The simple world of the omelet

February 20, 2013 

There is hardly a dish more flexible than the fresh egg omelet.

It has been adored since the Roman times when they were served with honey. A good guess would be that its popularity is much older than that.

An omelet can be a simple thing indeed, or just about as complicated as you would like to make it. It can be an inexpensive dish, or you can spend a bundle on it just as easily.

The mother of all French cookbooks, "Larousse Gastronomique," lists 38 omelet recipes and subdivides them into filled, flat, garnished and sweet.

Recipes include one from the 16th century that Brillat-Savarin loved that was filled with carp roe and tuna fish. Other suggestions include chicken liver, foie gras, spinach and eggplant.

"The Silver Spoon," the best-selling cookbook in Italy for the past 50 years, lists a paltry 16 omelet recipes that include apricot preserves, crab and interestingly, snails. As creative as some chefs and cultures can be with an omelet, remember a plain omelet with nothing but a green garnish can be a thing of wonder.

There seems to be some mystique about how an omelet is made, but it really is a simple chore and after a few practice attempts you should be a pro.

There are a few differences of opinion on technique, but this is the method "Gastronomique" recommends: beat the eggs lightly, do not overwork. Add freshly ground black pepper, salt and 3-4 tablespoons milk or 1 tablespoon cream. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of best-quality butter in a clean non-stick pan. Add the eggs and stir with a fork, drawing the edges to the center when they began to set.

It is not necessary to turn the omelet. When it is done remove to a warm serving platter fold it in three and rub with a bit of butter to make it shinny. If you are making a filled omelet add the ingredients just before it is done, fold and cook until it is warmed through.

A note on cooking eggs: eggs are a delicate food and are much-damaged by overcooking. MFK Fisher famously suggested that eggs should never be whipped at all and that scrambling should take at least 30 minutes over the smallest flame possible. If you have been a bit too aggressive with your eggs in the past, try cooking them over low heat and you will be surprised at the result.

CRAB OMELET

1/4 pound jumbo lump crab per omelet

1 strip smoked bacon cooked crispy and chopped

3 tablespoons chopped green onion

2 eggs per omelet

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

3-4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt and pepper

Small pinch red pepper flakes

Butter

Pick the crab meat thoroughly; no one likes to bite down on a piece of cartilage. Gently combine the crab, green onions and

bacon and season to your taste. Separately combine the eggs, cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl, season and whisk gently (don't overdo it). Place 2-3 tablespoons butter in a 6-inch, non-stick pan and heat until it starts to foam. Add the eggs and turn the pan so that they fill the pan evenly. Cook until almost set, add the crab mixture, fold the omelet in half and continue cooking until done and thoroughly hot.

This omelet goes particularly good with a Hollandaise sauce. Serve with a dry Riesling or a Pinot Gris.

OYSTER OMELET

An oyster omelet might sound like a recipe from the Gulf South, but it is in fact a wildly popular recipe in China and other parts of Asia.

Some have called it the most addictive food in the world. This omelet is not folded, but is served flat. Ingredients are for one omelet per person.

6 medium size oysters

3-4 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon finely chopped hot pepper

3-4 tablespoons canola oil

2-3 eggs

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Salt and pepper

Chili oil as desired (find in an Asian market)

Cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, add the garlic and chopped hot pepper and cook for about 1 minute. Add the drained oysters and cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk the eggs, season and add them to the pan, stir to incorporate and cook until almost set. Drizzle with the chili oil, cover the pan and allow to cook until the top is firm and set. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with a good Sauvignon Blanc.

GULF COAST SHRIMP OMELET

4 large shrimp

2-3 whisked eggs

3 tablespoons diced Emmental cheese

3 tablespoons diced mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons chopped Italian sausage

1 minced garlic toe

2 tablespoons butter

Good quality olive oil

Green onions for garnish

Black pepper and Tony Chachere's seasoning

Peel and de-vein the shrimp, place in 2-3 cups cold water with just a sprinkle of salt (this helps keep the succulent). Turn the oven on to broil. Add a little oil to a sauté pan and sauté the sausage until almost crispy, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute, remove, set aside. Drain the shrimp and dry, season aggressively with black pepper and Tony Chachere's. Add oil to the same pan and heat until almost smoking, cook the shrimp about 45 seconds on a side, they should take on a little color, but do not overcook. Remove and set aside with the sausage mixture. In a non-stick pan, add butter and heat until the butter foams. Add the eggs and swirl to evenly cover the pan, as soon as the eggs start to set add the shrimp and sausage mixture, top with the cheese. When the eggs are almost set put under the broiler until the cheese melts. The omelet should puff up just a bit, giving it a lighter texture. Serve flat or with a single fold, garnish with the green onions and serve with a sparkling wine.

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