Paperback cookery books aren’t really designed to last twenty years or more if they have any sort of usage, but my copy of
Oddly enough I didn’t cook much from it, but refer to it still for its picture of a vanished world, emphasized by ED’s own inclusion of cameos from what was to her the fairly distant, but not remote, past – Escoffier on a shooting weekend in Haute Savoie, a glimpse into a bourgeois household of the 1870s, cooking the same things that ED was herself encountering on her travels around France – but I can remember now how impressed I was at her recipe for potage bonne femme. This couldn’t be any more straightforward: potatoes, carrots, leeks, water, and some butter. Furthermore, the carrots aren’t even essential. I was deeply impressed that something so apparently banal could have so much flavour. This woman really knows her stuff, I thought, and still do, in spite of our problem with the duck.
This dish is also simple but you have to pay attention in the cooking or you will end up with a delicious but shapeless mess. It is something that has to be done just before it is eaten, so it will take you away from the table for five minutes, but the result is spectacular. You can use different alcohols to flavour it, but I think Grand Marnier is best.
You will need a large frying pan you can put in the oven, preferably a 25cm or 30cm heavy steel pan, but a non-stick one will do.
Put the egg yolks in a bowl about 20cm in diameter and the whites in a large bowl – copper if you have it, otherwise steel or glass. Using a whisk or an electric beater, beat the yolks very well with the sugar, orange rind and Grand Marnier, until the mixture has thickened and become pale, and the sugar has dissolved. Quickly wash the beaters, dry them thoroughly, and whip the egg whites until they stand in stiffish peaks. With a rubber spatula scrape the egg yolk mixture on to the egg whites and fold them together, cutting down through the middle, and up the sides and over, turning the bowl slightly with each stroke.
While you are doing this, heat an ovenproof frying pan, a large flat dish and 2 or 3 plates. The pan must be pretty hot but not so hot that the butter burns. In other words, put in the butter, which should foam and splutter straightaway. It’s essential that the butter covers every inch of the pan rim to facilitate turning the thing out. Do this by tipping the pan, or better by using a pastry brush. This should ensure the omelette doesn’t stick. A few seconds after the foam has died down, pour in all the mixture, shake the pan, and leave it over the heat for about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and put in the hot
© 2001 Stephen Bull. All rights reserved.