I’m learning that more than a bunch of easy, inexpensive recipes to recreate, the kids want good food experiences. So, not only am I going with the request for French Omelettes, but I decided to include a cheese tasting too.
I had laid out 5 cheeses, so each kid could choose the one they preferred for their omelette- authentic gruyere, comté for a less costly relative, manchego because it’s one of my favorites, cheddar because it would be more familiar, and Trader Joe’s gruyere- cheddar blend because it might be both exotic and familiar enough to entice a few. Most turned up their noses at the complex gruyere (the boy who had requested gruyere omelettes didn’t show up), they debated the quality of the others, wondered why I hadn’t brought any American cheese, and James ran to his room to retrieve a package of Mexican blend cheeses. Lesson learned—include some basic flavors.
As I demonstrated the first omelette, the kids expected the entire production to fall apart when I rolled the filled eggs onto a plate. And they were impressed when I sprinkled on the fresh herbs. My idea was for each to make his own omelette. I promised I’d be right at their sides so they couldn’t ruin them, and added that if it didn’t work out, we could easily turn the dish into eggs scrambled with cheese. I called on Kareem, and he asked me to grate all 5 cheeses for his omelette, and then entreated me to cook it for him. I turned to Stewart who had announced to the class that he was great at making omelettes, and he requested I cook his for him, using cheddar, please. Then it was James’ turn, and he too wanted me to prepare his omelette, filling it with the Mexican cheese blend. And dear Cherry, the house parent, let me cook her eggs too.
Lunch started off quietly, as the guys carefully tasted and enjoyed their omelettes and salad dressed with homemade vinaigrette. Then, as we passed around the chocolate dipped berries, I asked each person to tell us something good from their week. I learned about starting conversations with the “What’s good with you?” question at LA Team Mentoring- an after school program for middle school kids where I’ve been volunteering for several years. The inquiry gently nudges kids to open up. And today we learned that although James enjoyed attending a family birthday party, being with his family “isn’t good for him.” You never know what you’re going to get when you initiate this kind of conversation, but seeing them open up is part of the event.
- 3 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, and/or tarragon, plus more for garnish, optional
- 1 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup about 1 ounce freshly grated cheese of your choice, such as Gruyere, Comte, Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Manchego
- Break eggs into a small bowl. Sprinkle with a big pinch each of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon herbs, if using. Beat with a fork until the whites and yolks are thoroughly blended, about 35 strokes.
- Place a nonstick skillet or omelet pan with a 7-inch-diameter bottom over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and let cook until melted and the foam almost subsides. Add the eggs all at once. Using a wooden spatula, stir along the bottom of the pan a few times until the eggs thicken, tilting the pan occasionally and lifting the edge of the eggs to allow uncooked egg to flow under the cooked portion. Cook only until the top is almost set but still very wet. This will take only a few seconds.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the center of the eggs. Tilt the pan and fold one third of the eggs over the cheese, then fold the omelet over again. Let brown for a few seconds and then roll out the omelette onto a plate. Sprinkle more herbs over the omelets, if desired, and serve right away.
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
- Optional additions: minced fresh herbs, minced shallot, minced garlic
- Measure the mustard and vinegar into a small bowl and whisk until blended. Very gradually whisk in the olive oil until the mixture thickens. Then whisk in the oil in a thin steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in any optional ingredients. (Can be stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.) Use to dress any salad.
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
- 20 about large or medium strawberries with leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
- 8 ounces bittersweet, semi-sweet or milk, chocolate, or high-quality chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli)
- Wash the berries and then gently pat dry with a paper towel. Set on a rack to dry completely. Line a baking sheet with wax paper, parchment paper, or foil.
- Choose a heatproof glass or metal bowl that will fit tightly on top of a saucepan, without letting any steam escape. Put an inch or two of water in the saucepan, top with the bowl and set over low heat. Chop the chocolate (leave chocolate chips whole) and put in the bowl. Stir until completely melted, making certain no steam escapes from the saucepan. Turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the hot water.
- Holding a strawberry by the leaves, dip into the chocolate until coated about ¾ of the way up. Shake gently, and then draw one edge across the lip of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Set on the paper lined pan. Dip the remaining berries. When the chocolate gets low in the bowl, use a small rubber spatula to spread chocolate over the berries to coat.
- Refrigerate the berries until the chocolate sets, about 20 minutes. Then let stand at room temperature for up to 1 day. The berries can be refrigerated for 1 day, but are best the same day they are prepared.