The Famous Mont-Saint-Michel Omelet

Omelette de la Mèrè Foulard

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes 1 large Omelet (

    2

    Main-Course Servings)

Appears in

Glorious French Food

Glorious French Food

By James Peterson

Published 2002

  • About

France is filled with pilgrimage sites, from places whose claim to fame is a bone from some obscure saint to Gothic cathedrals so grand that it’s easy to imagine the devout of the Middle Ages staring in awe at the rose Windows. Mont-Saint-Michel is in the latter category. It is a fortified rock, and depending on the tides, at times it is an island and at times not. At the summit is an ancient abbey, now visited by tourists instead of pilgrims. But lower down is a restaurant that once became the goal of my own pilgrimage, Le Restaurant de la Mère Poulard. La Mère Poulard and her descendants have long been famous for the almost mythical omelets of Mont-Saint-Michel. So one March weekend, determined to discover the secret, I set out to this demi-isle, just off the coast between Normandy and Brittany. Mont-Saint-Michel was beautiful, but the restaurant was clearly a tourist trap. The price of a plain omelet was about the same as for a T-bone for two in a top New York steak house. But I ventured in anyway and ordered the omelet, which arrived on an enormous platter, surrounded with what looked like some kind of sauce. When I asked the waiter whether this liquid was indeed a sauce he stiffened and, almost trembling with indignation, informed me, “Monsieur, c’est du beurre!”—roughly translatable as “It’s butter, you idiot.” Well, he was right and the omelet was a triumph. Later in the evening I was invited into the kitchen to watch the omelets being prepared. I’ve since figured out how to reproduce them at home.

Contrary to most recipes I’ve read for the famous omelets, the eggs are not separated (as though making a soufflé omelet) but are whisked up, by hand, until frothy in a copper bowl. (Fortunately you can also whisk them up in a noncopper bowl or in an electric mixer.) For this to work, the eggs must be slightly warm and you shouldn’t try whisking more than 4 or 5 eggs at once. In Mont-Saint-Michel, a fist-size chunk of butter is heated over a small fire in the hearth, until frothy, in a big copper omelet pan with a 5-foot [1.5 m] handle. The eggs are poured in, allowed to set for a minute or so, and another fist-size chunk of butter is set in the middle. The omelet sits there for another minute, is gently folded over in half, and is slid onto a platter. Here’s how I do it at home. If you don’t have a 12-inch [30 cm] skillet, you can make single omelets (see variations), using the same amount of butter for a single omelet as you do the two-serving omelet given below.

Ingredients

  • 5 large, best-quality, very fresh eggs
  • 6 tablespoons best-quality American butter, or, better, ⅓ of a 250-gram packet of French butter (beurre d’Isigny, beurre de Charentes, or beurre d’Echiré if you’re getting really picky)
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F[175°C/gas mark 4].

Warm the eggs to body temperature by putting them (uncracked) in a bowl, covering them with warm water, and letting them sit for 10 minutes. Cut half of the butter into four equal slices. Crack the eggs into a large stainless Steel or copper bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat by hand for 10 minutes or in an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until the eggs triple in volume, and hold medium peaks.

Heat the butter you didn’t slice until it froths, over medium heat, in a 12-inch [30 cm] nonstick or well-seasoned omelet pan that will fit in the oven and that has a handle that won’t melt. Pour in the eggs and cook the omelet for a total of 2 minutes on the stove, repositioning it every 30 seconds so that it browns evenly, over low to medium heat. Set the butter slices gently on top of the omelet in the pan. Reposition the pan on the flame until air pockets form in the eggs, another minute or so. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the omelet and slide the pan into the oven. Bake for 1 to 2 minutes—leave the omelet runny because it will continue to cook after you fold it.

Slide a rubber spatula under the side of the omelet nearest the handle, and while lifting the pan up with your left hand, gently fold the omelet in half and slide it onto a warm platter. Serve immediately, cutting the omelet in half at the table and using a large spoon and spatula to serve it onto hot plates.

Variations

In Mont-Saint-Michel, the famous omelet is served with every imaginable flavor, both sweet and savory. I like the plain omelets best because they show off the flavor of the eggs and butter, but a sprinkling of Grand Marnier, a little cocoa powder and sugar, or fruit preserves turn the omelet into a lovely dessert. If you’re making an omelet for 1 serving, use 3 eggs and a 9-inch or 10-inch [23 or 25.5 cm] nonstick pan. If you’re making 2 omelets, beat the eggs in 2 batches, beating the second batch as soon as you pour the first batch into the pan. Instead of sliding the omelets into a 350°F[175°C/ gas mark 4] oven, keep the first omelet warm in a 250°F[120°C/gas mark ½] oven while you’re making the second one.

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