The Gleeful Gourmand: May 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Classic French Omelet

I have omelets on the brain this week! It all started back on Good Friday when my Mom and I went to my favorite restaurant, CanCan Brasserie, for lunch. It was a warm, beautiful spring day, and I wasn't feeling like eating anything too heavy. When I saw they had an omelet with gruyere and herbs served with a spring salad, I was sold. Paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, it was perfect. Unlike American omelets, the French omelet is not stuffed to its furthest corners with massive amounts of cheese, veggies, or meat. It is delicate, with no brown on the outside, almost custardy on the inside, and treated so gently it practically melts in your mouth.

Flash forward one month, and there in Bon Appétit magazine is Chef Ludo Lefebvre's recipe for a classic French omelet. I was fascinated by the article. I absolutely love eggs, but making omelets are not my strong suit. I can still remember making an omelet for a friend for breakfast and seeing the look of bewilderment as they choked it down, nice and crispy brown. Said friend was raised in Europe, so it's no surprise looking back now why they were horrified.

But this...I could tackle this! I could finally make an omelet the way it's supposed to be made! The way it's explained makes perfect sense: Low, gentle heat, loads of delicious butter, lots of movement, and rolling it right. Lefebvre uses only a filling of a little Boursin Pepper Cheese, which melts deliciously into the eggs. Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan of Boursin (I really have to be in the mood to eat it), but I figured a little Gruyere, like what I had at CanCan would do the trick, especially since freshly grated Gruyere melts beautifully. I was off to make the perfect French omelet.

One week and at least two cartons worth of eggs later, I think I've got it. At least, I've got part of it. Turns out making the perfect French omelet is not as easy as Bon Appétit and Lefebvre would have you believe (although to be fair, the writer of the article did say he also went through dozens of eggs before nailing it). Still, I think that despite a couple of missteps, I have the general technique and idea down of how to get it right. Here are the steps (and missteps I made):

A little mise-en-place, pouring the eggs, adding the cheese, and ready to roll.

1) Have all your ingredients ready. Once the omelet gets going, the process goes quickly, especially since you really have to pay attention to what you're doing to keep it from browning. Having all ingredients at the ready, as well as the plate you're using standing by is key. You don't want to get caught not ready to season when the time is right.

2) 2 large eggs. They say use "insanely fresh." Unless you have a chicken in your backyard running around, just use the darn eggs in your fridge. Whisk those bad boys vigorously so that absolutely no streaks of egg whites are showing.

3) 1 Tbsp. of European Butter. Why European? Usually you'd reserve the higher priced European butter for pastry work. The difference between this and regular butter is fat content. European butter (or cultured) is 83-86% fat content, where regular butter has about 81%. European butter is also made with a slower process, so the cream has time to develop a better flavor. I splurged just because. Toss that 1 Tbsp. into a small, cold, nonstick pan.

4) Gentle heat. Turn the burner on to medium, or in some cases (all stoves are different) a touch above medium-low. Melt the butter, being careful not to let it sizzle. There can be some bubbles (that's a good way to tell if your pan is ready), but as Chef Lefebvre says, "Cooking an omelet should be quiet. You want to hear almost nothing." Once the butter is melted, pour in your eggs. Season with a little Kosher Salt and White Pepper (black pepper will overwhelm the flavor).

5) Okay, here's where I started screwing it up. Using a rubber spatula, make figure 8 motions while turning the pan left-to-right, or rather a back-and-forth motion, like drawing a half-circle. The first time I did this I made scrambled eggs immediately. Apparently you want some curds to form, but you also want the bottom to start forming. I only got this part half-right. I did have some curds, but I couldn't figure out how to do it their way and not make scrambled eggs. Anyway, about 2 minutes in the eggs should be nearly cooked through underneath but still runny on top. If you're successful in lifting an edge and it holds together, you're ready to hit it with the cheese.

6) Take the pan off the burner. The eggs will still be cooking, so no worries. I spread the grated Gruyere down the middle of the eggs in a neat line. Then, here's where I screwed up again. Instead of rolling it just one way all the way over in increments (so bottom to top, rolled about three times), I misunderstood, and rolled it halfway over the cheese, and then took the top half and rolled that over the cheese too. At the halfway point of rolling, add 1 more Tbsp. of butter. It will help the omelet slide out of the pan.

7) Slide the omelet out onto your plate, using the edge of the pan to gently guide it, seam-down. Drizzle the butter from the pan on top. They want you to sprinkle the top with Fleur-de-Sel, but since I didn't have any on hand, I just used a little more Kosher salt, and finely chopped chives.

8) If eating for lunch (or dinner!) serve with a fresh mixed green salad that has a light vinaigrette. Apparently the best wine to drink with eggs is Champagne. But if you're like the rest of us and don't have a bottle of bubbly on hand, try a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite is Joel Gott) instead. Eat. Revel in the taste sensations.

It wasn't rolled right, but it tasted amazing!

