I haven’t been doing many Churton egg recipes recently, because I never seem to be passing when the Churton honesty egg stall is out, but I was lucky this week. Like many of my egg recipes, this is dead simple, but none the less enjoyable for that.
A French omelette is a simple fold-it-over affair done in a small frying pan (or omelette pan if you have one), preferably non-stick. It’s much like a pizza made of scrambled eggs, but without as much stirring of the eggs, and folded over to form a holder for the contents (looking a bit like calzone, if we’re remaining with the pizza analogy). The main tweak here is a béchamel sauce that goes in the centre to accompany the other more traditional ingredients. It takes about 15 minutes from start to serving.
- 2 or 3 eggs
- Black pepper
- Finely chopped herbs (see below for suggestions)
- Cheese of your preference. I used cheddar but it works brilliantly with other hard cheeses like Emmental, and with soft brie types too
- Chicken or herb/vegetable sock (optional)
- A spoon of crème fraîche or cream (optional)
- Ground fennel seeds (optional)
- Chopped ham and/or finely sliced butter-fried mushrooms
The cheese béchamel is the first to do (butter, flour, milk and stock). Mine is not a pure béchamel as I always use a chicken or herb stock as well as the milk, meaning that it is part velouté. I also lob in a dessert spoon or two of crème fraîche to give it a velvety texture. Here’s the method: Equal parts of butter and flour are heated on a low heat and stirred together until they are completely mixed into a good, cohesive blob. Keep the heat low. Stock and/or milk are instantly added to the mixture quite slowly to break down the blob and create a paste that eventually becomes a thick sauce, on a low heat. If things seem to be getting a little hot, lift the pan off the heat and keep going with the liquid, reheating when it seems to have cooled down a little. If you want a bit of an edge to the sauce, you can also add white wine, but add a little at a time and ensure that you keep tasting to ensure that the flavour remains balanced, and keep stirring continuously.
Keep the heat low to stop it sticking or cooking too fast, and keep stirring. You can add cheese to make it a cheese and herb sauce, but don’t forget that cheese will be added to the omelette as well, on top of the sauce. The herbs are added when the sauce is thick but still flowing. They need to be compatible with cheese. I used finely chopped chervil, but any herb or combination of herbs that match well with cheese will be perfect, including thyme, oregano, ramson, lovage, marjoram, parsley, fennel or dill. It does need to be well chopped. I ground in some fennel seeds, as they complemented the chervil beautifully.
My omelette was a two-egg, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t do a three-egg. Do take into account that this is insanely filling. I like the omelette itself to be formed of a simple egg and black pepper mix, with just a slosh of milk or a spoonful of crème fraiche, cream or sour cream. This is whisked lightly in a bowl and then poured into bubbling butter in the frying pan. The trick is to leave the egg until the base is just beginning to set and then to move it gently, pulling the edges in, so that the liquid egg flows into the gaps that you have just made. This incorporates the egg mixture quickly and produces a gorgeously textured underside that, when you put it on the plate and fold it over, becomes the exterior.
When the base is just solid enough to add things to the surface, with the top still liquid, the contents can be layered on top, as one would with pizza. Do remember that it is going to be folded, so don’t over-stuff it. In my case I started off with sliced ham (but just-fried sliced mushrooms are also an excellent option), poured the warm béchamel over the top, and then added grated cheese to the top of that. The omelette then needs to heat through, slowly.
I always lift the edges of the omelette with a wooden fish slice to take a peak underneath and check on the colour, as I like mine well done on the outside (a treacly brown colour) but most people like theirs rather less coloured, as in the photo at the top of the post. If the bottom is cooking faster than the top is heating through, you can always hold it under the grill for a minute or two, but be careful if your pan’s handle is not metal. The grated cheese does not need to be fully melted, as it will melt when the omelette’s two halves come together.
Once you have the right colour (the colour you prefer) and the contents are heated through to your satisfaction, simply slide the pan towards the plate, allowing half to rest on the plate before flipping the second half over the top. Alternatively just slip the whole omelette face-up on the plate and use a fish slice to turn one half over the top of the other. The béchamel or béchamel-velouté sauce starts to ooze out of the omelette the moment it hits the plate, and is absolutely gorgeous.
Serve with a salad and/or slices of French bread (or in my father’s case chips) and enjoy.