Frico

Frico

In antipasti, Friuli-Venezia Giulia by Frank39 Comments

Spring is finally here you say? Well, not around these parts. It’s cold and wet, and there’s snow on the ground—comfort food weather. And is there anything more comforting than melted cheese?

Today’s recipe, one of two dishes called frico, is something like a potato pancake, only you pile on lots of cheese, specifically a mild Alpine cheese called Montasio (see Notes). The cheese melts into the potato and forms a delicious round of goodness, warm and creamy on the inside, golden and crispy on the outside. Washed down with a glass of red wine, frico can really help cheer the spirits on a gloomy evening. Almost makes you wish winter would stick around for a while longer…

Personally I would serve frico on its own as either a first course or a vegetarian second, although I understand it’s usually served with polenta as a kind of piatto unico, which sounds really filling…

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 700g (1-1/2 lbs) potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 350g (3/4 lb) Montasio cheese, coarsely shredded or cut into small dice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, lard, or lardo minced into a paste
  • 75g (2-1/2 oz) pancetta, guanciale or speck, cut into small dice (optional)

Directions

Sauté the onion gently in the olive oil or lard or minced lardo in a skillet (nonstick is best) until soft and translucent, along with the pancetta, guanciale or speck if using.

Add the potatoes and mix together with the onions. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add a glassful of water and cover. Let the potatoes simmer until soft, adding more water if necessary. Uncover and let any remaining liquid evaporate, smashing the potato with a wooden spoon into a very rough purée. (Leave some of the potato dice whole for a more interesting texture.)

Add the cheese and fold it well into the potato and onion. Stir from time to time over gentle heat until the cheese melts completely. Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened enough that it forms a solid mass.

Now flatten out the mixture and turn the heat up. Let the mixture form a nice brown crust on the bottom, then flip it over and let it brown on the other side, as if you were making a frittata, about 3-5 minutes per side. (Repeat if need be to get a nice crust.)

Serve immediately, while the cheese is still warm and creamy.

Frico

Notes on Frico

The star of this dish is Montasio cheese. This cow’s milk cheese has been around since the 13th century, traditionally made by monks living in the Moggio abbey, located in the Carnic Alps staddle Friuli and neighboring Austria. The cheese takes its name from the nearby mountain named the Jôf di Montasio. A young Montasio is aged 2 to 5 months, producing a mild tasting semi-hard cheese. An older Montasio is aged 12 months, producing a hard grating cheese with a much sharper flavor. It’s the young type you will want for this dish, although some recipes call for a bit of the older type, too, for flavor.

Montasio can be hard to find in stores, although you can order it online. Otherwise, you can substitute another mildly flavored semi-hard Alpine cheese like Emmenthal or gruyère or a young Asiago, or perhaps a Fontal. Any meltable cheese that you like, really, will produce something delicious. After all, with sautéed onions and potatoes and melted cheese, how can you go wrong?

Variations

There are any number of ways to make frico. There are different ways to treat the potatoes. They can be sliced, cut into chunks or grated rather than diced, each producing a different texture in the final product. In some recipes, you boil or steam the potatoes separately, then add them to the sautéed onion, let them sauté gently for a few minutes, then add the cheese and proceed from there. Some recipes call for a two pot method: You cook the onion-potato-cheese mixture over low heat in a saucepan over low heat, and then brown it in oil over higher heat in a separate skillet.

The cheese content varies widely from recipe to recipe. Some call for a very cheesy frico, with a 1:1 ratio of potato to cheese, double the 2:1 ratio shown here. And if you’re a real cheese maven, you could try this potato-less version of frico from Eleanora Baldwin.

NB: There is another, quite distinct dish also called frico. It is made entirely from Montasio, usually the hard, aged variety, but sometimes using a mix of aged and semi-aged cheeses. You fry the cubed or grated cheese in a non-stick skillet over moderate heat until brown on the bottom, then flip it over and brown it on the other side until you have a thin, round crisp. If laid over a small bowl to cool, the crisps form a basket. Otherwise, you can lay them on paper towels to absorb the excess grease and serve them as an antipasto or snack.

