It’s the dark days I remember most from when I was Paige’s age. The ones like today where the house would take on a greyness, as if the angry rain clouds outside were threatening to burst into our warm, dry home. Sometimes we’d put on a light, and the yellow pall it cast was awkward in daytime. But often we would just deal with the heavy shading. My grandmother would clean up around the house, doing the dishes, polishing the furniture, vacuuming. The television would be on in the background, not really being watched by anyone.
First there would be the morning shows, where hosts with too much energy would talk excitedly with actresses and musicians about their newest project. I would play with Barbies or build with Legos on the living room floor. Then, at some point, we would end up on PBS where the exuberant presence of Julia Child would practically leap from the screen. While I barely paid attention to the morning show hosts and their guests, Julia was impossible to ignore. At 4, I regarded her with a mixture of fascination and wonderment, only slightly grated by her unmistakable voice. The toys would fade into the background as I watched Julia cook, wondering if as a grownup I would ever be able to transform ingredients into masterful dishes as she did.
Watching Julia Child cook was like magic. One second she would be waxing about butter and the next, she would have a lovely omelet sliding out of the pan.
I could never have guessed at the time that someday I would read My Life in France and be transformed, developing a whole new appreciation for Julia. If you haven’t read it and enjoy food writing, I can’t recommend it enough.
Recently I was asked to join the JC100, a campaign created by publisher Alfred A. Knopf to celebrate what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday in August by cooking her recipes. One new recipe will be unveiled each week for us to make and share. How could I say no?
The first recipe we were asked to make is Julia’s Rolled Omelet, a polar opposite to the omelets I usually make. While I favor crepe-style omelets, Julia’s omelets are thick and dense — something I have never enjoyed. But here’s the thing, Julia’s version is different. While thick and dense, it’s also robust and comforting. After making a few, I’ve discovered there can be joy in this omelet too. Once again, I have been changed by Julia.
The eggs are whisked by hand with a fork — just eggs, salt and pepper per Julia’s directions. For the filling, I stuffed my version with three cheeses — creamy gouda, sharp provolone and mellow Parmesan.
To make the omelet, you start with butter melted in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. I reduced the amount used, which allowed me to get the buttery goodness of Julia’s recipe without the extra fat and calories. Then you add the eggs, letting them form a film in the pan. Then you tilt it and start shaking. This will keep the omelet from sticking while also creating the thicker omelet. Once the eggs are just about cooked, you sprinkle them with cheese.
Finally, and this is the trick, you grasp the handle of the skillet, tilt it dramatically and firmly shake it, giving it a little lift with each motion. The omelet will fold over itself. Now, if you want to religiously follow Julia’s directions, you will continue this until the omelet is round like a cylinder. But me? The mere act of getting the omelet to flip over on itself makes me ridiculously proud. And I wouldn’t want it any thicker than this.
Then I serve it topped with fresh diced tomatoes. The cool, sweet tomatoes are such a nice contrast to the warm, creamy omelet.
Did you grow up watching Julia Child?
Three Cheese Almost Rolled Omelet with Tomatoes
Adapted slightly from Julia Child’s recipe for Rolled Omelet in Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1 tsp salted butter
3 large eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp freshly grated sharp provolone cheese
1-2 tbsp freshly grated gouda cheese
1/4 cup fresh diced tomatoes
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pan, turning it slightly to spread it all around.
Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper with a fork (yes, Julia says fork, so I recommend fork too!). Once the butter is melted and just about turning golden, pour the eggs into the hot pan. Let them cook for about a minute, until a film of egg forms on the bottom. Then, tilt the pan at a shallow angle (Julia says 20 degrees) and vigorously jerk the pan, shaking the eggs free from the bottom and periodically lowering it down to spread the still liquid eggs around. Continue until the top is shiny and moist but no more egg moves around when you shake the pan.
Sprinkle the cheese all over the omelet. Let sit for a minute. Then, holding the pan at a more dramatic angle, grasp the handle firmly with two hands and vigorously shake until the omelet rolls over on itself.
Slide the omelet onto a plate and sprinkle with tomatoes. Serve immediately.