Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On the road again...

What a wonderful year! We've just come back from Mexico and are ready to take off to our next destination: Greece! We are going to spend a whole week in Crete with Pierre's family then fly to France to spend a week with my family in Lyon and Burgundy. I'll be back in California and on this blog early august.... Until then I wish you all a beautiful summer!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Leek Omelet

No need to have you wait any longer: here comes a very simple leek omelet recipe. I should say a French leek omelet recipe, as you will notice the use of lots of butter (apparently it's a sign!) and also because the eggs are only cooked up to a point where they are still a little bit liquid (which is pretty unusual on this side of the Atlantic). This doesn't mean that the eggs are raw: the whole operation takes place at high temperature. But the omelet is taken off the heat "before it is too late" so as to keep all the flavors intact.

There are many "omelette" variants. The simplest is plain: just eggs (with seasoning). Eaten with a good piece of country-style bread, there's really nothing to add. Other famous recipes include fresh herbs ("omelette aux fines herbes" with chives and parsley), wild mushrooms ("omelette aux champignons"), etc. These ingredients are used as flavoring and should not mask the main ingredients: eggs and butter. To me, traditional French cuisine is all about preserving the flavors of the base ingredients without overpowering them seasoning or sauces. Modern "haute cuisine" hasn't forgotten this principle: it creates more complex flavors by adding subtle touches of spices and extravaganza. It's all a matter of balance.

Back to our leek omelet. Here is what you need:

  • 3 or 4 small leek
  • 1 or 2 tbsp European-style unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs (or more -2 per person)
  • salt and pepper
  • nutmeg
Choose young and tender leek. Cut off the sprouted white end and the dark-green leaf tips. You are left with the white core and the tender green leaves. There won't be much to throw away if the leek are small (which is usually the case in the summer). Split the leek twice in the length starting a few inches away from the white end, creating a kind of "whip" (a non-violent one!). The leek still holds together (from the base) but the leaves are now separated from each other and easier to rinse. Place the leek one after the other under the faucet and rinse them under running water. Drain. Lay the leek on a cutting board and slice into 1-inch long sections.

Place a good chunk of butter (1 tbsp at least) in an anti-adhesive low-edge pan on high heat. Once the butter starts bubbling and crackle, add the leek all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon to cover each piece of leek with melted butter. Stir regularly. After a few minutes, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and slowly cook until the leek are transparent and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to low while you are preparing the eggs.

I always choose brown eggs (cage-free, vegetable-fed, antibiotics-free). I've never seen white shelled eggs in France and I've never gotten used to them -although I've read there's no difference. Break 4 eggs (or more -you need 2 per person) in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Whip vigorously with a fork. There are two purposes here: combine the yolks with the white and create an emulsion. The more the eggs are beaten, the lighter the omelet.

Put the pan with the cooked leek on high heat again. Add some butter if needed (if the leek have absorbed all of it). Once the pan is very hot, pour the eggs and tilt the pan to spread them evenly over the leek (as shown above). Then wait without touching anything.

After a minute or two, fold the omelet in a half moon shape (above picture). You can tilt the pan to spread the remaining liquid eggs on the entire pan. Then fold this newly formed disk on the half-moon omelet. Never flip the omelet: it would overcook it. Remove from the heat while the omelet is still runny ("baveuse" which means the inside has thickened but isn't solid yet, as shown on the pictures).

And that's it! The trick is to keep the pan on high heat and go quick, trying to minimize the handling of the omelet to avoid breaking it.

Serve with good bread and a side salad for lunch or dinner.