A crespèu (or crespéou, the Provençal tongue lending itself to a certain orthographic freedom) is, traditionally, a flat omelet containing pieces of fried salt pork, sautéed potatoes, or both—identical to an omelette à la Savoyarde. By extension, other flat omelets are often called crespèus. The Provençal crespèu and the Italian frittata are twins.
This gateau of multi-tiered omelets was chosen from the repertory of a regional restaurant for demonstration purposes in the Avignon summer classes.
The original contains, in addition to those omelets in this recipe, artichoke, Gruyère, caper, and sorrel omelets, and the tomatoes, sweet peppers, and onions are conceived as separate omelets rather than being grouped together in a hamless pipérade. Parsley, tarragon, chives, and chervil are added to all of them and each is spread with a reduction of anchovy, canned tuna, shallots, and white wine, mashed into a paste. The original gateau contains only one omelet of each flavor and the whole thing is bound with a fines herbes omelet mixture.
Such an orgy of different and sometimes contentious savors had, tastewise, pretty much the same effect as mixing together all the colors on a palette—a muddy grayness. And to the eye the cross-sectional pattern was only confusing: The presence of tarragon in all the omelets lent a sameness to everything; the fish paste dulled the clarity of the other flavors; the capers and the cheese lent disruptive support to the fish; the tomatoes, onions, and peppers, which fuse so beautifully into a single Mediterranean note, were senseless apart; the artichoke omelet, lovely in itself, was completely lost in the jungle and, although the whole business badly needed the sharp, clean relief of sorrel, the single little sorrel crêpe in the midst of all that was only frustrating. There were far too many things and not enough of any single thing.
I resolved to limit the flavors, repeating each; to eliminate the oppressive fishy presence, and to replace the repetitious fines herbes egg binder with a sorrel cream. As it stands now, I think the dish cannot fail to please, and the cross-sectional ribbons of repeated red, greens, beige, and black afford a very pretty presentation.
Use a small 7-inch omelet pan for the confection of these omelets. You will need an approximately 2½-quart receptacle of about the same diameter; a large charlotte mold or a round cocotte—a round, enameled ironware casserole—should be perfect. You will also need kitchen parchment paper.
Be organized: Prepare the five basic apparels plus the sorrel purée and line them up in bowls near the stove. Before preparing the omelets, line up five plates or a couple of large platters so as to be able to stack omelets of different flavors separately. Keep the salt and the bottle of olive oil within arm’s reach, a small ladle in the mixing bowl of beaten eggs, a fork in a soup plate for mixing the individual omelets, and a small flexible spatula at hand just in case an omelet should stick (should this happen—and even though the omelet has been successfully turned out and the pan appears to be clean—rub the pan with salt before continuing to the next omelet). Count about 1 tablespoon of olive oil for the confection of each omelet and reheat the pan for a few seconds each time before beginning another. The omelets should be from ¼ to ½ inch thick, depending on the material (the zucchini and spinach omelets will be thicker than the olive and mushroom omelets; the tomato mixture is more flexible). Individual mixtures should be salted separately (the zucchini will need no salt; the quality of the olives will determine their seasoning . . .).
The recipe will serve 12 to 15 people. It is impractical to prepare it on a smaller scale, but it may be kept for more than one meal, protected in plastic wrap.