Omelette basquaise

Basque omelet

This dish, also known as omelette à la piperade, hails from the Basque country of southwest France and is enjoyed across the country. It is a simple omelet filled with piperade, a vegetable dish that combines green peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic.

Piperade traditionally includes piment d’Espelette, or ground, sun-dried, mild red peppers from the Basque region. As this can be hard to find, I would suggest substituting a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper or, if you want more fire, a crushed cayenne pepper.

Omelette basquaise makes a fine lunch dish, accompanied by a salad, or a light supper dish, to be enjoyed with a bottle of red. Sometimes it is accompanied by dry-cured ham that has been briefly sautéed in olive oil on both sides — a process known in French as aller-retour, or back and forth. Jambon de Bayonne from southwest France is typically used, but other dry-cured hams, such as serrano or proscuitto, would be fine.

The ingredients below will serve two people. The omelets should be made separately, one after the other. You can use two or three eggs per omelet, depending on your appetite.

1 medium onion, red or white
1 clove garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper, piment d’Espelette or a small, crushed cayenne pepper
4-6 eggs
2 tsp. olive oil

Begin by making the piperade. This takes 30-40 minutes and may be done well in advance.

Peel and quarter the onion. Chop crosswise into thin slices. Peel the garlic and mince finely.

Rinse the pepper, cut out the core and remove the seeds and light-colored membrane. Chop into thin vertical slices

Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a heavy frying pan. Add the onion slices, reduce the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring regularly, until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the minced garlic, stir briefly, then add the pepper slices. Sauté until the pepper is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.

While the pepper is cooking, rinse the tomatoes and chop into small cubes. When the pepper is tender, add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

Continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have totally dissolved to make a sauce.

Now you are ready to make the omelets.

Crack 2-3 eggs into a bowl. Add 1 tsp. water. Whip until frothy with a fork or wire whip.

Add 1 tsp. (or more) olive oil to an omelet pan. Place the pan over high heat and allow it to get good and hot. Add the eggs and swirl. Reduce the heat to medium-high.

The omelet will quickly start to set. Using a wooden spatula, lift its edges to allow the liquid to slip beneath. Repeat a few times, until no more liquid remains. This will produce a fluffy, nicely textured omelet.

Turn the heat down to medium and allow the omelet to brown for about a minute. Shake from time to time to loosen the omelet.

Place a couple spoonfuls of piperade in a strip down the middle. Then tip the omelet out of the pan onto a plate, flipping the top over the bottom.

Repeat for the second omelet.

Place an additonal dollop of piperade on top of each omelet as a garnish. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread. Serves 2.

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