In my book Letters to a Young Chef, I wrote about how aspiring professional cooks are often asked not for their résumé, but rather to prepare an omelet on the spot. By this I mean a French omelet, which must be perfectly folded and so evenly cooked that it almost resembles a baby's skin. Making one can be intimidating and stressful. You need a high level of skill to pull it off, and, in truth, many people cooking at home in France don't have the patience.
At home I like to make a flat omelet, which is almost like a frittata in its simplicity but has the lightness of the traditional French preparation. What is wonderful is that it is a zero-stress dish: an open-faced omelet that one starts on the stove top and finishes in the oven. It is delicious whether freshly baked or just slightly warm.
This recipe adapts to every season. For a spring brunch, I use pencil-thin asparagus, mushrooms, and prosciutto—but you could substitute other add-ins, such as broccoli rabe (delicious with a little garlic), or fresh herbs like tarragon or parsley. You can use Gruyère cheese, but I prefer fontina because it melts beautifully and has a mild flavor. Toss some of the omelet's ingredients with arugula for a side salad (thereby achieving two dishes from one shopping list) and you've got a lovely—and virtually effortless—spring meal.
WHAT TO DRINK
A perfect partner for this spring omelet is the medium-bodied 2010 Domaine Ostertag Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes ($24) from Alsace, says Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. "It has a sea-breeze aroma, with just a hint of smokiness." Alternatively, he suggests an Alsatian sparkling wine. "The bubbles keep the palate stimulated while providing enough body to stand up to the rich eggs." One delicious example: Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémant d'Alsace NV ($21).
Fresh asparagus and mushrooms add richness to a spring brunch entrée. The napkin is by , and the glass is by .
OPEN-FACED SPRING OMELET
10 large eggs
¼ cup milk
3 T butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
6 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 oz. sliced prosciutto, cut in strips
½ bunch pencil-thin green asparagus, woody ends trimmed and discarded, stalks cut in 2" lengths
4 oz. fontina cheese, diced (about 1 cup)
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
5 oz. arugula, washed
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk with salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Heat the butter in a 10" heatproof sauté pan over medium heat. Add half the shallot, half the mushrooms, half the prosciutto, and all the asparagus. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are lightly browned and the asparagus is just tender. Add the egg mixture and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula. Lift the cooked egg from the sides and bottom of the pan as you stir, as if you were scrambling them. Once the egg is about halfway coagulated, turn off the heat, stir in half the cheese, and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the omelet is set on top and the cheese is melted and light golden-brown. Remove the pan from the oven, loosen the edges of the omelet with a spatula, and slide it onto a large plate. Cut in wedges and serve hot.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining shallot, the lemon juice, and olive oil. Toss in the arugula and remaining mushrooms and prosciutto, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the omelet.