 minutes, checking occasionally. When it's finished and set, slide it out to a serving plate, cut into wedges and serve.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Fred Sipe » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:39 am

Love the fritattas. I'm a big fan of the Spanish Tortilla.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:51 am

Fred Sipe wrote:Love the fritattas. I'm a big fan of the Spanish Tortilla.

Me three! The only issue there for me, Fred, is that in my universe a tortilla is a more significant project when slicing and prepping the potato is taken into consideration. But I love me some tortilla, especially when it's been made with care so the egg and thin potato slices fall naturally into many textured layers like mille feuille or maybe andouillette.

Bottom line, I can have an omelet in 5 minutes, a frittata in 15, or a tortilla in an hour. Some days this matters, others not so much.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Tom NJ » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:25 am

Robin Garr wrote:I won't buy or eat industrial eggs now that better alternatives are easily available.


This may elicit an astonished gasp, but: what's wrong with "industrial" eggs? Are they unhealthy? What makes the alternatives better? I'm asking out of ignorance here, as I cooked at nice restaurants for years where pallets of generic eggs were used to make - I thought - very high quality dishes. So that's what I continue to use at my home. Is there really an issue with them?
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Jenise » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:33 am

Very pretty!

However, to me the basic difference is that an omelet is an egg blanket around a filling where a frittata is eggs plus other ingredients cooked together. Less contrast in the frittata, since the other ingredients season the eggs and each other, where the omelet can and usually does preserve some purity in the layers. So, less about time than result, especially since the time difference is less in my kitchen than yours as I don't go the screeching high heat route you do on the omelet.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Susan B » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:36 pm

Jenise's response is exactly what I would say. Albeit, perhaps more succinct.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Fred Sipe » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:29 pm

Well, this thread made me hungry and since it was brunch time I made a modified Spanish Tortilla and tried to speed it up a bit. Managed in about an hour.

Did a 1/4-inch dice on 2 small russets and gave them a brief soak and rinse, patted dry. Put into a hot small cast iron skillet and fried them up. Removed to drain on paper towels and added a bit more oil then 1 medium yellow onion and a half a red pepper both diced small. Sauteed until the onions started to brown and removed from the skillet.

Meanwhile beat up 6 eggs with a bit of water and mixed in the potatoes, onion, peppers and a couple of small handfuls of finely shredded Colby Jack and sharp Chedder. Back in to the oiled skillet and cooked on med low until edges set. Topped with a little more shredded cheese then into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Made some toast with 15 grain bread while the eggs rested and set up and served with Melinda's XXX Habanero Sauce.

Mmmm... that was good!
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Thomas » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:10 pm

I still like this version:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=48885
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Frank Deis » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:19 pm

While you CAN make a thick omelet, real French Julia Child style omelets are quite flat. And my initial answer to the topic question here was "about two inches!" It is ALSO true that you can make a thin frittata but a good frittata has enough stuff in it to fill up the cast iron skillet you are cooking it in.

Of course everything everyone else has said is also true...
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:11 pm

Not responding to any particular post, but I still think the key difference between omelet and frittata is that the former is hot and fast, and the latter is low and slow. It's true that the omelet is most often (not always) rolled or flipped around ingredients while the frittata (and the tortilla) cook them in, but I truly feel that the cooking technique is the No. 1 distinction.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:32 pm

Tom NJ wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:I won't buy or eat industrial eggs now that better alternatives are easily available.


This may elicit an astonished gasp, but: what's wrong with "industrial" eggs? Are they unhealthy? What makes the alternatives better? I'm asking out of ignorance here, as I cooked at nice restaurants for years where pallets of generic eggs were used to make - I thought - very high quality dishes. So that's what I continue to use at my home. Is there really an issue with them?

Personally, Tom, I think so. It has a lot to do with the massive corporatization and bottom-line focus of Big Agra, coupled with a deregulatory attitude (and limited resources) on the part of government. There've been a lot of serious problems with e coli, salmonella and other contamination of industrial eggs and chicken getting into the marketplace. The option aimed at preventing this is to shoot the chickens (and, thus, the eggs) full of antibiotics and hormones. I don't want to eat that.

