Piney Woods and Puffy Omelets: Pantry Extenders in the Face of Supply-Chain Problems - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Piney Woods and Puffy Omelets: Pantry Extenders in the Face of Supply-Chain Problems
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With gas prices breaking $5 and even $6 per gallon, weekly runs to the supermarket have become pricey and painful propositions. At least it’s easier to find parking spots. The bad news is that shelves are emptier, selections limited, and prices have been inflated towards war-time privation levels. The good news is that staples such as milk and eggs, flour and meal, and to a lesser extent, fruit and vegetables, while pricier, are still available.

And that is good news. Leafing through family recipes dating back to my great-grandma Sarah Amanda Howard neé Coldiron and the hollers of southeastern Kentucky circa the 1860s reveals an incredible array of wholesome soul-satisfying dishes that overcome lean pantries through the liberal (and loving) application of imagination and elbow grease.

She perfected and passed on a bewildering variety of recipes ranging from barreled eggs and water pies to white soups and sourdough cornbread, substituting time and imagination for exotic or expensive ingredients. She transformed simple onions by roasting them skin-on in the ashes of the hearth until soft, removed the skin, “flavored” with butter, salt, and pepper, and voilà! Sometimes she’d simply “water fry” sliced onions by caramelizing them low and slow in a cast-iron skillet with salt and pepper, add a little water, cover the pan, and still low and slow, cook covered while stirring occasionally until onions were soft and the water evaporated. Double voilà.

She had nothing against stewing sliced-in-the round carrots seasoned lightly with salt and pepper and serving them up as is — but as often as not would mash them, add butter, some sweet cream, and maybe a teaspoon or two of sugar or honey for a delightful change of pace.

Sweet omelets, once ubiquitous in 19th-century inns, taverns, and boarding houses, seem to have fallen out of favor nowadays, but my great-grandma swore by hers. They didn’t have to be complicated: Make an omelet, flavor with sugar and vanilla, maple syrup, or even lemon extract and/or a spoon or two of jam, jelly, or fruit preserves, and fold it over and roll onto a warmed platter. But if time and the occasion allowed, she reveled in serving up her fluffy omelets.

Again, it didn’t have to be complicated and was just a matter of beating the whites and yolks separately, gently folding them together, slightly thickening them with flour or corn starch, pouring them into a cast-iron skillet, and topping with jam or jelly.

Sweet Puffy Omelet

6 eggs separated

3 tablespoons of milk or half and half

1 tablespoon flour

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons fruit preserves, jam, or jelly

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons fat or oil

  1. Whisk egg whites until stiff but not dry. Whisk egg yolks with milk, flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Gently fold egg mixtures together.
  3. Melt/heat fat in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet, pour in eggs, and when edges begin to sizzle and brown, carefully turn over and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Spread on preserves, jam, or jelly, fold over, and plate.

Her “next-level” puffy fruit omelet — a family favorite — worked as a fancy breakfast, toney lunch, or elegant dessert, is still simple ingredients-wise, and the preparation, while a bit daunting to read, becomes effortless with repetition.

Next-Level Fluffy Fruit Omelet by Sarah Amanda

1 cup of sweet apple cider (or other fruit juice)

1 pint of in-season fruit (apples, plums, peaches, pears, whatever you have), sliced thin*

6 eggs, separated

3 tablespoons milk or half and half

1 tablespoon flour

2 teaspoons sugar

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons fat or oil (great-grandma loved duck oil, I’ve used butter and vegetable oil)

If you have it:

½ teaspoon vanilla extract and/or ¼ teaspoon cinnamon for sauce

½ tablespoon powdered sugar and a pinch of cinnamon for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Reduce the cider (with cinnamon, if you have it) over medium heat to ½ cup, stir in the fruit, remove from heat, and add vanilla (if you have it).
  3. Whisk the egg yolks with milk, sugar, flour, and a pinch of salt until thick and light lemony in color (about five minutes). Whisk the egg whites to airy moist peaks and gently fold into the whisked egg yolks.
  4. Heat the oil/fat in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet to medium-hot, pour in the beaten eggs and smooth level. Reduce the heat and cook until the omelet begins to puff and brown a little on the bottom (peek underneath by spreading the eggs away from the side of the pan a bit with a fork or spatula).
  5. Quickly (and evenly) spoon the fruit and syrup onto the eggs** and bake in preheated oven until puffed and golden brown (four or five minutes).
  6. Plate and sieve on powdered sugar mixed with a little cinnamon.

*Canned fruit will do and I’ve used canned peaches to good effect. You can also replace ½ cup of the fruit with your favorite berries or raisins soaked in brandy or bourbon).

**If using canned peaches, artfully arrange the peach slices in a spiral around the top of the egg mixture and pour on reduced juices before placing in the oven.

Roasting onions in the ashes of the hearth conjures up visions of massive fireplaces that not only heated the house and cooked the meals but also served as a focal point for family and friends on chilly evenings. Cast-iron stoves were common from the 1830s on, and many boasted ovens, multiple burner plates, and even hot water reservoirs. I marvel over the extra time and cooking skills required to turn great-grandma’s recipes into mouth-watering dishes using one of those cantankerous wood or coal-fired contraptions. I shudder at the thought of attempting the same in front of an open hearth over trivets, in Dutch ovens, or under red hot salamanders.

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