Life on the Hill doesn’t exactly allow ample opportunity for experimentation with cooking, leading to a routine diet at the dining halls. Over the course of the quarter, columnist Andrew Warner sets out to break the culinary monotony of dorm life, armed with a rice cooker and a few pantry staples.
I’ve seen people stand in line at Bruin Plate’s omelet bar for up to 20 painstaking minutes.
Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of eggs, so I don’t fully understand the hype surrounding the dining hall omelets. I’m sure they’re delicious, but I can’t imagine waiting nearly half an hour in line for a dining hall omelet.
So this week I decided to make a frittata – essentially an open-faced omelet – to show student chefs that they can bypass the lines.
Compared to an omelet, frittatas are fairly thick, and since they’re traditionally cooked over low heat, they take a bit longer to cook. Chefs add cheese, cooked vegetables and other filling ingredients to the eggs before cooking a frittata, as opposed to folding them into an omelet during the cooking process.
Prepare for the longer cook times by prepping the filling ingredients in advance, to speed up the process. Sauteing the vegetables in a rice cooker can be frustrating, especially in the mornings when students have to get ready for class. I recommend doing all of the sauteing the night before and then setting the prepared filling ingredients in the fridge for finishing in the frittata the next morning.
The filling ingredients are up to the cook. I like mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach and green onions, but whatever students have on hand can work in the frittata.
I will say, however, that tough root vegetables like carrots and potatoes might not be the best for the rice cooker, because they take much longer than other vegetables to cook.
I used three eggs for my three-cup rice cooker, and the frittata was the perfect size – about 1.25 inches thick. For owners of a five-cup rice cooker, I recommend using two more eggs to provide a similar thickness, though it might be too filling to finish alone.
The recipe is simple once all of the vegetables are sauteed. All I had to do was whisk the vegetables and eggs together in a bowl, grease the inside of the rice cooker and cook the eggs on and off for about a half an hour in the rice cooker.
Most rice cookers come with a nonstick finish to ensure that the rice doesn’t burn to the bottom and sides. While nonstick pans generally work pretty well, it’s better to be safe than sorry, which is why I greased the inside of my rice cooker with a tablespoon of oil before adding the eggs. With foods like a frittata, it’s important that everything stays intact – if too much of it sticks to the bottom, it will turn out more like scrambled eggs.
Greasing the pan results in a slightly greasy frittata, so for student cooks who are cutting down on fatty foods, make an egg white frittata instead. However, separating the yolks from the whites will also lower the volume, requiring another egg or two in the mix.
The end result was surprisingly tasty. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t really like eggs, but the frittata was actually a pleasant dish. It took a while to get used to the springy texture of the eggs but the sweet and salty notes from the vegetables and cheese balanced out the eggy taste.
The eggs were fluffy and soft with a golden crisp on the bottom, and although the frittata still had the eggy flavor that I loathe, the frittata’s other flavors managed to overpower it, making it an enjoyable experience for both egg lovers and egg haters alike.
The rice cooker can help students beat the lines at the omelet bar. While it isn’t quite an omelet, the rice cooker frittata will satisfy an early-morning craving for a flavorful eggy delight.
Read more Dorm Dining: