What, you may be asking, is a “puffy omelette”?
Well, it’s an omelette that’s puffy, you see.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. A puffy omelette is what my Betty Crocker 1950 Picture Cookbook called an omelette where you separate the eggs, beat the whites stiff, and then recombine, and cook, first over the stovetop and then in the oven, until you’ve got a gorgeous, golden-brown concoction that you can then top with cheese sauce.
I looked at this recipe for years, and never got around to trying it out. It seemed like it belonged in the same class as the mayonnaise-frosted sandwich loaf: a strange thing that bored housewives got up to in the 1950s, until we invented feminism and put a stop to that.
And then there were the eggs.
Like many of you, I suspect, I’ve found supply chain management more challenging since the pandemic began. Especially early on, when the grocery store would frequently drop most of the items from our orders–and then, as if to make up for their dereliction, wildly overfill a random selection of the remaining items. Which is how we ended up with five dozen eggs.
So I turned to my cookbooks and pondered things one could do with eggs, that wouldn’t make one blow up like one of the balloons at the Thanksgiving parade. My eye lit upon the puffy omelette. “Well, why not?” thought I. The worst case scenario involved me tossing out six eggs I hadn’t any use for anyway.
It turns out that a puffy omelette topped (per Betty’s suggestion) with a cheesy bechamel, is actually delicious. It’s hard to describe, exactly, but I invite you to imagine what might happen if an omelette, a souffle, and a Dutch Baby pancake all got together and decided to make dinner. It feels substantial, tastes lovely, and costs next to nothing. Also, I can have it on the table thirty minutes after I realize that it’s 6:17 pm and I haven’t even thought about starting dinner.
It also turns out that this dish is not unique to Betty; among fancier folk, it goes by the name of “omelette souffle” and may be where the souffle proper got its start. But whatever you call it, it’s worth inviting it to dinner.
- Eggs (however many you want; this recipe scales well, limited only by the size of your pan or the number of eggs in your refrigerator. We use six for an eight-inch cast iron skillet, which feeds two perfectly.)
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream per egg
- Salt and pepper
- Such minced fresh herbs as you may desire (none is fine, too)
- Butter for pan
- Stand mixer, hand mixer, or a bowl, a whisk, and forearms like a stevedore
- Oven-proof skillet
- Preheat the oven to 350 F
- Separate the eggs.
- Beat the yolks with the cream, salt, pepper, and herbs until light and lemon colored
- Whip the egg whites until stiff.
- Fold the egg whites very gently into the yolks.
- Melt butter in pan over high heat until sizzling.
- Pour in egg mixture, and immediately reduce heat to low.
- Cook over low heat for ten minutes.
- Place skillet in oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until you can touch the top lightly with your finger without leaving an imprint.
- Serve with your choice of sauce. I like cheesy bechamel, below, which pairs well with mushrooms, broccoli, or asparagus.
Like the puffy omelette, this recipe scales beautifully; if you want more sauce, just double or triple it.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp dried mustard
- 3/4 cup shredded cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to bubble
- Add the flour and stir until mixture begins to brown
- Pour in the milk and whisk rather frantically until the flour and butter have been incorporated.
- Turn heat to low and cook, stirring, until the mixture has thickened.
- Add mustard, salt, pepper, and cheese, stirring until cheese is thoroughly melted.