Frico

Frico

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 700g (1-1/2 lbs) potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 350g (3/4 lb) Montasio cheese, coarsely grated or cut into small dice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, lard, or lardo minced into a paste
  • 75g (2-1/2 oz) pancetta or Speck (optional)

Directions

  1. Sauté the onion gently in the olive oil or lard in a skillet (nonstick is best) until soft and translucent, along with the pancetta or speck if using.
  2. Add the potatoes and mix together with the onions. Season generously with salt and pepper, then add a glassful of water and cover. Let the potatoes simmer until soft, adding more water if necessary. Uncover and let any remaining liquid evaporate, smashing the potato with a wooden spoon into a very rough purée, leaving some of the potato dice whole.
  3. Add the cheese and fold it well into the potato and onion. Stir from time to time over gentle heat until the cheese melts completely. Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened enough that it forms a solid mass. 
  4. Now flatten out the mixture and turn the heat up. Let the mixture form a nice brown crust on the bottom, then flip it over and let it brown on the other side, as if you were making a frittata, about 3-5 minutes per side, (Repeat if need be to get a nice crust.)
  5. Serve immediately, while the cheese is still warm and creamy.
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Comments

  1. We have a foot of snow on the ground and more coming on Sunday. (Momma Mia!) so this recipe is pure comfort for me. Bring me some melted cheese. Will be stopping at our cheese shop this weekend. I love this.

  2. DROOLING over the photos dear Frank!:) We both love cheese ourselves, so we’re definitely gonna try to find Montasio, for an authentic taste. If we can’t we’ll use Naxos graviera (sweet, mild) or even a Dubliner(sharper)-mild Cheddar combo.
    Thank you sooooo much for this recipe! You made us happy:)
    xoxo

  3. Yep, although it’s “apparantly” spring here in Scotland, it most definitely isn’t weather wise! It’s freezing outside. THIS is just the perfect comfort food I need. Potatoes and cheese all melted together. Yum!!

  4. This recipe reminds me of Rösti potatoes. We had one in a small town Swiss restaurant that they literally stuffed with cheese, it was awesome! I’m definitely bookmarking for a dinner party starter.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Eva. I didn’t realize that Rösti was made with cheese. They do sound a lot like frico that way. I’ll have to try them soon.

  5. I must admit that I’m not familiar with frico, but this sounds like an amazing comfort food meal on a cold night! Cheese + potatoes. How can you go wrong there? Also, your comment about guanciale reminded me of when I went hunting for it around here. I had no luck, but good thing pancetta works in its place. This almost makes me want more cold weather…well, almost… 🙂

  6. This is such a delicious and simple dish. I remember eating it first in Cividale, up in the Friuli region, where it is omnipresent. It’s quite heavy though, so a little goes a long way.

    1. Author

      It certainly does, although my cheese addiction means that I can eat a whole one myself… 😉

  7. This looks fabulous, Frank! And good news for everyone – I just found young Montasio cheese in Trader Joes! Are used it when making ricotta gnocchi.

    Sorry your spring weather is more winter-like! You should come to Tucson!

    1. Author

      That is great news, David. Thanks for sharing! And yes, one of these days I’m going to make it to Tucson. And Scottsdale, as I really want to check out Taliesen West. I wanted to be an architect when I was young, and FLW was my idol…

  8. I have never made rico here in London, because montassi is very, very difficult to find. I tried the cheese only version in Hazan (Marcella cucina) using Parmigiano and it was ok, a little too unctuous perhaps (as she herself noted I think)… Friuli is a very interesting area food wise, with lots of austro-hungarian links – worth exploring it..ciao st

    1. Author

      I have to admit, I never did make it up there, although I think I’d really enjoy it. Will have to remedy that some day!

  9. Fricking frico sounds FABULOUS! Haha! OMG, this is sooooo my thing! Love potatoes and cheese so much, in fact, I made gattò di patate TWICE this past week! Have you ever had that, Frank? My mother found the recipe in Il Cucchiaio d’Argento (I have it on my site). Like you said, pure comfort food! Will be making this for sure!

  10. I’ve never had this dish! Looks perfect for the weather we’re having too — no snow but gloomy, rainy, chilly. This should perk things up! Thanks so much.

    1. Author

      Well, I’m happy to hear that, Kath. There’s one sure way, of course, to satisfy that desire…

  11. grazie infinite per aver fatto conoscere ai tuoi lettori una ricetta tipica della mia regione , il Friuli Venezia Giulia è un territorio così unico e particolare, luoghi e gastronomia che restano nel cuore di chi lo visita, buon we Frank, un abbraccio !

  12. OMG Frank I’m going to have to get out my fat pants!!! This looks delicious and is definitely on my to do list……

    1. Author

      Ha ha! Thanks so much for the comment, Sharon. And no worries, if you have just one I don’t think you’ll need those fat pants… 😉

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