American cooking personality Howard Helmer’s larger-than-life personality is an odd fit with his meal of choice – the basic omelette.
The celebrity chef has held the Guinness World Record for the fastest omelette maker for the past 18 years. Despite being overwhelmingly passionate about eggs, Howard loves Chinese food and samples the cuisine in every country he visits.
MiNDFOOD spoke with Howard on his recent trip to Australia, where he offered up some delicious recipes for you to try at home.
What do you love about omelettes?
I’d like to stress that an omelette is simply a vehicle for some other food and I don’t think any other food in the kitchen expresses versatility as much as the omelette does.
What are some of your favourite fillings?
I’ll use fillings such as apples and stilton cheese, pecans and bacon strips – and when I turn it out on the plate I’ll brush with maple syrup.
Likewise I like to put some dry white wine in the egg batter.
I’ll fill an omelette with strawberries, kiwis and bananas, I’ll dust it with icing sugar and flame it off with brandy or grand marnier, then serve it with sour cream, because it cuts the sweetness.
Why are you so passionate about getting people to make omelettes?
The point I try to make when I show people how to make an omelette is that they are so versatile.
Also, I try to demonstrate with all of these omelettes that I make come into the kitchen for under a dollar which make it a cheaper, quality protein meal.
Aren’t eggs high in cholesterol?
Eggs are enjoying a surge in popularity because they’ve been vindicated from the cholesterol controversy – all the science says that dietary cholesterol does not turn into blood cholesterol – so it was like everyone was given permission to go back to eating eggs again and eggs sales have skyrocketed because consumers have permission from the science community.
Who is the biggest celebrity you’ve cooked an omelette for?
It has to be Oprah. Twice I’ve shown her how to cook an omelette. I don’t want anyone to think I know her very well. She always introduces herself before the show and then turns me over to the producer. Of course on the show it’s like we’ve known each other all our lives.
I adore her. She has had the most positive influence on America in a very long time. Particularly over the past several years when America needed a positive influence because there was none. Oh, I don’t want to get political.
What is the most obscure omelette you’ve ever made?
Once I was asked to make a martini omelette. So I put gin rather than water, added diced olives and cocktail pickled onions. I tried eating it but it was horrible.
FRUIT OMELETTE FLAMBE
Thoroughly whisk together 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons of water.
For the filling:
A cup of fresh strawberries, stems removed, quartered
2 kiwis peeled and thinly sliced
1 banana, peeled and sliced
¼ cup pecan or walnut pieces
¼ cup maraschino cherries, stems removed
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ cup apricot or peach flavoured brandy
1 cup sour cream
In a 10-inch coated frypan, heat a tablespoon of butter until it sizzles and covers the bottom of the pan. Pour in the egg mixture. The pan should be hot enough so the egg bubbles-up.
With an inverted spatula, pull the cooked egg from the perimetre of the pan to the centre so uncooked egg can reach the hot pan surface, tilting the pan and moving it as necessary. Continue until the egg is set and won’t flow anymore, and covers the whole bottom of the pan like a big pancake.
Fill the left side of the omelette with the first 5 filling ingredients, piling them on top of each other. Fold the unfilled side of the omelette over and on top of the filling as best you can.
Dust the folded omelette with the sugar. Pour the brandy over the sugar and ignite it with a match. Baste the omelette with the burning brandy using a long handled spoon until the fire goes out.
Serve right from the pan using a spoon. Serves 4.
3 tbsp Chardonnay
¼ cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss Cheese
¼ cup fried and diced bacon
3 tbsp diced green onion with greens
1 tbsp butter or margarine (or, 1 tsp oil)
2 tbsp spicy honey mustard
Chopped parsley for garnish
Beat together eggs and Chardonnay until blended. In a 10-inch coated frypan melt butter until it sizzles but doesn’t brown. Pour in egg mixture. Mixture should set immediately at edges.
With an inverted spatula pull cooked portions of egg from the edges of the pan toward the centre of the pan so uncooked egg can reach the hot pan surface. Tilt the pan and move it as necessary until there is no more runny egg, but the top of the omelette is still quite moist. Don’t overcook. The omelette continues cooking by itself even after it leaves the pan.
Fill the omelette with the cheese, bacon and green onions. Slide the spatula all the way under the unfilled side of the omelette and fold it in half. Put down the spatula and invert the omelette onto the plate. This procedure should take only 60 to 90-seconds.
Serve with a dollop of the spicy honey mustard. Sprinkle chopped parsley on top.
JAPANESE ROLLED OMELETTE (Dashi-maki tamago)
Mix together about a cup of finely shredded Swiss or gruyere cheese with about a half cup of finely chopped chives or fresh spinach leaves for the filling.
Thoroughly whisk together 3 eggs, a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of dry white wine. Pour the mixture into a little pitcher or measuring cup with a pour-spout.
Heat a 10-inch coated frypan and wipe it with oil.
Pour in egg just enough to cover the bottom of the pan (as if for a crepe) and simultaneously tilt and roll the pan so the pan bottom is covered with a paper-thin coating of egg (the egg should setup instantly). Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the filling all over the top.
Looking down into the pan, carefully roll this thin egg pancake from 6 o’clock on the pan upwards to 12 o’clock on the pan using 2 forks or 2 chopsticks. Now slide the rolled pancake back down to the 6 o’clock position on the pan and repeat the procedure.
Pour in just enough egg to cover the bottom of the pan and simultaneously tilt and roll the pan so the pan is covered with a paper-thin coating of egg that attaches itself to the existing roll.
Now roll upward again incorporating the new egg pancake into the existing roll. Repeat the procedure again and again until there’s no more egg.
Slide the now enormous roll of egg to the top of the pan and lift the pan handle so the roll falls onto a plate. Slice and serve.