Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mushroom Spinach & Gruyère Frittata

Inspired by a recipe from Foster Harris B&B in Washington, Virginia, this delicate and delicious Mushroom Spinach and Gruyere Frittata is the perfect dish for a special brunch with a glass of Buck's Fizz — champagne and orange juice — and a bowl of fresh fruit. Nestled in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Foster Harris House Bed & Breakfast has been serving creative culinary delights in a serene country setting for almost 8 years now. 

Foster Harris Bed and Breakfast in Washington, Virginia

John MacPherson, a former industrial designer and his wife Diane, a business consultant, found themselves uninspired by their existing jobs and were ready for a change. They thought, "How about opening a B&B?" They were prepared to go anywhere in the world, but there were a few criteria. They wanted to be in a wine-growing region — always a draw for foodie folks who travel for pleasure — and food and wine were always a passion. Completely reinvesting themselves, they quit their jobs, packed up their home and moved from California to Virginia. Inspired by a cookbook they saw by The Inn at Little Washington, they fell in love with Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah area, and hired a real estate agent who found an existing B&B, Foster Harris House, who's owners were retiring. Seven years on, John and Diane not only have a wildly successful B&B — voted #1 B&B in Virginia since 2004 — but their own cookbook and a new cooking show on PBS: In Season.

Recipes aren't just restricted to dishes that feature on their fabulous four-course breakfast menu, he and Diane run a Sunday Supper Club once a month, where they cook dinner for guests who have stayed at their B & B before. It gives John an opportunity, he says, to do some fun dishes.

John MacPherson creating in his small B&B kitchen

Although not professionally trained, he was brought up by parents who both had Italian grandmothers. His mother was a fantastic cook and he learned from her to make his mise-en-plat look beguiling. "She made sure food was beautiful. I always saw food as the paint or sculpture that sits on top of a platform, a contrast of different colors and textures. I can't put food on a plate without it looking a certain way."

Chocolate Waffles

The Foster Harris House Cookbook is more than a collection of recipes, it’s a glimpse into the soul of this bed and breakfast. In addition to the simple yet sumptuous recipes, there are vintage photographs of the 100-year-old inn and lively anecdotes from many guests who’ve enjoyed John and Diane's refined country cuisine, and who are most likely a few pounds heavier returning home.

Mushroom, Spinach and Gruyère Frittata
Serves 10
Recipe courtesy of Foster Harris House in Washington, VA. photos: Peter Scherman

4 tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot minced
2 cups coarse chopped wild mushrooms - chanterelle, morel, shiitake etc.
16 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup cooked spinach, squeezed dry and chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
parsley sprigs for garnish

Heat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large ovenproof non-stick pan. Add shallot and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until moisture has evaporated and they start to brown, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove to a clean bowl and set aside. Wipe pan clean.

Whisk eggs, milk and cream in a large bowl until well blended. Add cream cheese to the egg mixture by pinching off little bits the size of a dime, then dropping them in. Add Gruyère, mushrooms, spinach, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Heat the same pan over medium heat and add remaining butter. When butter is foamy, add egg mixture and cook for 5 minutes until edges start to set. Carefully transfer pan to oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until center is just set. Cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter and serve each frittata over a potato latke, drizzle with some Basil Hollandaise and finish with a Gruyère crisp and a sprig of parsley.

Basil Hollandaise Sauce
Serves 10

10 egg yolks,
at room temperature
5 tbs water
2 cups unsalted butter, melted
5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
10 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
Pinch of salt

To make the basil hollandaise, combine egg yolks and water in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until thick, pale and creamy. Gradually whisk in the melted butter until incorporated and the mixture is thick. Remove from heat, then whisk in the lemon juice and basil. Taste and season with salt. Set aside until needed.

Potato Latkes
Makes 10 small pancakes

4 cups shredded peeled baking potato
1 cup grated yellow onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
2 large eggs
vegetable oil, for frying

For the latkes, finely grate the potatoes and onion and mix together. Roll up the potato and onion in a clean kitchen tea towel and wring well to extract as much liquid as you can. Mix the potato and onion with the flour, eggs, salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until moderately hot and then place heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan to shallow-fry. Lower the heat to medium, flatten each latke with the back of a spoon and fry for about five minutes on each side, turning over when the edges turn golden-brown. If the heat is too high, the latkes will become dark-brown on the outside before they are cooked inside.
Remove the latkes from the pan and drain on a wire rack. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and patties. Set aside and keep warm until needed.

Gruyère Crisps
Makes 10 crisps

2 cups Gruyère, shredded

Warm a small non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Once hot, place a small handful of grated cheese in the middle, and wait for it to melt, about 1-2 minutes. As the cheese is melting, it can be shaped into any shape you like. Remove the melted cheese from the pan and place on some paper towel. It will crispen as soon as it cools. Set aside until needed.