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Sunday, 24 July 2011

My Go-To Dinner



I had a great day yesterday.  I drove down island to pick up my step-mom, who had come across on the ferry from Tswassen.  We spent several pleasant hours in Sidney, window shopping, walking in the park, and enjoying the sunshine.

On my drive home I took back roads instead of the main road, and successfully avoided the highway for most of my journey.  I drove through the villages of Deep Bay and Brentwood Bay, the farmland of west Saanich, and then over Mt. Finlayson to Goldstream Park, stopping to take pictures along the way.  It was scenic, relaxing and altogether lovely.

Pleasant as my day was, by the time I got home I was exhausted.  In my enthusiasm to see friends and family this week, I’d forgotten (or ignored) the fact that I’m recovering from an illness.  I ran myself until my tank was completely empty.

Tired or not I needed to eat, but fatigue and hunger had caused such a tremor in my hands that preparing a complex meal was out of the question. I turned to my quick supper standby: an omelette and salad.  I always have the ingredients for this dinner in my fridge and can put it together very quickly.

In North America we tend to think of omelette as a breakfast or brunch dish, and we tend to make them big and robust, with lots of fillings.  In Europe an omelette is an evening meal and, in Britain, France and Belgium, they make them less robust—more delicate—with at most one or two fillings.  This less robust dish is the kind of omelette I make when assembling my fall-back dinner.

Omelettes are at once both simple and difficult to make.  They cannot be overcooked and they should always be assembled in a pan of the right size and shape.  Omelettes should be cooked very quickly, so fillings must be prepared ahead of time.  It’s best not to double a batch. Cook separate omelettes, one a time, for each person you are serving.

For a two or three egg omelette, an 8-inch non-stick pan with sloping sides is best.  A larger pan will spread the egg too thin and cause it to burn or dry out.  A pan with straight sides will make it difficult to turn the omelette once it is cooked. 

Preheat your pan over medium high heat.

Prepare the eggs in a bowl while your omelette pan is heating.  Add 1 Tbsp. of water for every egg you are using.  Whisk the water and eggs together until well combined.  There should be no separation of white and yolk when you’re done.  Don’t use milk: The water will form tiny droplets within the whisked eggs.  These droplets turn to steam when the egg is poured into the hot pan, giving the omelette a lighter texture.

Melt 1 Tbsp. of butter in your preheated pan but do not let it brown.  Swirl the pan to distribute the melted butter over the bottom and then turn in the prepared eggs.  The bottom of the egg mixture should set almost immediately.  Gently lift the cooked edges while tilting the pan, allowing the uncooked egg to run underneath.  Continue this lifting and tilting process until the top of the omelette is set but still moist. Immediately add the toppings.  (I used a little bit of Hilary’s St. Clair cheese and some chopped herbs.)

If you are using vegetables or meat fillings that will make your omelette bulky, a North American style single fold will be easiest to make.  Place your toppings on one half of the omelette and then fold the other half over top before sliding the omelette out of the pan. 

If you are serving a French style omelette, place your fillings down the center third of the cooked egg, fold one outside third over the filling, then roll the filled and folded portion of the omelette over the remaining third, so that the folds are on the bottom.

I almost always serve my supper omelettes with a crisp green salad of some sort.  It makes a pleasant contrasting texture to the soft eggs.  A couple of slices of good bread make this meal complete.