Take A Lesson In Eggs From Europeans

Posted: June 11, 1995

American cooks seem to be the only ones who apologize when they serve eggs for dinner. Eggs are on the menu when the piggy bank stops jingling or when it's two days before moving time.

Europeans treat eggs with far more respect. The French feature omelets in restaurants, even after 11 a.m. The Italians serve frittatas - thick, oven- finished omelets - as casual and filling entrees any time of the day.

In her book, The Foods & Wines of Spain (Alfred A. Knopf), Penelope Casas devotes an entire chapter to eggs and egg dishes. Spain is a nation that exists on eggs.

"If a Spaniard were exiled to a far-off island and allowed only one food, I have little doubt he would choose eggs," writes Casas.

And of all the dishes, ranging from eggs scrambled with bacon and chorizo to cod omelet, the best-loved is tortilla Espanola, a potato omelet. It has nothing in common with the Mexican tortilla except its round shape.

The Spanish dish consists of sauteed potato slices mixed with beaten eggs and cooked in very hot oil in a large skillet. It's often served at room temperature with a fruity white wine, bread and a salad.

The following entree borrows potatoes from the Spanish classic, the frittata baking technique from the Italians, and a mild, white cheese from Mexico to create a Leek and Potato Frittata.

Serve it with a pungently seasoned dish of braised kale for a dinner that needs no apology.

LEEK AND POTATO FRITTATA

4 small new potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large leek

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

3 eggs

1 tablespoon water

Dash hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon minced parsley

2 ounces shredded chihuahua or brick cheese

Cook potatoes in boiling water to cover until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, peel and set aside.

Heat oil in medium, oven-proof skillet. Cut off stem end of leek. Trim off and discard green end. Cut white stem in half lengthwise and then into 1/2- inch-thick slices.

Saute leek slices in skillet until translucent, not brown, about 5 minutes. Slice potatoes 1/4-inch thick and add to skillet with leeks. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Beat together eggs, water, hot pepper sauce and parsley in bowl. Season lightly with salt. Pour over vegetables and cook over medium heat until almost set. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese browns, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes two servings.

BRAISED KALE

1 garlic clove, minced

3 packed cups bite-size pieces kale

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar or 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar plus 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

Over medium heat, saute garlic in oil in medium skillet until tender, about 3 minutes. Add kale and saute until slightly limp, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Check after 10 minutes. If liquid evaporates before kale is tender, add 2 to 3 tablespoons water. Stir in vinegar. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes two servings.

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