by Diane Boate
If you love eggs and enjoy them scrambled or in omelet form, just one extra step will produce an eye-popping dish that can easily become your favorite thing to make.
The best of these soufflé omelet occasions took place in Napa on a cold and rainy night. My then-teenage sons and I thought the perfect activity after the long drive from Los Angeles would be to go out for a walk in the rain. “Now don’t go near the river,” my stepfather Ralph intoned.
That was enough for us to head straight for it, stepping in puddles along the way, laughing and giggling uncontrollably. The rain came down harder, plastering our hair to our heads, soaking us thoroughly, a sodden sight when we presented ourselves back at my mother’s door. Oh the commotion and scolding! We were whisked off to hot baths, dry clothes and a good spot by the fireplace. “I’ll make Omelet Soufflé!” my mother announced, which was her version of a Jewish mother’s “chicken soup” for comfort-demanding situations. Eventually, the beautiful puffed omelet was served, and the evening ended happily with the rain still beating on the roof.
It took me a long time to come around to making the dish. For one thing, no recipe, so I made one up based on a variety of egg experiences. I did know this: you can separate whites from yolks and make a soufflé out of anything. An example: take one cup of cooked oatmeal; beat in two egg yolks; fold in two stiffly-beaten egg whites; place in a buttered ovenproof dish; and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until it poofs, then serve with honey or maple syrup for a fine breakfast for two.
Voila! You have created something memorable from something very ordinary. One of Sister Corita Kent’s famous serigraph covers for Look magazine is right: “To do the common thing uncommonly well brings success.”
Serves 2 (main course) or 4 (side dish)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 1/3 cup shredded cheese
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
May be served with:
- Jalapeno jelly
Heat oven 400 degrees.
Put the two tablespoons butter into an eight-inch ovenproof skillet (or oven dish of your choice) and melt in the oven, then remove. Be sure to twirl the butter all around the inside of the skillet.
Place yolks in large bowl, and beat with a wire whisk. Add bacon, onion, cheese, mustard and pepper.
Beat the egg whites with your mixer’s wire whisk attachment; add cream of tartar, and beat until you have stiff peaks. Stir ¼ of the whites into yolk mixture, then carefully fold in remaining whites. Place mixture in skillet, bake about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
The omelet stays high, and later as a refrigerated leftover, it is very good cold.
There is no end to the variation of cheeses, herbs, or toppings you can add for savory or sweet omelets. People who enjoy creative thinking will always love anything that suggests a blank canvas on which you can pour all of the magic at your command. This is a very rewarding recipe. Have fun.
Another version—the same, only different—is done in a skillet:
- 4 large eggs, separated
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt; pepper to taste
- ¼ cup water
Beat egg whites as above, adding cream of tartar and beating until stiff. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored; add remaining ingredients to yolks, blending well. Fold in egg whites as above. Drop by spoonful on hot greased skillet, and cook on both sides until browned.
Many, many years later, with both of her sons gone from AIDS, and ongoing family tragedies hovering over our lives, my mother came up out of her strokes-related illness to ask a final question: “Do you know what the best time of all was?” I shook my head. “The time you all got soaked in the rain and I made the omelets,” she whispered.
Dianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area. Between cake assignments she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.boatecollection.com.