Monday, January 19, 2009

"Pick-Up" Meals

I don't know where this term came from, but at my house when we scrape together a quick meal from whatever's on hand, it's a "pick-up meal." Sometimes these meals are just adequate, something to keep your soul and body together until the next meal. But other times, the synergy of ingredients (combinations you might normally never think of) produces something really tasty!

For example, one morning over the Christmas break, we had slept in, and were hungry, but didn't want to go out. (Of course, we were low on provisions.) I went to the fridge to get some eggs, for scrambled eggs and toast, feeling bad there was no orange juice, when my eye fell upon some leftover filling from the Apple-Cheddar Hand Pies I had made a few days earlier. I remembered having seen, years ago, a recipe for Omelette Normandy, a sweet dessert omelette with an apple filling. And I recalled there was a cherry dessert omelette recipe in Shirley Corriher's truly cool Cookwise. A quick glance at Shirley's recipe showed it was too elaborate for right now (it involved separating eggs and beating the whites and yolks separately), but I did note that the egg "batter" contained sugar.

We had 5 eggs left, so I figured I would make 1 big omelette and split it among the 3 of us. I broke the eggs into a bowl and beat them, adding a generous tot of cream, a pinch of salt and a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Some Grand Marnier would probably be really good here, but we have none. Now to deal with the filling.

It was pretty stiff, sure to tear holes in any omelette casing. It basically consisted of cooked diced apples, diced cheddar cheese (Cabot Black Wax Canadian cheddar, yum, yum!), and some spices. We had a small amount of cider left in the fridge-- I figured that would loosen up the filling.

Well, I misjudged the amount of cider I needed and poured in too much. Now it was too loose-- almost soupy. Crap. What to do now? I didn't want to have to heat the whole mess up and start adding beurre manie or something. I had a sudden inspiration: crumbs! I recalled the delectable biscotti crumbs in the beurre noisette that topped the butternut squash ravioli I had in a fancy restaurant a few months ago.

We had a few graham crackers leftover from the last time I had made key lime pie. I put the crackers in a ziptop bag, sealed it, and pulverzied them with a rolling pin. I gradually added the crumbs to filling mixture, until they had absorbed just enough cider to create the texture I was looking for. A quick taste: delicious!

I felt like there should be something else in the omelette besides apple-pie filling. We had one slice of havarti cheese left, which I figured would melt nicely on top of the filling and make the whole thing more omelette-y and less weird.

I melted some butter in a pan, and made the omelette. Dividing it into 3 parts, I put it onto our breakfast plates along with some toasted Prairie Bread from Whole Foods, and called the guys to the table.

What is it? they asked. Oh, it's Omelette Normandy, I told them. To my surprise, they accepted this information. The omelette was surprisingly delicious and everyone enjoyed it. Not bad for a pick-up meal!

Sometimes I plan "pick-up meals." For instance, I never seem to get out of the house to do the weekly grocery shopping until late in the afternoon. (It takes me forever to plan the menus and figure out what I need.) Knowing I will get home, cold and starving, in the middle of the dinner hour, I almost always stop by the deli counter while I'm in Whole Foods to pick up some Roman Tuna salad, plus a quick swing by the soup aisle for whatever flavor of Pacific or Imagine soups catches my fancy. DC loves the Roman Tuna salad, which has kalamata olives, diced red onion, and artichoke hearts in it. It's really delicious. I like it because it's not too goopy with mayonnaise.

Once I get home, I can have a meal on the table in no time. I make Tuna Melts (toasted Praire or whole wheat bread spread with the tuna salad, topped with sliced cheese and run under the broiler until the cheese melts) and serve a mug of hot soup alongside them.

DS is unjustly prejudiced against Roman Tuna salad, so I substitute sliced turkey or salami for the tuna on his open-face sandwich. I say unjustly, because he loves artichokes, kalamata olives, and tuna. So what's not to like? (I suspect the fact that he can't see the red onions to pick them out. He's in an anti-onion phase right now. Pickled cactus? No problem. Escargot? Bring it on. Sushi? Hold him back!! But onions? NO.)

Whenever I serve such a plain meal, I feel like it needs to have some dessert to top it off. There is a quote I love, I think maybe from Marion Cunningham, that says "dessert puts the period at the end of the meal." If we don't have anything leftover in the house, Whole Foods has these cute little mini pineapple upside-down cakes. I suspect each of them is intended to be one serving, but they are HUGE. I get two, and divvy them up amongst the 3 of us. They are a big hit with the guys, and easy for me!

Sometimes simple meals are the best.


  1. I would have never thought to make an apple pie omelette! Great idea! The inclusion of graham crakers seals the deal for me. :)

  2. Thanks, Cabot Jen! Let me know how your omelette turns out, if you get a chance to try it! My friend Tammy, who is hilarious, always tells guests the following if ever she cooks something that does not turn out well: "It's an old Serbo-Croation family recipe!"

  3. Ha, I like that!

    I'm afraid I haven't yet tackled and omelette. Scrambled eggs and I have a rather strained relationship; despite my best intentions, they always get burned. ;)


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