GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 19, 2013

Have dessert for dinner

Pillowy, baked souffle cradles strawberries

Food for Thought
Heather Atwood

---- — In the billowing arms of a sweetened omelet, local strawberries leave shortcake for Escoffier. A little lighter, a little more epicurean than strawberry shortcake, a dessert omelet filled with strawberries is as delicious as it is angelically light. The texture is pillowy, a magnificent foil for the explosive sweetness of June strawberries. Folding the egg yolks into the whites is the hardest part.

Call it a dessert omelet, a puffy omelet, this baked souffle folded over something — here, strawberries — is considered by cookbooks the second of two omelet methods. Food writer M.F.K. Fisher writes, “The second school of omelet is roughly defined as belonging to those addicts who believe eggs should be separated and then beaten hard, and then brought together again. Probably the main trick to remember in this technique is that the resulting foamy delicate mass should be cooked slowly instead of fast.”

Marion Cunningham in “The Breakfast Book” says this about the Puffy Omelet: “I like these airy, foamy omelets — they look so grand and filling.”

If only to remind you what yellow really looks like, it is worth seeking out fresh, local eggs for this reclining structure of whites and yolks. Not that grocery store eggs are bad, but they are really a different item than a local egg. Commercially produced, grocery store eggs can hold cakes together and decorate a salad, with scant flavor. Hard-boiled and sliced, commercial eggs are protein and visual cliche, but not much else.

“The best thing to do with aged eggs,” M.F.K. Fisher writes, “is not to buy them, since they are fit for nothing, and a poor economy.”

We don’t always have that luxury, but for this dessert omelet, I recommend finding the local ones; they’re fresher. Quarts of crimson strawberries are shining on farm-stand counters and farmers’ market carts as I write this; local eggs are usually close by.

There is a bit of last-minute work to do, but the omelet finishes its cooking in the oven, allowing a breather to assemble plates. It doesn’t “fall” like a souffle, and in fact does best with a minute to relax once out of the oven, making the whole thing a quick, easy production.

Call it dessert, but, to the delight of my family, who has never had Breakfast for Dinner, we now have Dessert for Dinner when it looks like this. Cut in half, this omelet serve two. I used two pans, and, easily doubling the recipe, made two omelets at the same time, serving four. Both pans fit in the oven fine, but you should check your pan sizes first if you try this.

I like a hefty dusting of confectionary sugar on my omelets — yes, even for dinner — but a warmed strawberry jam, laced with a little brandy, spooned over the top would confirm an omelet as dessert if you needed that authority. And it would be delicious.

M.F.K. Fisher: “Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.”

Strawberry Dessert Omelet

Serves 2

3/4 cup sliced strawberries

1 tablespoon sugar or to taste

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup cold water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Powdered sugar for dusting

Optional: 1/2 cup strawberry jam plus 1 tablespoon brandy, warmed

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until whites form stiff peaks.

In a small bowl, beat egg yolks with salt, sugar and water until light and fluffy. Fold yolk mixture into egg whites.

In 10-inch ovenproof skillet, over medium heat, melt butter. Add egg mixture and cook for 3 minutes, or until the bottom of the omelette is nicely browned.

Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the surface is barely golden and springs back when gently touched.

Remove skillet from the oven, and allow omelet to rest in the pan for a minute while you get organized.

Run a butter knife gently down the center of the omelette, cutting into it to create a fold, but not cutting through.

Loosen the entire omelette from the skillet, and slide onto a serving plate. Pour the strawberries onto one side of the omelette, and fold the other half over it, using the slit as the crease.

Dust with powdered sugar. To serve, cut omelet in half.

Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought column weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to heatheraa@aol.com. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.