“Good taste is better than bad taste, but bad taste is better than no taste.”
Is ‘ready-made’ a dirty word? Well, it may not be very pc, or often very healthy, but there are occasions when it is not to be sniffed at.
The making of the omelette Arnold Bennett is one such occasion, using as it does both béchamel and hollandaise sauce. Thankfully these days you can buy both of these ready-made in the supermarket.
It was alright for Arnold Bennett, who invented the dish while he was staying at The Savoy in London. He liked his own creation so much that wherever he travelled he taught the local hotel chef how to make it – he never had to make, or wash up the sauces, or indeed the omelette, himself.
Who was he anyway? He was the author of Anna of The Five Towns, The Grand Babylon Hotel, and The Card among other works. The Card is a black and white film whose hero (played by Alec Guinness) is born in The Potteries into a poor family. He makes good via a spell as a debt collector, echoing the life of Bennett himself. It has some marvellous, comic scenes and an impressive line-up of stars – including a very young Joan Hickson and Petula Clarke.
Omelette Arnold Bennett became one of those classic 60s dishes, along with prawn cocktail, and Black Forrest gâteau.
The omelette keeps warm in an oven surprisingly well for a few minutes, but it’s not as good as getting an omelette served fresh from the pan, so it is up to you whether you make all four omelettes and then serve all at once. If you’re eating in the kitchen you’re better off handing out each omelette as it’s cooked.
This is how to do it:
For 3-4 with some fresh bread. A lovely fresh, squidgy farmhouse loaf with some unsalted butter would be rather nice.
- 350g traditionally smoked haddock fillet, skinned (not dyed if possible – looks a bit lurid)
- 360ml/1½ cups milk
- 12 eggs
- Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
- 50g/2 oz/one fifth of a brick of butter, cut into four
- 300ml/1¼ cups béchamel sauce – ready-made
- 80ml/⅓ cup hollandaise sauce – ready-made
- 60ml/¼ cup double cream – whipped
- 20g/4 tbsps grated parmesan
What you are doing is making three or four individual omelettes, each with sauce and a tablespoon of grated parmesan over
- Cut the haddock into pieces which will fit into a medium saucepan, pour in the milk, bring to the boil and simmer for about four minutes. The fish should be covered so you may need to press it down in the saucepan, or add more milk.
- Meanwhile whisk the eggs and seasoning in a large mixing bowl.
- Take the fish out of the milk and put it into a large sieve to drain.
- Pour the milk out of the saucepan and mix the béchamel and hollandaise sauce in it – you don’t need to wash the saucepan.
- Stir the double cream in lightly.
- Use a bluntish knife (the type you eat with) to break the haddock into flakes. Add half the haddock to the combined sauces and heat gently.
- Make the omelettes (go here for more on that) – if making three you could make thin ones in a large oval frying pan, if making four use a smaller round pan.
- Top each with the sauce and sprinkle over the parmesan.
- Serve immediately with aplomb.