The Omelet – History, Variations, and How To Make It (plus Omelet #15)

The omelet actually is said to have originated in the “Ancient Near East,” which corresponds to the present Middle East. So I guess it is appropriate for me to be writing about omelets here on israelwinetaster.com. It travelled to Western Europe where each country adapted the original to produce the Italian frittata, Spanish tortilla and the French omelette. The ancient version was fried until firm and the French introduced its fluffiness. It then travelled east to be reborn as Egg Foo Young and to the other direction, reborn as the Western Omelet. For details about the omelets of Indonesia, Turkey, Morocco, Phllippines, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, and India in addition to the above countries, plus a Placerville, California gold rush days omelet containing bacon and breaded oysters, see the article in Wikipedia. They also have pictures of several of these “foreign” omelets. And I just found another one in Wikibooks Cookbook for the Friar’s Omelet from Scotland, though according to the directions it sounds like an eggy apple pie and something far afield from our omelets.

As a personal historical note, Julia Child introduced me to cooking. After returning from a two week trip around France back in the early 1970’s, I was unable eat out in restaurants around the Boston area. I had been spoiled by the high quality of French food preparation. So I purchased Julia Child’s book and started cooking, using it as my map to the land of culinary delights. I still have The French Chief Cookbook which grew out of the educational television series, “The French Chef,” viewed on WGBH-TV, Channel 2 in Boston. The book was originally published in 1968 and I purchased its tenth printing back in 1975. Somehow or other, I have become an omelet “specialist,” of sorts. This was born in 1992 at Kibbutz Hanaton when we prepared our own breakfasts out in the field. To avoid the heat of the day, we started work early and took a breakfast break. I made omelets with bananas and peanut butter and found that fruity, nutty contents which were soft and crunchy mixed well with the egg flavors. More recently, I have, at a once/week cadence, regularly prepared omelets from all sorts of ingredients, mainly focusing on what is fresh, seasonal, and especially locally available. I just love to come back home after my morning walk with Hagrid, our Half-Bassett Hound, the two of us carrying a bag full of wild asparagus. They then become the centerpiece of the Omelet of the Week. If I can’t pick it wild, I pick it from the garden, and if that isn’t possible, use fresh picked produce given to us by the neighbors’ or friends’ orchards, and if that isn’t available, I resort to seasonal items from the produce market.

Somehow, without any particular guidance, I eveolved into cooking the omelets my own way, which I thought was the way. But when I made an omelet for friends one day recently, they said that the way was their way. So I did a bit of research on the internet and found that there are many ways. Here’s Julia Child doing it her way.  I must admit that what you see in this video is the easiest and quickest way but I still like my way best. If you want to see a video of how I make an omelet, I ask a bit of patience of you. I am going to try to make my first video and embed it in the next omelet post. Please come back to the blog to a subsequent post to see the results. If it works really well, maybe I’ll try to put it on youtube.com, but enough delusions of grandeur for now. If you want to see other ways of making omelets, I invite you do explore the results of my Google search for “how to make an omelet.” This succeeded in finding 10,400,000 web pages. You’ll find a video on how to finish it in the oven, but it would seem to me, not having tried it, that this would make the omelet less fluffy and more rigid. There’s also video instructions for flipping it with the frying pan, a method which, it seems to me, is fraught with hazard and the subsequent necessity of resorting to a massive kitchen clean-up instead of settling down to enjoy eating the products of your labor. You can put the “contents” on top of the egg or mix them in with the egg or our pocket approach with the contents inside where contents belong.

Another cookbook I just love is one by Martha Rose Shulman, the daughter of Max Shulman, a prolific writer of satirical humor, especially famous for Dobie Gillis.  I have a much used and dog-eared version of her long since out of print Fast Vegetarian Feasts where she discusses omelets. She says that you can fill an omelet with practically anything and that, “I often surprise people with my fruit fillings, combinations like strawberries and Brie, or spiced apples and Cheddar or nuts. Avocados are a sensuous filling, and sprouts and herbs produce an omelet bursting with life.” It must be that she was the source of my many previously posted, sometimes somewhat strange omelet combinations, though I don’t specifically remember applying her recipes to my creations. I must try her suggestion of a “heavenly” version which she calls the Puffed Omelet, made by separating the eggs, beating the egg whites stiff and folding in the beaten yolks along with the filling. Voila — a souffle prepared on the top of the stove in one minute. I don’t subscribe to the jerking the pan to and from as she and Julia do in order to prevent it from browning as I love the browned look and flavor. But I will try this and compare the browned taste to the pure yellow taste.

I think that two important points to remember is that the omelet should be a tiny bit undercooked when removed from the flame as everyone says that it continues to cook by its own heat for a short time afterwards. Also, several recipes call for milk and/or water. This is, apparently, to add a liquid which, when heated, turns to steam and thereby adds air bubbles to the omelet, making it fluffy. I think that one can add air bubbles by vigorous beating with a wire whisk. In fact, I do this twice. The first time is when getting the eggs ready and then again, after preparing the omelet’s contents, immediately before putting the eggs on the frying pan.

And what, alas, is the subject of today’s omelet? Well, it is quite simply a Four Cheese Omelet (whatever four cheeses you might have in the fridge). Its rich and creamy filling is not for the faint of heart or for those trying to avoid calories. Or maybe you’ll just have to go out for a jog or do some aerobics beforehand so that you can enjoy today’s omelet without guilt. Incidentally, it was inspired by a meal I had two days ago at Donatello’s Restaurant in Tel Aviv where they have gluten free pizza and pastas. I enjoyed their Four Cheese Fetuccini and it gave me the idea for our Omelet Number Fourteen.

Bon Appetite

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