Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Omelettes (Big Trouble in Little China style!)

This is a pretty classic two-egg omelette (with a twist, of course). The great thing about this dish is that it is super easy to customise on the fly (like meatloaf muffins) so that if there are any big likes or dislikes in the crowd you have to feed you can adapt each omelette to each customer. It is possible to dump a gazillion eggs in a bowl, whisk it up, and ladle the eggs out one omelette's worth at a time, but I find it much better to go two eggs at a time -- that gives you more customising room.

The basic ingredients are two eggs (SURPRISE) per omelette, and the rest is up to you. I've shown the spread for one of my favourites: bacon, chile flakes, Egyptian onions fresh from the garden, shiitake mushrooms, salt, pepper, chervil for garnish (also fresh from the garden), and butter for frying.

If bacon is involved in your omelette plan, get that going first. Add a splash of olive oil if the bacon looks a little lean. (Add some anyway, really, it can only make things better -- especially if you also have mushrooms in the plan, since they can soak up an AMAZING amount of fat and, well, we want to soak up as much as we can, really.)

This is one of those "I am frying bacon in olive oil but I really like my shirt" moments when you have to put on an apron. Pick a good one -- suitable for this more-or-less French cooking session.

While the bacon is chugging away, get your other filling ingredients going. All I had to work on here were the mushrooms. Another great thing to put in there is potatoes and onions with cheese. That means your should dice the potatoes and boil them for about 5 mins. Chop the onions while that's going on, and grate the cheese too. Then when the bacon is done, you can drain the potatoes and fry them with the onions in the bacon fat until browned up a little. Then get it all ready for the omelette filling phase.

In any event, once your bacon is done, get it out of the pan and fry up whatever else you want in the remaining fat. I really wanted to use my fresh new wild leeks today. John from work collected a bunch up in Parry Sound and dropped them off at my office today. Sadly, I forgot them in the office fridge in my haste to get the Hell out of there today. :( I will not forget them tomorrow! So, instead it's just bacon and mushrooms tonight.

(Incidentally, you can save your shiitake mushroom tails for soup stock etc. Just pull them off and let them dry on a plate for a week or so. Pop them in a jar and you can throw them into stocks or whatever when the fit takes you.)

Ok, lets roll. Crack two eggs into a bowl, add a splash of water (maybe a tablespoon?) and whatever else you want. Salt and pepper are pretty much givens. Some chile flakes can be fun. A pile of green onions is cool too. This is your first chance to customise -- make the egg wrapper of your choice!

Whip all that around with a fork until it is nicely combined. Then get your omelette pan heating.

My pan of choice is a de Buyer iron pan. This is old school. This is pre-"Better Living Through Chemistry." I don't trust non-stick coatings any farther than I can spit, so those modern no-stick (ok, they came out in the 70s, but whatever) pans are not for me. (By the way, my eldest daughter can't use this expression, since she once won a watermelon seed spitting contest, sending the projectile some 16 feet at the tender age of 8 -- but that's another story.) I also like the workmanship of these, and the heft, and the shape, and the just plain old understated perfection of form and function they seem to exude. (No, I don't work for de Buyer.)

When your mushrooms are this awesome, you should be ready to get the eggs going.

Get a good wad of butter in your heated omelette pan -- don't be shy, this is old-school no-stick remember, and a good layer of butter is key. Let it sizzle until the water evaporates.

Then drop the eggs in.

Dab a spoon around in there for a bit. This helps distribute the eggs and evens them out in the pan. Then let them sit for a few minutes until the top is almost set.

This is a good time to prepare your garnish. I chose chervil for mine. It is like parsley, only the leaves are really small so it doesn't feel like you are eating paper. It also has a nice subtle licorice flavour -- it's great on everything. I don't think you can buy it, but if you get a patch going in your garden you'll probably never be able to get rid of it -- it's one of the best weeds I ever encountered!

By now you're probably saying "Wait a sec. What happened to the Big Trouble in Little China angle?"

Well, dear reader, it is now. You see, in my estimation, the bottom of an omelette gets too brown by the time the top sets, and it doesn't look all that great when you roll it out. My solution is to flip it. This is the no-guts-no-glory moment. This is the time to "Damn the torpedoes" and go "full steam ahead!". This is when you have to channel Jack Burton.

Jack Burton is the main character in Big Trouble in Little China. The relevant bit follows:

Jack: "You know what old Jack Burton always says at a time like this."

Bad Guy: "Who?"

Jack Burton: "JACK BURTON! ME!! Ol' Jack always says, 'What the Hell.'"

So, that's what you have to do. Jiggle the pan. If the omelette moves in one piece, steel your nerves, stand in an appropriate stance, say "What the Hell," and give a quick shake and flick of the wrist and...

Jack Burton: "It's all in the reflexes."

...voila! It will either look like this or it will land all over the stove/floor. Note that this is not at all necessary, you can skip this whole thing and just put your fillings in there without flipping, but when else will you get a chance to run through this whole dialogue? Seriously?!
Ok ... get your custom fillings in there and let the top cook for a second. Keep the filling to the left half of the pan (unless you use cheese, which should be spread all over).

Then slide the omelette onto a plate, and ...

...fold it over at the half-way point. Please excuse the blurry pics and the bubble in the middle -- I attribute this to trying to take a picture in the middle of the folding process.

If you are cooking for a crowd, put the finished omelettes in the oven at the lowest heat while you make the others.

Then garnish with your chervil, add some tomatoes, and if you are lucky, add some of the nice sopressata that Giuseppe gave you at work today. (You may have noticed that there are nice people at my work who give away cool food things. If you don't have this where you work you can a) talk to HR and try and find some people like that or b) follow the sage advice of Max Jackson who at the end of his sports casts on CKWS TV in Kingston always said "If you don't play a sport, be one!" which in this case means "If no one is bringing cool foodie things to work, then do it yourself and get the ball rolling!").

ANYWAY, mangia!

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