Napoleon and the Omelette

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)  Napoleon Crossing the Alps   Kunsthistorisches Museum

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) Napoleon Crossing the Alps — Kunsthistorisches Museum

For the town of Bessières (Haute-Garonne), the omelet has a special significance.

Napoleon Bonaparte (and his army) traveled through the area. He stopped at a local inn and enjoyed an omelet so much that he demanded that the local villagers collect enough eggs so that his entire army could enjoy an omelet the next morning. What the town created was one giant omelet.

Since then, on Easter Monday, a several-thousand-egg omelet is made there. It is cooked in a giant pan over a giant fire. The omelet is several yards wide and serves a thousand or more people. (A bit extreme, perhaps.)

However, this giant omelet stuff has become an annual event not only in this village in France but also elsewhere in the world. The only Giant Omelette Celebration in the United States is in Abbeville, in the Vermilion Parish of Louisiana (outside Lafayette).

The other six “official” giant omelette cities are Bessières and Fréjus, France; Dumbea, New Caledonia; Granby, Quebec, Canada; Malmedy, Belgium; and Pigüé, Argentina.

The Basic Omelet

The basic omelet is a beaten egg cooked in butter in a frying pan. It is folded in half when it is nearly cooked. Various ingredients are added in the fold: cheese, vegetables, meat such as bacon or ham, herbs, or some combination. An omelet can be made with whole eggs, just yolks, or just whites. Usually some other liquid, such as water, milk, cream, or broth, is added. The idea behind the added liquid is that more air bubbles will be trapped in a thinned mixture. Some omelet recipes call for a few drops of lemon juice or a pinch of cream of tartar (tartaric acid), which can strengthen and elongate the protein fibers and create a fluffier final product.

Omelets are usually cooked on one side, without being disturbed, before being folded and cooked the rest of the way through.

 

Classic French Omelet #1

3 eggs

1 tablespoon milk (or water)

¼ cup shredded cheese

ample amounts of butter

Mix eggs and milk until blended. Melt butter in skillet on medium-high heat. When butter is hot and just beginning to brown, pour in eggs. Tilt pan in different directions to evenly distribute eggs. Cook for several minutes until eggs begin to set on bottom of pan. Gently lift edges with spatula to let some of the runny egg flow under cooked portion. When egg is still moist on top but fully set on bottom, sprinkle cheese over egg. Fold one side of omelet over cheese and the other half of egg. Let cook until cheese is melted and egg is cooked throughout. Serve at once.

Classic French Omelet #2

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon butter

Mix eggs and water. Melt butter in skillet on medium-high heat. Pour eggs in, and evenly distribute. Let cook for several minutes until eggs are cooked roughly halfway through, with just a thin layer of wet on top. Lift edges of cooked egg with spatula to let some of the runny top flow under cooked portion. When egg is fully set on bottom but still moist on top, fold one side over onto the other. Let cook for another minute, and serve.

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