Cheese and potatoes: what could be better? This simple recipe from Friuli Venezia Giulia is a delicious example of cucina povera, a humble cuisine that combines on-hand ingredients in genius ways. Frico was first developed as a hearty way to save the remainder of the precious Montasio; it is still widely cooked in the region (and beyond) today.
Montasio, an aged cheese, boasts an aromatic bouquet and fruity, grassy notes. It was first made by monks from the milk of cows that graze in the foothills of the Alps. Hundreds of years later, the “recipe” is almost the same. In fact, in 1986, Montasio was awarded protected designation of origin (DOP: refresh your certification expertise here), cementing the production methods. After being brined and salted, Montasio is aged for a minimum of 60 days (and up to more than 18 months), allowing the flavors to intensify over time.
Hungry yet? Think like the ancient Friulians: forage your cupboard for cheese and potatoes, and create the traditional recipe below!
Frico Friulano (Friulian Cheese & Potato Crisp)
½ pound Montasio, grated
1 medium potato (½ pound), peeled & grated
1 small onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Pour the olive oil into the skillet, set over medium heat, and scatter in the sliced onion. Cook for a minute, then scatter the potato in the pan. Toss and tumble the potatoes with the onion, and season with the salt and grinds of black pepper. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, tossing frequently, until the potatoes are lightly crisped and golden.
Add the Montasio. Combine with the potatoes and onion, until the cheese is well distributed. With the spatula, clean the sides of the skillet and smooth the vegetables and cheese into a neat pancake-like disk, filling the pan bottom.
Lower the heat and let the frico cook, undisturbed, as the cheese melts and crisps, until the bottom is very brown and nicely crusted, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan to loosen the disk, put a large plate on top and invert, dropping the frico onto the plate, then slide it back in the skillet, top side down. Cook until the second side is crisp and brown, about 5 minutes more.
Slide the frico onto a plate, slice into 6 wedges, and serve immediately.