Have you ever found yourself looking in your refrigerator, hoping to be inspired enough to make something out of its contents?
Sometimes you see only leftovers. And the best thing you can make of them is an omelet. Call it an omelet overcoat, which is how engaging food writer Alice B. Toklas called her egg creation.This quarantine period has been a good time to clean out the refrigerator. And one way is to shred whatever is there—barbecued pork, steamed chicken, fried fish—add spices or vegetables, then coat in beaten egg.
I remembered that I had a book, English food writer Elizabeth David’s “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine” (Penguin Books, 1984).
It is a collection of her articles for various magazines and newspapers. David didn’t want to do what food writers did then—introduce a recipe followed by the recipe itself. When she did include one, she didn’t put too many details.
Claudia Roden, distinguished writer of Middle Eastern cuisine, said that David “never gave the size of the pan. It was always just ‘take a frying pan…’”
Lightness and beauty
“An Omelette and a Glass of Wine” was just one of the articles, but it became the book’s title. The article was about a celebrated restaurant, “Hotel de la Tete d’Or on the Mont-St-Michel just off the coast of Normandy.” When David mentioned the proprietress, Madame Poulard, I remembered La Mère Poulard at Bonifacio Global City. David described the “exquisite lightness and beauty of the omelettes.” Judging by what is offered in the restaurant’s Philippine branch, the dish is, indeed, light and airy.
A demonstration of the way the omelet is done was given during the restaurant’s launch here, and we were quite curious about the technique. We saw how the beating of the eggs is done by hand. The eggs are beaten in a copper bowl. Those who tried to do it later said the results were not the same.
When Madame Poulard finally retired, one writer asked her to give her recipe. Her reply made me giggle.
“I break some good eggs in a bowl, I beat them well, I put a good piece of butter in the pan, I throw the eggs into it, and I shake it constantly,” said Annette Poulard.
For David, the success of the omelet “starts with the pan, and not with the genius of the cook.” The pan, she wrote, should be a heavy flat-bottom pan, the one you shouldn’t wash but merely clean and wipe with oil before putting it away.
She is probably right, because a Chinese chef once told me something similar about the wok they use. Both are talking about a griddle or pan made of cast iron. But if that’s the case, you’d have to be a weightlifter to “shake it constantly.”
Another tip from a chef: What you use to cook eggs should be used only for eggs. Otherwise, the eggs or omelet will stick.
David deigned to give a recipe in her article, a cheese omelet from the Moliere restaurant she frequented in Provence when she lived there. We reformatted the recipe into the form we are used to. The first requirement is that the eggs should be fresh.
1 tbsp grated Parmesan
Ground pepper, to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp diced Gruyere
1 tbsp thick cream
In a bowl, beat the Parmesan, eggs and pepper. Heat the skillet to just warm, then put in the butter. When the butter begins to boil or change color, put in the egg mixture.
Add the Gruyere and the cream.
Tip the pan toward you so that the mixture goes to that edge of the pan. Then tip away from you so that the mixture goes to the other edge. When you do this twice, the Gruyere would have melted. Fold the omelet into three (the French way) or just two. Slide it onto a plate (warmed the French way).