Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 684 pp. plus 32 pages of index
by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child
Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963 (4th printing)
Cooking on page 132
I was determined to have a copy of this cookbook, so determined that over a period of years I managed to buy two! I’m annoyed about the second one because I stupidly spent a fortune on postage to have it sent from the USA. I was delighted when it arrived, but sobered when I found it’s twin already in one of the bookshelves.
This is another example of why I needed to start cooking out of my huge array of cookbooks.
Remembering the book and film, Julie and Julia, I dreaded to think what recipe I’d find on page 32—surely some scary dish that would take months to perfect.
As it turned out, page 32 has explanations about French wine, fortified wines, spirits and liqueurs.
So I thumbed on to page 132 and found L’Omelette Roulée or Rolled Omelette. This should be easy, I thought. Ha! Easy but messy, and not for those easily discouraged. Imagine four pages and four illustrations to explain how to make a rolled omelette—who knew it was rocket science?
So let’s get started—the explanation is long, but I love the advice on how to flick the pan. I can almost hear Julia Child explaining this to her television audience.
Recipe—L’Omelette Roulée or Rolled Omelette
Ingredients and method
This omelette should be made in a French omelette pan and a high gas flame is usually more successful than an electric heat element. The rolled omelette is the most fun of any method, but requires more practice. Here the pan is jerked over high heat at an angle so the egg mass is continually hurled against the far lip of the pan until the eggs thicken. Finally as the pan is tilted further while it is being jerked, the eggs roll over at the far lip of the pan, forming an omelette shape. A simple-minded but perfect way to master the movement is to practice outdoors with half a cupful of dried beans. As soon as you are able to make them flip over themselves in a group, you have the right feeling; but the actual omelette-making gesture is sharper and rougher.
For 1 omelette, 1 to 2 servings. Time: less than 30 seconds of cooking.
2 or 3 eggs
big pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
a mixing bowl
a table fork
Beat the eggs and seasonings in the mixing bowl for 20 to 30 seconds until the whites and yolks are just blended.
1 tablespoon butter
an omelette pan 7 inches in diameter at the bottom
a table fork
Place the butter in the pan and set over very high heat. As the butter melts, tilt the pan in all directions to film the sides. When you see that the foam has almost subsided in the pan and the butter is on the point of coloring (indicating it is hot enough), pour in the eggs. It is of utmost important in this method that the butter be of the correct temperature.
Let the eggs settle in the pan for 2 or 3 seconds to form a film of coagulated egg in the bottom of the pan (illustration provided).
Grasp the handle of the pan with both hands, thumbs on top, and immediately begin jerking the pan vigorously and roughly toward you at an even, 20-degree angle over the heat, one jerk per second (illustration provided).
It is the sharp pull of the pan toward you, which throws the eggs against the far lip of the pan, then back over its bottom surface. You must have the courage to be rough or the eggs will not loosen themselves from the bottom of the pan. After several jerks, the eggs will begin to thicken. (A filling would go in at this point.)
Then increase the angle of the pan slightly, which will force the egg mass to roll over on itself with each jerk at the far lip of the pan (illustration provided).
As soon as the omelette has shaped up, hold it in the angle of the pan to brown the bottom a pale golden color, but only a second or two, for the eggs must not overcook. The center of the omelette should remain soft and creamy. If the omelette has not formed neatly, push it with the back of your fork.
Turn the omelette onto the plate as illustrated on page 128, rub the top with a bit of butter, and serve as soon as possible.
The recipe goes on for another two pages, explaining different options for garnishes and fillings. Suggestions are for fine herbs, or a couple of tablespoons or up to 1/4 cup of cheese, spinach, sautéed potatoes, truffles, sautéed ham, sautéed chicken livers, sautéed mushrooms, cooked asparagus tips, cooked artichoke hearts, shrimp, crab, lobster, tomatoes, or cubes of stale bread sautéed in butter.
How it played out
The first challenge was to come up with a substitute for a French omelette pan. After digging around in the cupboards for 10 minutes or so—with ruler in hand—I finally found a stainless steel frying pan with a 7-inch base and enough of a side to stand up to the hurling eggs.
I didn’t bother to run into the backyard to practice the jerking technique with dried beans. I was up for the challenge.
I limited this experiment to 2 eggs and the whole process really worked. I was jerking away and the omelette was indeed rolling over on itself, but then I got a little too cavalier and lost some of the still slightly sloppy egg over the side of the pan. Oops! I scraped the mess back into the pan, and never quite managed to recreate the rolled effect. Good grief, all this happened in the predicted 30 seconds.
Graeme, who also lives at our house, wandered in just before my ‘oops’ moment. I offered to make him an omelette too, and had another ‘oops’ moment at almost exactly the same stage of the proceedings.
I’m determined, so will keep trying to perfect the jerk. Perhaps I need to have a go with the dried beans.
The omelette was absolutely sensational. Seriously, the best omelette I’ve ever made. It was so light and creamy, and the balance of herbs was perfect—I used a sprinkling of Herbs de Provence. I was amazed, too, that it held its heat while I snapped a few quick photos.
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