For the life of me I can’t remember how I came across this omelette with the odd name, but it certainly got my attention. Firstly because I love omelettes, and secondly, that name! So of course I googled!
Arnold Bennett was a 20th century British novelist. Okay, I didn’t know that, but how in the world did he get a brunch dish named after him?!
According to Wikipedia, “It was created at the Savoy Grill in London for Bennett, who frequented the restaurant often, by the chef Jean Baptiste Virlogeux. It remains a British classic; cooks from Marcus Wareing to Delia Smith and Gordon Ramsay have published their recipes for it, and a variant remains on the menu at the Savoy Grill.”
What makes this omelette unique, is that it contains smoked haddock, which I adore. When I made Cullen Skink for the blog, I discovered Arbroath smokies sold by Scottish Gourmet USA. I was so excited to buy them again!
I found the omelette recipe on The Guardian website, by Felicity Cloake, who is a British cookbook author. She writes: “Though Bennett himself seems to have enjoyed the dish as a post-theatre supper, this silky, smoky tangle of eggs, cheese and haddock is so ridiculously, deliciously rich that it’s best consumed well before bedtime … though I won’t judge you if you want to go back to bed afterwards.”
Note that, depending on the size of your frying pan, you can make two individual omelettes or one big one to share. Use an ovenproof one that can go in the oven.
All I can say is that this omelette was uniquely wonderful. It’s eggs, bechamel, smoked haddock, and Parmesan. Of course it’s wonderful!
Omelette Arnold Bennett
200ml (6.7 ounces) milk
130ml (4.4 ounces) double cream
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp peppercorns
A grating of nutmeg
200g (7 ounces) smoked white fish fillets (eg, sustainable smoked haddock or pollock)
35g (1 ounce) butter
25g (2 tablespoons) flour
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
20g parmesan, finely grated (I used 1 ounce)
1 tbsp chopped chives, to finish
Roughly chop the onion, then put it, the milk and 100ml of the cream in a small pan with the bay leaf, peppercorns and a grating of nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the infused milk, discarding the solids, then pour the milk back into the pan.
Bring the milk to a simmer, then add the fish, cutting it up as necessary so as much of it as possible is submerged. Traditionally, this dish is made with smoked haddock, but any cold-smoked white fish will work, so use whatever is available and most sustainable locally; I’ve even been known to make it with kippers. Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave to sit for about five minutes (longer if the fish is particularly thick), until the fish is cooked enough so it flakes easily. Lift out the fish with a slotted spoon, peel off the skin, if necessary, then flake the flesh into large chunks. Pour the milk into a jug.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan (use the same one, to save on the washing-up) over a medium-low heat, then whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Gradually whisk in the infused milk, then cook, still stirring, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of double cream. Take the pan off the heat. Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining cream, then very gradually whisk this into the sauce. Stir in the flaked fish, then season to taste – you probably won’t need much salt, because smoked fish is quite salty already, but you may wish to add a little more pepper or nutmeg.
Heat the grill. Whisk the four eggs with a little seasoning, and heat half the remaining butter in a medium omelette pan (or all of it in a big frying pan, if making an omelette to share) over a medium-high flame. When the foam subsides, pour in half the eggs (or all of them, if making a large one) and shake the pan to cover the base. Leave the eggs until they begin to set and bubble, then use a fork to draw the sides of the omelette into the centre, at the same time tilting the pan to move any runny eggs to the side.
When the omelette is almost set, but still a little loose in the middle, take the pan off the heat, add half (or all) the fishy sauce and top with the grated cheese.
Put the omelette under the hot grill until lightly golden and bubbling on top. If you’re making two omelettes, tip the first one on to a heatproof plate and keep it somewhere warm while you make the second one.
Top with the chopped chives and serve immediately – I usually just put the pan on the table and tuck in.
This recipe was perfect, but I’d infuse the whole 200ml of milk and the 130ml of cream. There’s no reason there shouldn’t be more flavor in this fabulous omelette!