Okay, so here's the real deal. At least 70% of the omelets I made this week (I made so many I'm starting to dream about them) had just the barest hint of browning. Almost like a light golden brown, but not all over, just in some small spots. Most people wouldn't notice, but I noticed, and I'm sure Chef Ludo would notice. And I know I got it wrong with the main technique of forming curds, but gosh darn it you know what? The way I did it (making figure 8s without going all the way through to the bottom of the pan) was good enough. And the rolling was wrong, but guess what? It tasted amazing. It was a revelation, all smooth and creamy, and ridiculously delicious. For the egg lovers in our house, we couldn't get enough, and Lord knows, we had plenty of them to eat.

So there you go. I didn't perfect it in one week, but I'm not going to give up. And when I finally do get it 100% correct, I'll post a video to show all of you how you can do it too. Start stocking up on those eggs now! In the meantime, if you want the step-by-step pictures that tell the real story of the "right way," you can find them by clicking here.

The Classic French Omelet.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Frozen Key Lime Pie for the Lyme Disease Challenge

Hey y'all, I want you to meet my friend, Lacey. We've been friends since we were kids, and she is an extraordinary person. She has been through so many challenges and trials in her life, and yet through it all she keeps shining as a beacon of positivity and light. When I heard last month that she had been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, and was asking friends and family to partake in the Lyme Disease Challenge, I knew I wanted to participate, having had my own scare with the disease a few years ago. Here in her own words is her story of how she finally came to be diagnosed with Lyme, and how it has impacted her life. After the story you'll see my take on the challenge - making my very first Key Lime Pie. Here's Lacey to tell you more:

Chances are if you are meeting me for the first time it is because you have entered my fitness studio, Lacey Lee Fitness. There is no doubt upon meeting me that you would assume I am living a happy, healthy life. You see a young, fit, upbeat 36-year-old who is always smiling. You can tell right away I am passionate about what I do and that I truly love people. Those who know me know that I have also been in a wonderful relationship for over 3 years, and I have amazing support network of parents, family, and friends.  

However, the reality is, when I’m not working at my fitness studio, I’m at home resting or lying down. I have a disease that is attacking my body from the inside. It is one of many diseases coined an "invisible disease.” It means people look healthy on the outside, but are fighting an illness that can be life threatening. 

What is this invisible illness? Lyme Disease.
Lacey and her best friend, Mea.

What you can't see (I have become a master of hiding A LOT) is my battle with Lyme Disease consists of chronic pain all through my body, chronic fatigue, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, memory/brain problems, and emotions all over the place. I have lost control over my body. I don't know how I will feel from one day to the next, sometimes hour to hour.

Like many people, you may have heard the term "Lyme Disease," but know nothing about it. I knew it came from a tick but that was it. Boy was I in for a wild ride when I was told by my doctor, "You have Chronic Lyme Disease and you NEED to become an expert in this disease." She said judging by my blood work I have had it for a long time. 

I remember being bitten by ticks as a kid, but I was never sick. I never had the telltale signs, typically a bulls-eye rash, accompanied by a high fever/sickness. I quickly learned why she said to become an expert: Lyme Disease is a nasty, controversial disease.

Lyme Disease is caused by a bactirium called a spirochete identified as Borrelia Burgdorferi. It rapidly spreads throughout the body after the initial tick bite, producing different symptoms at different times. People can have Lyme Disease and never show any symptoms. It is classified as either Acute or Chronic Lyme depending on the duration of time that has passed since the initial infection. Lyme Disease is called "The Great Imitator" as it mimic over 300 different diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ALS, Alzheimer's, Hypothyrodism, and Parkinson's. Common symptoms are: depression, fatigue, brain fog/memory loss, anxiety, panic, and insomnia.

I had many of these symptoms over the years, but I always had a “reason” to feel the way I was feeling. For the first few days after my diagnosis, all I could do was research, talk to people who I knew had it/still suffer from it, and also friends in the medical field. It was overwhelming to learn what a struggle so many people were going through. What was worse to learn was many Doctors were not getting to the real problem. Many people bounced from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong, get misdiagnosed, and spend tens of thousands of dollars only to become sicker. I refused to be one of these people. 

I have always prided myself on my strong immune system. In fact it was not until college that I had anything really go "wrong" with my body. I played tennis for Old Dominion University and through repetitive twisting and torquing, I ended up fracturing my spine. It took years for doctors to figure out the problem, as I did not respond to treatments/procedures to heal my back. This wasn’t a red flag to me or my doctors since I was a young, hard-headed athlete that did not want to stop playing tennis. They eventually forced me to stop playing and I was put in a body cast for 4 months. This seemed to do the trick. Sadly, my tennis career was over, but my spine eventually healed. 

