The dish is quite well known, especially if you are a food passionate living in Italy for sure you have heard of it, but I had the chance to eat it for the first time only recently when I went to San Daniele where I ate it next to some amazing long aged cured hams, and since I really liked it I decided to make it by my own too, so I looked for some good cheese and here it is 🙂
First of all let me say that there are two versions: the Frico “friable” (friabile) and the Frico “soft” (morbido). The first is made simply just with cheese, cooked in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil until crunchy and usually served as a snack or shaped into baskets to contain other food.
The soft Frico (what I did) instead is made with cheese, potatoes and usually onion, and at a first sight it could look like a frittata, a bit.
The oldest sources about a similar dish dates back to the XVI century, in a recipe called “Caso in patellecte” written by Martino da Como.
It’s a recipe of poor and humble origins, and originally it was created to re-use remaining pieces cut out from cheese (pieces which are called “strissulis” in the local dialect, exceeding pieces of cheese after the cheese shaping), but nowadays it’s mostly made with Montasio DOP, the most famous cheese in that area, produced there since the XIII century (for this recipe I bought it recently in Italy, but luckily I can find it also here in Budapest).
In alternative you could try also with Asiago DOP. In any case you need higher-fat hard cheese for the best results.
Some modern recipes suggest to use Montasio DOP of different aging: “fresco” (fresh/young) over 60 days of aging, “mezzano” over 4 months of aging, “stagionato” over 10 months of aging and “stravecchio” over 18 months of aging.
But in this case I used only the “mezzano” and it was absolutely enough and perfect, also because in the past, as we said, they used what they had (again, its origins are poor) 🙂 the mezzano it’s not too soft which could give some more problems to reach the correct texture and it’s not too hard which would melt less easily. Moreover I think that by using a mix of those good cheese with different aging in such a recipe we wouldn’t do a favor to none of those good cheese.
One last thing: traditionally the common fat used at the beginning is butter or lardo, extra virgin olive oil it was not common in that area. But in this case I preferred the last choice, all that cheese makes the recipe enough “heavy” 🙂 and I didn’t use much oil also because this kind of cheese releases enough fat.
And not to forget, the traditional pairing is with polenta and a good glass of wine 🙂
INGREDIENTS (5/6 people):
- 500 g of Montasio DOP (mezzano, or half fresco and half mezzano or older)
- 500 g of potatoes (measure the weight when they are peeled)
- 1 big onion, or spring onion in equivalent weight
- freshly ground black pepper (optional, I didn’t use)
- extra virgin olive oil (or butter), 20 g about
- First of all grate the cheese and the potatoes using a cheese grater (as in the photo below), but using the larger holes. And cut the onion into small pieces.
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil/butter in a pan and start cooking the onion at low heat. After 5 minutes add the grated potatoes and mix with the onion (but squeeze the potatoes well before, try to remove their liquid as much as possible).
- After 4-5 minutes you can add the grated cheese: simply pour it in the pot, spread it on all the surface and then mix it with the vegetables. Set the heat on medium and let it cook for about 12/15 minutes until you will have a nice brown crust on the bottom. I placed the pan over the flame on one corner, and then every 3 minutes I turned the pan of 90 degrees, and 2-3 minutes also in the middle, so after that time I cooked perfectly and homogeneously all the bottom surface. During this time the cheese will release a lot of fat, personally I prefer to remove most of it using some absorbing paper sheets.
- After that time, when you saw that you have a nice crust (but not too dark, don’t burn it, so have always a look at it and not just at the watch), you have to turn it on the other side, as for a frittata. I don’t suggest to flip it in the air because is too heavy and soft, use a large dish or even better use a second pan of the same size, that’s the best and easiest option. But before turning it be sure that it’s not attached on the bottom of the pan, shake the pan to loosen the disk or help yourself with a spatula.
- Cook the other side for other 10 minutes about. The perfect frico is crunchy outside and soft inside.
- Serve the frico next to a good polenta, even better if grilled. And if you have also some good ham or salami that’s perfect! 🙂 and don’t forget the wine! 😀
PS: if you would like a modern touch, serve it with some honey, it fits often well with cheese. In this case maybe without polenta but served at a buffet or as a snack/appetizer.