Friday, May 17, 2013

The Nomad Architect's Guide to Making The Best Omelette This Side of Bessieres

The French and The Incredible - Edible Egg

Ahh! the French. Western civilization would simply not be the same without the French. In addition to one of history's greatest military leaders,  the French have given us some of the greatest culinary creations ever to come from the fertile minds of simple country folk as well as the greatest chefs of Paris. One creation that ensures the French a special place in culinary history is the omelet - la omelette - l'aumelette. No matter how you spell it or pronounce it, nothing says French and nothing says paradisiaque like the concoction of eggs, oil, butter and other tasty stuff discovered by the great general in the small village of Bessieres in southern France. Marie Antoinette may have said "Let them eat cake", but Napoleon is the guy that ordered up a huge omelet to feed his hungry troops.
I have had omelets of every ilk in fine restaurants and greasy spoons from Atlanta to Avignon, but nothing can compare to the intensity, the ecstasy and the creativity of a great omelet prepared in your very own kitchen. Even if you don't now what you are doing, if you follow a few simple rules, you can impress everyone in your circle of influence with your creation of a food item made with one of God's most amazing creations - the simple, beautiful, elegant egg. Architects, engineers, painters, sculptors and designers of every persuasion have tried to create works that capture the pure natural essence of the egg with virtually no success. For instance, this small, petite little piece of nature from our barnyard friend, the poulete, can hold up to forty five pounds! Now that's engineering. And nutritionally, many call the egg the super
food because of its unique combination of protein, vitamins and minerals.
Trust Me Guys - You Can Do This
The real purpose of today's post is to help my fellow fellows shed their trepidation and boldly go where few guys ever go - THE KITCHEN. That's right. The omelet is one of those rare food preparations that any normal, red blooded man for any and all seasons can make. And, believe me, there is no better way to impress those you love than laying out this delicate concoction on a Saturday or Sunday morning while the real cooks, like my betrothed, offer only technical advice when asked.
This past Mothers Day, rather than take my Susie (aka Karen Sue) out for a meal, I decided to cook up my version of the French delight (which I am still trying to perfect) for  the mother of our two children who worship their mother as both a saint and a kick-ass southern cook. Of course, when they both called to wish her a happy Mother's Day (they live in Atlanta and DC), I could here the envy over the phone upon learning that I was preparing the specialty of the house for their mother . One unnamed source has been heard to say that my one and only daughter-in-law became obsessed with the very idea of omelets after having one of my creations not long ago. I am not bragging when I say it was worthy of said obsession.
And, by the way, you do not have to prepare this ultimate comfort food only at home. If you want to impress, find a place in your travels that has a small kitchen and, hopefully, an omelet pan. If not, go to a nearby market and purchase all the ingredients and then find a cheap omelet pan or prepare another version of this brunch delight, the dirty omelet (more on that later). All Nomad's love to eat in great restaurants, but nothing says "I Love You" quite like serving up this delicacy at your favorite little cabin in the dell. I still have vivid memories of enjoying this gastronomic delight at  a Natural Retreats eco-cabin in the Yorkshire Dales, UK. And under no circumstances must you allow your significant other to come anywhere near the sink when it's time to clean up.
Design Specifications For The Nomad Architect's New Millennium Omelet

The Rules - Like travel with nomads, cooking requires a road map.
  • Do not allow ANY actual involvement of food preparation by your lover, friend and help mate.
  • Make absolutely certain that said help mate is available at all times for technical advice, because, remember, you really do not know what you are doing.
  • Be very organized. Approach this as a project requiring the management intensity of a NASA mission. I always approach it as though I am "designing" the food.
  • Do not hurry. Like any activity of real importance, slow is better.
  • And most critical. DO NOT COOK TOO FAST OR TOO HOT. That is the number one mantra of all cooks.

The Tools - You gotta have good equipment.
  • 8 inch diameter stainless steel omelet pan. Non-stick is allowed for rookies only.
  • Large (10-12 inch) sauteing pan for preparation of ingredients.
  • Small whisk. A fork will work as well.
  • Large, pliable spatula for flipping the omelet. I still have not mastered the art of "air flipping".
  • Smaller spatula for stirring ingredients and lifting omelets during cooking.
  • Medium or small individual bowls for the eggs for each omelet, unless you make a dirty omelet.
  • Simple, sharp knife for cutting ingredients . I still use one we bought in Avignon.
  • Cutting board for ingredients preparation.
  • French Press Coffee Maker. This shows you have good taste and a sense of style.
  • Water Kettle for coffee and tea. I use a very cool red travel kettle by BODUM when we are on the road.
  • Baking sheet for bread.
  • Bread basket. Remember you are serving to your BFF, so details count.
  • Cheese Grater (optional).