Over the years I had off and on back pain, which I sought out chiropractic care for treatment. I was always a mystery to my chiropractor since my adjustments never seemed to hold. I also developed hip pain, but it turned out to be bursitis. Years later I was hit with a debilitating headache that I had never experienced before. The chiropractor said it was coming from my neck but I never saw improvements. Even a neurologist could not find anything wrong. I tried massage therapy and acupuncture to no avail. I learned to deal with the headaches and to this day it is just a part of my everyday life.

 I then started having ribs in my upper back sublux (which means they dislocate/come out). This, too, was debilitating and another mystery to my chiropractor.  But it still wasn’t a red flag as I worked in the fitness industry, and moved more than the average person. There were long periods that were pain-free. I knew I had a bad back and this would be something I just had to keep under control and maintain. 

During this time I also I suffered from panic attacks, depression, nightmares, and anxiety. I had developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the death of my brother when I was younger, and a stalker that consumed my life for 12+ years. I always felt like the wires in my brain needed to be re-wired because on paper my life sounded great, but nothing was clicking.  

In 2013, I re-injured my back. I went to a Physiatrists. I was sent to physical therapy. A month later I went to my primary care for my annual blood work. I was shocked to learn I had hypothyroidism. This was not a red flag as thyroid issues run in my family.  After 6+ months of physical therapy and being on thyroid medicine, I was feeling MUCH better. Then for no reason my back started to feel worse. I got an MRI, which showed I had two herniated discs. As my back worsened to a point of not being able to walk, my fatigue was also getting worse. I started having insomnia. I adjusted how I ran my business in order to protect my back, and was doing the bare minimum as I was in chronic pain, and wasn’t able to sit or walk for long.

Over the next 8 months I had 4 epidurals, 2 months in a back brace, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, massage, facet injections, and basically lived my life horizontally and on ice. The doctors (I started seeking 2nd and 3rd opinions) all said my herniations were not "screaming surgery" and could not figure out why I was not healing. I went in for another procedure for my back, and told myself that if this didn't work, surgery was the next step. This is where my doctor saved my life. She believed I was in the pain I was in, but she knew something wasn’t adding up. She issued a test for Lyme Disease, which I thought was silly, but I was willing to do anything to help my situation. 

I learned I had Lyme Disease in February 2015, but now that I look back and can truly say that the Lyme symptoms started when I first hurt my back in 2013. I started my Lyme Disease quest like many people do - I went to an Infectious Disease specialist. Since I had already done a lot of research by this point I was prepared to be told I did not have Lyme. 

Sure enough - that is exactly what I was told. The Specialist barely looked at my results from the Lyme testing and said I had chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia. I disregarded her diagnosis and found two people that offered services I was looking for. One looked at my blood through a microscope and was able to identify the Lyme bacterium in my blood. The other offered a homeopathic approach.

I was 100% convinced I had Lyme Disease along with two co-infections (Babesia and Baronella) when I saw it with my own eyes from my first appointment with the "blood nutritionist" as we call her. Between the two specialists I have been on the homeopathic protocol, supplements, and herbs since April. Although I am still struggling with chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia, and some other symptoms, I am hopeful that I am on my way to better health. Unfortunately there is no timeline as to "when" I will be better. I'm a firm believer that as long as I am doing something about it - I WILL get better - and that is all that matters to me.

I have only begun my quest in tackling this disease but I hope my story can help you or someone you love. If you are looking for a place to start on Lyme Disease research I highly recommend watching the documentary "Under Our Skin.” - Lacey

So, in taking on this challenge, I decided that instead of sucking on a lime, I'd tackle making my very first Key Lime Pie. It may have been fate that I had recently caught an old show of Ina Garten's where she makes this Frozen Key Lime Piebecause it looked so fantastic. I've always loved Key Lime Pie, and this one sounded unique, fun, and oh-so-refreshing. Here's a couple of things about it: 1) It is delicious, I can vouch for that 2) It's not really "Key Lime" because we don't typically get those here in Virginia. So if you're feeling persnickety about it, just call it "Lime Pie." 3) In her recipe she doesn't specify to grease the pie plate before putting in the graham cracker crust. Do it. Grease the pan with some baking spray, because otherwise it sticks fast in the freezer. 4) It is frozen, but it melts almost as soon as you slice it and plate it. You've been forewarned. 

To get the recipe, please click here

I hope you all will take some time to consider doing the Lyme Disease Challenge. Whether you know someone who is battling Lyme Disease or not, it's time to get the word out there. Did you know that most insurance companies won't cover the medicines and treatments for Lyme Disease? And yet, thanks to increasingly warmer winters, ticks are becoming more prolific, and the risk for Lyme is rising with it. Here's what you can do to spread the word:
1) Take a photo of yourself biting a lime.
2) Share 1 fact about Lyme Disease.
3) Post to social media and tag friends to partake in the challenge. #LymeDiseaseChallenge

If we raise our voices, we can be heard, and this debilitating disease can start to be taken seriously. I hope you'll join us!

Frozen Key Lime Pie for the Lyme Disease Challenge!