The Big Switch-Up: Breakfast For Dinner
by Jonathon Alsop
Long books have been written about the cultural differences between America and Europe, and it almost always boils down to food and eating. Whether it's a local ingredient like corn (Americans eat it, Europeans never would) or an international beverage like wine (they serve it with almost every meal, we do it only when we must), you can tell we are different people not just because of our languages, but because of our entirely different reactions to exactly the same food.
Consider the omelette. Americans think of an omelette almost exclusively as a breakfast food while European cuisine recognizes it as a legitimate course for an afternoon or evening meal. Auguste Escoffier's tremendous cookbook "Ma Cuisine" lists more than two dozen omelette recipes, yet only a few of the lighter, simpler offerings are familiar as breakfast. It's clear when you read the recipes for Omelette with Beef Marrow, Kidney Omelette, or Truffle Omelette with Foie Gras that Escoffier was aiming for something to start a grand meal, not an ordinary day.
Every time I make an omelette for dinner, I remember the thrill of the first time I had "breakfast" for "dinner" at the age of about four. Thanks to my Uncle Jack, then a young bachelor who probably couldn't cook anything else but breakfast for dinner, my world view shifted that day as we cooked eggs together after sundown. I was in awe of his brash disregard of what I'd thought, up till that moment, was a law of nature.
Auguste Escoffier's Favorite Omelette
Serves 3-4 people
Cook 1 1/4 cup large macaroni or Italian pasta (fusili and penne work well) in boiling water until fairly firm, drain, and let cool.
Heat 3 tablespoons butter or lard (bacon fat is best, but nutritionally incorrect) in a large frying pan, add the macaroni, and cook slowly until it is a beautiful golden brown. Add 5-6 well-beaten eggs, season with salt and pepper, and stir well with a fork. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the omelette is just moist on top. This is not a typical "folded" omelette, but should be turned and browned on the other side. To turn, slide the omelette on to a large plate and reverse it back into the pan. When done, serve the omelette on a large round dish. Slice into wedges and serve with steamed asparagus or sauteed greens.
An omelette for dinner is more socially acceptable than a glass of wine for breakfast, but the matching challenge is still formidable. Because the sauteed macaroni in this recipe gives the omelette such a smoky, nutty flavor, I automatically think gewurztraminer.
1998 Trimbach Gewurztraminer (about $15, available at Fifth Avenue Wines, Wine Vault, Marty's in Newton, almost everywhere) Don't let the name throw you, this is a French wine from Alsace, a region that's right on the German border near Strasbourg. Rich and viscous, full of pear, peach, and melon flavors, this classic g'vertz comes from a family that has been making wine for centuries. Best of all is the aromatic part of the wine, smelling something like rosewater, gardenia, and guava.