Crab Omelette “aux Fines Herbes”
Updated: Apr 10, 2022
"... the enjoyment of food and wine seems to me to lie in having what you want when you want it and in the particular combination you fancy."
Elizabeth David (1959)
For a long time I really wasn't a fan of omelettes (or scrambled eggs for that matter). That changed because of two findings. First, there was a period of time when Colman's used to put a simple recipe or recommendation on their jars of English mustard. The one that caught my eye was the idea of adding a touch of English mustard to your scrambled egg mixture. Once I'd tried that, the scrambled egg situation was more or less sorted. Second, I became enchanted by Elizabeth David's idea of "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine". This was a short piece of hers originally written in 1959, in reverence to a Madame Poulard, proprietress of a restaurant in Normandy, and which was later republished in a collection of her short pieces lending its title to the resulting book. That sorted the omelette situation.
We know that "fines herbes" (a mixture of parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives) work amazingly well in an omelette - "Omelette aux Fines Herbes" is a classic dish. But how come crab works so well in an omelette? Well, it does, and quite conveniently, fines herbes work well with crab! Hence this was an easy recipe to come up with.
I've been making this ever since I started buying tubs of crab meat from the market stall. I like it generously drizzled with a really good vinaigrette (I got that idea from somewhere but I've no idea where) or, in this case, a lemony "vinaigrette" as lemon and crab are also a great combination. And, if not served at breakfast time, with a glass of wine.
Trying to explain to someone how to make an omelette or scrambled eggs is not a path easily- or advisedly-travelled. One acclaimed TV chef I could name has quite unembarrassedly said that one of the first tests of a candidate for a job is to cook a plate of scrambled eggs. Omelettes and scrambled eggs come with a high degree of personal technique and preference. As I mentioned above, I invariably add a dash of hot English mustard to my eggs - many would scorn at such an intrusion but my sister-in-law now likes them that way. For a little extra zip in this particular recipe I include a little fresh red chilli in the filling but that is certainly optional.
In terms of the cooking technique I can only offer a guide as to how I make an omelette. What I came to find is that the pan should be heated to a higher temperature than might first be thought - a sufficient heat to bring butter to the point of foaming. The quantity of eggs and the size of the pan should be compatible - less eggs: smaller pan, more eggs: larger pan. This allows the egg to cook to the point when the outside has created a sort of pancake base that can be folded while the inside is not unpleasantly raw. I've tried to describe my procedure in Method step 4 but I'd almost rather you just use your own technique!
In Breaded Flounder with Ravigote Sauce the sauce is essentially a herby mayonnaise or tartare sauce based on fines herbes. There, I mentioned that chervil is disappointingly difficult to get hold of, especially for a Seafoodie or lover of eggs and/or cheese. It is not essential, I'll give you that, but if you'd like to get hold of some it's Riverford, again, that I have to put forward as a reliable source. What I wouldn't do is double-up the tarragon (it's quite strong) in the absence of chervil - up the other herbs accordingly, or all of them in proportion.
As a serving suggestion, perhaps try this dish with some cherry tomatoes (roasted, if you like) and some dressed peppery leaves. Just get your accompaniments together first as, once you have prepped-up, this dish takes seconds to make, and note, if you're making the lemony "vinaigrette" I have written below, it does take a few minutes to achieve the emulsification.
Crab Omelette "aux Fines Herbes"
Ingredients (per omelette)
2 best-quality eggs
½ tsp hot English mustard (optional, but highly-recommended)
40g white crab meat
2 tsp fines herbes (equal quantities of parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives), chopped
1 tsp finely-chopped, deseeded, mild red chilli (optional, but recommended)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil or a knob of butter (butter will achieve a browner exterior)
Best quality vinaigrette or lemony "vinaigrette" (see Note)
First, prepare the omelette filling in a bowl. Combine the crab meat, herbs, chilli (if using), and salt and pepper to taste.
In another bowl whisk the eggs with the mustard (if using) and some salt and pepper.
Heat the omelette pan to the point that a knob of butter would foam and add a splash of olive oil or the knob of butter.
Pour in the eggs and, with a spatula, stir quite continuously whilst moving the pan in a gentle swirling motion on and off the heat to prevent the eggs cooking far too quickly. You are trying to move the uncooked egg into gaps where it can be in contact with the pan surface without disrupting the base of the egg mixture so much that it cannot form a pancake-type texture. With the right-sized pan and the right amount of heat this should happen at the same time as the top of the egg mixture is runny but not completely cooked.
At this point put the crab, herb and chilli mixture in a line just one side of the centre of the omelette. Fold the smaller side over the filling with the spatula then with the pan on a tilt, roll the folded section to the end.
Tip gently onto a plate, drizzle with vinaigrette or lemony "vinaigrette" and serve with your choice of accompaniments. Oh, and a glass of wine!
Lemony "vinaigrette": Put 2 tsp lemon juice, a pinch of caster sugar, a pinch of salt and ¼-½ tsp Dijon mustard in a bowl and whisk together. Gradually whisk in approx 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil so that it emulsifies. Check for sugar and salt and adjust accordingly.
Seasonal Variation: Crab and Wild Garlic Omelette (added 10 April 2022)
When wild garlic is in season it makes a great filling for an omelette on its own. But, combined with crab, the result is something quite delightful. The filling is the same 40g of white crab meat per omelette but instead of the herbs use 10g of wild garlic leaves (no stalks), finely chopped, along with ½ tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley and some seasoning. In the case of the serving of the dish as depicted, I have accompanied the omelette with some samphire, a roasted tomato and the lemony "vinaigrette".
"An Omelette and a Glass of Wine", Elizabeth David (1986) pp. 49-52. Other editions: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Omelette-Glass-Wine-Elizabeth-David/dp/1906502358
Breaded Flounder with Ravigotte Sauce: https://www.butestseafoodie.com/post/breaded-flounder-with-ravigote-sauce