The Food - Your stomach and your heart heart will thank you.
          Main Ingredients - Nature's bounty.
  • Eggs. You will need three large eggs for each omelet.
  • Meats and Seafood. The Nomad Architect New Millennium has Italian sausage and shrimp but, you're the boss, at least for today, so do your own thing. Other items might include bacon, ham, crab meat or go veggie if you like. Just make sure that everything is fresh.
  • Veggies. This list is endless - tomatoes, asparagus, squash, spinach, bell pepper, mushrooms, ad infinitum.
  • Scallions.These little veggie will take your omelet up another subtle notch.
  • Cheese. It is preferable to grate it yourself, but, if not, pre-grated is fine. Sharp Cheddar is my favorite, but, again, it's your choice.
          Seasoning - Life must have spice.
  • Milk - not required, but adds body to the eggs.
  • Tabasco Sauce - also not required, but can give the omelet a little kick.
  • Salt & Pepper - preferably Sea Salt and Whole Grinding Pepper.
  • Olive Oil or Butter - there are two schools on this. I think the oil is better and its healthier.
  • Butter and preserves of choice for bread.
  • Lemon
         Bread - The omelet's best friend.
  • Croissants, english muffins, toast - whatever suits you and yours fancy.

The Jazz - Food without music - it just ain't right!
  • Turn off the TV and put on some Diana Krall, James Taylor, Norah Jones or The Lumineers.
  • Rustle up some champagne and OJ for a few Mimosas. Bam!!

The Process - Just Do It!!
  • Set the table. Do this first and get it out of the way. Again, with no help from the little lady.
  • Make the Mimosas and put them in the fridge, if you are having any.
  • Prepare the coffee and tea for pouring BEFORE you start cooking.
  • Cut and butter any bread or english muffins you plan to serve and place on a baking sheet.
  • Set oven to broil. I am assuming you are not going to make your own croissants. 
          These instructions are for a sausage and shrimp omelet. You can improvise with other
          ingredients as you see fit.
  • Crack three eggs per omelet in a small bowl. Add about a teaspoon of salt and pepper, about a table spoon of milk and a dash of Tabasco. Whisk until completely mixed.
  • Remove the sausage (about 4-6 inches per omelet)  from its casing, tear into bite sized chunks and place on a spare plate.
  • Peel the shrimp (about 4-6 per omelet), wash and let dry in a colander or just lay out on some paper towel, then put in a medium size bowl, add a little lemon juice, salt and pepper and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Cut all veggies (about a 1/2 cup for each omelet) and loosely mix in a medium size bowl. Add a little salt and pepper.
  • Cut up about a teaspoon of scallions for each omelet.
  • Grate a small handful of cheese for each omelet and place on a spare plate. Pre-grated cheese is allowed for  non-purists.

Now for the coupe de haute cuisine!
          This is where it can get a little tricky, because, in cooking, like life, timing is everything. 
          Remember, don't get in a hurry and use your multi-tasking skills to ensure a perfect outcome.
  • Preheat the saute pan on low-medium heat and coat with olive oil. After a couple of minutes, pour in the sausage. After the sausage looks about 3/4 done, add the shrimp. Shrimp cooks fairly fast, so don't rush this.
  • Start water heating for coffee and tea. When the water boils, pour in the tea cup and French Press. French Press coffee takes about four minutes to brew.
  • Place the bread in the oven and take out in about 2-3 minutes, depending on your oven. Do not forget about it while you are cooking the omelet, lest you burn it!
  • Preheat the omelet pan on low-medium heat and add olive oil. Make sure the sides and bottom are completely coated. And make sure that you do not over heat. An omelet needs time to cook.
  • When the sausage and shrimp are nearing completion add ALL the veggies and stir . It should take about 3-4 minutes for the veggies to cook. Once this concoction is done, turn down to low heat and let simmer.
  • Pour the first omelet eggs into the omelet pan. As the omelet begins to cook, lift up the egg with the small spatula at the sides and let the uncooked egg "slide" underneath. Continue this process until the bottom of the eggs are firm. Then - and this part takes experience to do well - flip or turn the egg over with the large spatula. One day I WILL develop the skill of "air flipping" as seen on The Food Network.
  • As the eggs firm up, add the meat and veggie concoction - then add the cheese and half flip one side over the other. Let this cook for no more than about thirty seconds and transfer to the plate.
  • Repeat this process for each omelet. Each one should take about three minutes to prepare.
Set the coffee, tea, bread and mimosas on the table, thank the Good Lord for the bounty and those around the table and dig in.
PLAN B - If you have a really large group or you are just a slacker, you can opt to make a "dirty" omelet. This involves simply sauteing all the ingredients in the large pan, pouring in all the eggs after mixing and seasoning and cooking until firm. Use the same flipping techniques and allow the eggs to firm up. One word of caution. Do NOT over stir. It makes the eggs less firm. Le Cordon Bleu will not be amused, but, if it feels nice, don't think twice. By the way, that is NOT me at left.

Happy Trails & Bon Appetit

D.L.. Stafford

Travel Quote of The Week - "If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home." James Michener

Video Artist of The Week - The Lumineers. With tunes like Ho Hey, great lyrics and a nod to tradition, this folk rock band from Denver makes you smile while you think.

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