There are significant issues with the humane treatment of chickens in both chicken and egg factores - that may not be important to some, but it is to me. There are significant labor-relations issues in both industries.

One of the several reasons I've gone over mostly plant-based eating in recent years is that I simply don't trust the industrial food system much.

Here's an article by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman that seems reasonably even-handed. It deals with poultry, but similar problems apply in the egg industry:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/opini ... icken.html
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Tom NJ » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:07 pm

Robin Garr wrote:One of the several reasons I've gone over mostly plant-based eating in recent years is that I simply don't trust the industrial food system much. Here's an article by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman that seems reasonably even-handed. It deals with poultry, but similar problems apply in the egg industry....


Jeez. I must have been living in a shell all these years. (You have no idea how much I was hoping you'd set me up for that one.)

Ok, ok. I hear Bittman interviewed quite frequently on our local NPR outlet's "Food Friday" segments, and I read his Times articles, so I know where he's coming from. Thanks for the link to that one, I'll get to it tomorrow morning. (I'm a big fan of Michael Pollan also. "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and - especially - "In Defense of Food" mad a real impression on me.)
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Thomas » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:33 pm

Tom, I agree with Robin. Our food production and distribution system is deplorable for a civilized nation. The best defense against it is to know who produced the food and where--best that it is local and not sent to centralized processing plants where much of the bacterial infections are introduced.

On the other side of the issue is taste and quality. Locally-produced eggs from chickens that have not been subjected to large-scale commercial feeding and handling are generally richer in color and depth of taste.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Rahsaan » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:37 pm

Tom NJ wrote:
Robin Garr wrote:I won't buy or eat industrial eggs now that better alternatives are easily available.


This may elicit an astonished gasp, but: what's wrong with "industrial" eggs? Are they unhealthy? What makes the alternatives better? I'm asking out of ignorance here, as I cooked at nice restaurants for years where pallets of generic eggs were used to make - I thought - very high quality dishes. So that's what I continue to use at my home. Is there really an issue with them?


For me it's taste. In any dish where you're expecting to have any flavor from the eggs, I'm pretty adamant about only using farmers market fresh eggs, and the difference is ENORMOUS, even from many of the 'fancy' 'free range' eggs at the high quality supermarkets.

Of course the more the eggs are buried in the dish, the less important that is. So depending on what the restaurant was making, there could be much to be said for saving money on 'industrial eggs'. But that's also why I am EXTREMELY skeptical about eating eggs in restaurants, even in nice-ish places.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Frank Deis » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:53 pm

We have generally either been buying eggs that are organic or at least "special" (cage free, whatever) and usually brown -- we sometimes get eggs from a country farm courtesy of our neighbor who has a second home "in the sticks." And the flavor of the farm eggs is really noticeably better.

But recently we were at Costco in the egg room and my wife was greatly impressed at the price of the 18 pack of white eggs there, very very cheap. So we bought some to try out. I have not noticed a huge drop in flavor from the grocery store brown eggs -- but I have to say, the shells are so VERY thin and so VERY fragile that every time I peel a hard boiled egg I find myself thinking "this chicken must have been SICK." These eggs don't look like they would work for sitting and incubating, they are just too fragile. You have to kind of work to get the shell off an organic egg, it's thick and solid, these white shells crumble away in your fingers.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Rahsaan » Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:57 pm

Frank Deis wrote:You have to kind of work to get the shell off an organic egg, it's thick and solid...


Sometimes. But doesn't that depend on time of year, what they've been eating, and such?

There is a range of shell consistencies in my farmers market eggs throughout the year, although the clarity and intensity of flavor is always there.

More than thickness of shell, to me it is also the texture. The shells of the supermarket eggs seem so 'fake' and 'dead', just like the taste.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Frank Deis » Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:23 pm

What they've been eating is a big part of it -- and I hate to think what these small-caged white-egg chickens were being fed.

The rich taste of farm eggs comes from scratching in the dirt and catching an occasional worm or bug I think.

