Omelet aux Cèpes

June 1, 2009

I confess, that nothing frightens me more than the appearance of mushrooms on the table, especially in a small provincial town.
~Alexandre Dumas

The deep south of France. Once mistakenly considered a land bereft of culinary refinement, Languedoc is a land so special that even two seemingly disparate culinary darlings, olive oil and duck fat, coexist. The dishes tend to vary upon respective geographical regions of origin (Haut-Languedoc, Bas Languedoc, or Côte Languedoc) and range from cassoulet to brandade de Nîmes (a puree of salt cod, olive oil and milk) to bourride de Sète (fish stew) to the Catalan grilled snail, pork sausage, blood pudding and lamb chop repast known as cargolade, to name just a few.

The cuisine of the rugged, mountainous Haut-Languedoc and Cévennes is soulful and rustic, deeply anchored in its terroir…characterized by hearty flavors of wild mushrooms and pork and game, chestnuts and walnuts, beans and root vegetables, including the famed black turnip of Pardailhan—a turnip which uniquely merits an Appellation d’Origine Controllée (A.O.C.)

Long a favorite in French gastronomy, cèpes are prized edible mushrooms which bear the Latin name boletus edulis . Cèpes get their common name from the old Gascon word cep which means trunk, due to its girthy stalk. Their Latin name means “superior mushroom,” but cèpes have inspired many other monikers, including “poor man’s steak” and “king of mushrooms.”

The forests of the Cévennes Mountains, covering much of the departments of Gard and the Lozère in Languedoc, are well known for their wild cèpes. They have hints of hazelnuts and are slightly meaty, with a smooth, creamy texture.

Simple as it may sound, one of my more memorable meals in France was an omelette aux cèpes served eons ago at a cozy family cafe in Perigueux, in the Périgord region. The lengthy walk to and from was worth each pace.

OMELETTE AUX CEPES

3 ozs cèpes, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 T duck fat or unsalted butter
1/2 t dried thyme

2-3 large organic, free range eggs
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper

Sea salt, to taste

Heat duck fat over medium high heat. Add sliced cèpes, season with salt, pepper and thyme then sauté them in duck fat till cooked. Drain on paper towels if need be, then set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

Break the eggs on the edge of your cutting board and into a glass bowl, then season with pepper. In a heavy omelet pan, melt the butter over medium high heat until just a foam appears, tilting the pan in all directions to film the bottom and sides. When the foam begins to subside and the butter and before the it begins to color, pour in the eggs. Shake and swirl the pan to distribute the eggs over the surface until the bottom coagulates.

Before folding the omelet, add the sautéed cèpes. Start by jerking the pan toward you several times so the eggs are thrown against the far edge until the omelet just begins to roll over on itself. Then, with a rubber spatula, roll the extra egg onto the the larger mass. Tilt the pan and turn the omelet onto a plate so that it folds onto the dish. So as to avoid altering the texture of the eggs, some chefs espouse adding salt after coooking.

Pourboire: Repeat this with morels, chanterelles, black trumpets or any other mushroom species of your liking as well as your herb(s) du jour. Omelet mixtures are nearly endless.

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