Remember the Peregrine Falcon nearly went extinct in some areas just because there was DDT in the environment and the eggs could be crushed by the weight of the mother trying to sit on them. Non organic farms don't spray their hens with DDT (not any more!) but there is STUFF in the environment that probably shouldn't be.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Thomas » Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:28 pm

Thin eggshells generally signal low calcium levels in the hen. It doesn't necessarily mean a lack of flavor or egg quality, although chickens that are deficient in calcium may be deficient in other nutrients and that could reflect on quality and taste.

Incidentally, the color of the shell has to do with the breed of hens--no reflection on egg quality or on taste.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Frank Deis » Thu Dec 05, 2013 9:01 pm

Not enough Calcium = malnutrition which is a point I was making. And I know Brown doesn't signify, but people who sell eggs have learned that consumers have expectations of brown eggs so a lot of the "organic" eggs sold happen to be brown. I buy white duck eggs at the Chinese market and LOVE them.

At any rate the subject of Persian cooking came up in a conversation and I realized I had never actually linked the Kuku or Kookoo to the concept of a Frittata. But it clearly is one of the best frittatas around. Thick, baked, we usually use a pyrex glass rectangular brownie pan. Some favorites are cauliflower kuku (I think kukuye ghole kolam), green bean kuku, kukuye sabzi or herb kuku with tons of parsley, cilantro, and other green herbs all painstakingly stripped clean of stems. This dish is a must at Persian New Year celebrations. And I think the green bean kuku basically transcends the ingredients, green beans have no business tasting as good as they do in that kuku!
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Thomas » Thu Dec 05, 2013 11:12 pm

Frank Deis wrote:Not enough Calcium = malnutrition which is a point I was making. And I know Brown doesn't signify, but people who sell eggs have learned that consumers have expectations of brown eggs so a lot of the "organic" eggs sold happen to be brown. I buy white duck eggs at the Chinese market and LOVE them.

At any rate the subject of Persian cooking came up in a conversation and I realized I had never actually linked the Kuku or Kookoo to the concept of a Frittata. But it clearly is one of the best frittatas around. Thick, baked, we usually use a pyrex glass rectangular brownie pan. Some favorites are cauliflower kuku (I think kukuye ghole kolam), green bean kuku, kukuye sabzi or herb kuku with tons of parsley, cilantro, and other green herbs all painstakingly stripped clean of stems. This dish is a must at Persian New Year celebrations. And I think the green bean kuku basically transcends the ingredients, green beans have no business tasting as good as they do in that kuku!


Oh yes, having spent "Nirooz" 1974 and 1975 in Tehran I am familiar with the dish. Lovely.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Frank Deis » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:45 am

I think half of the people my age that I know were in Tehran in the 1970's. Including my brother-in-law and his wife (before they got married) and my neighbors 2 doors down. I think it would be great if we could ever have a great relationship with Iran once again. I would totally go there, but not now. My neighbor has academic reasons to visit generally once or twice a year, which is pretty unusual for someone not born there. He's well known there which gives him kind of a protective halo, which I wouldn't have.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Thomas » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:00 am

I've wanted to go back, but of course couldn't.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Jenise » Fri Dec 06, 2013 3:02 pm

Thomas wrote:On the other side of the issue is taste and quality. Locally-produced eggs from chickens that have not been subjected to large-scale commercial feeding and handling are generally richer in color and depth of taste.


Not to mention flavor-robbing pasteurization.
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Re: Frittata? Omelet? What's the difference?

Postby Joy Lindholm » Fri Dec 20, 2013 3:40 am

Jenise wrote:
Thomas wrote:On the other side of the issue is taste and quality. Locally-produced eggs from chickens that have not been subjected to large-scale commercial feeding and handling are generally richer in color and depth of taste.


Not to mention flavor-robbing pasteurization.


And refrigeration!!! Don't get me started on this issue.....

As is true with just-picked vegetables from the home garden, there is nothing that compares to a warm, just-laid (duck) egg fetched from the yard!
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