- January 19th, 2011
- 2 Comments
Earlier this fall I wrote about our walleye pike sandwich and bread pudding pancakes, examining each dish in greater detail and unveiling interesting stories behind key ingredients. After a long winter’s nap, I’m back to explore yet another item on the menu: our southern omelet.
Personally, I’ve always been picky about omelets: done well, they’re a simple and comforting blend of tastes and textures; done poorly, let’s face it – they’re pale yellow heaps of flavorlessness. Perhaps that’s why world-renowned French chef, Auguste Escoffier, tested his prospective cooks by having them make omelets for him. Out of all the complex recipes he could have chosen from to evaluate the cooks’ skills, he wanted to see what they could do with three eggs, salt, pepper and butter. Escoffier’s omelet test is mentioned in a great piece from Gourmet, in which author Francis Lam chronicles his own quest to prepare the perfect omelet. Lam concisely captures the challenge when he writes, “If the beauty of the omelet is its seeming simplicity, that simplicity is unforgiving. Either you nail it and it’s transcendent, or it’s, well, just eggs.”
Fortunately, our southern omelet transcends being just eggs. Introduced to the breakfast menu in mid-October, itfeatures a combination of local pork sausage, sautéed red onions, and Zingerman’s pimento cheese. The sharp and mildly spicy flavors remind you of how tasty eggs can be when harmonized with quality ingredients. It’s accompanied by a “to DIE for” (says staffer Jay) fresh biscuit generously slathered with house-made strawberry preserves, and a scoop of our signature red potato mash.
Although Southport Grocery’s executive chef, Derrick Dejaynes, has always appreciated eggs done right, he surprisingly didn’t have them on his mind when he first created our southern omelet. Instead, Derrick was more focused on the pimento cheese that it features: a mixture of grated cheddar, mayonnaise, and diced pimentos — red, heart-shaped peppers with a sweet and mild taste similar to red bell peppers — which results in a bright orange-yellow and creamy spread. It all started when Derrick and owner Lisa Santos first tasted the pimento cheese produced by Zingerman’s Creamery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They were immediately hooked on its texture, which features larger-than-usual chunks of cheese for a pimento spread. They also appreciated the quality of the ingredients themselves; Zingerman’s uses raw milk sharp cheddar and Hellman’s mayonnaise. After just one taste, Derrick and Lisa knew that the pimento cheese would be perfect for the store, so Derrick immediately began brainstorming ways to incorporate it into the menu.
Pimento cheese has been a staple of American southern cuisine since the early 20th century. It’s commonly bakedinto biscuits or spread on white bread to make sandwiches, but its strong flavor also makes it a popular condiment for hotdogs, hamburgers and ribs. “The cheese is salty, creamy and spicy, plus the mayonnaise adds just the right touch of sourness,” says Derrick. Rather than baking the pimento cheese into biscuits, he instead created our southern omelet — which still comes with a biscuit on the side — as a modern twist on experiencing classic southern comfort foods.
Zingerman’s pimento cheese isn’t usually available outside of southern Michigan, but fortunately Derrick and Lisa convinced the creamery to make an exception and Southport Grocery became the first retailer in Chicago to offer the addictive cheese. And when I write “addictive,” I mean it: the staff jokingly refers to it as “pimento crack” and some of them have been known to individually devour a whole container’s worth in a single sitting. Even Derrick says that our southern omelet is now his favorite out of all the omelets we offer, because it features the pimento cheese.
Regardless of whether you order our southern omelet to savor the simple beauty of eggs, or to specifically experience the pimento cheese that inspired its creation, there is much to appreciate about this delicious new breakfast dish. Give it a try sometime, or purchase the pimento cheese from our grocery and other tasty cheeses by Zingerman’s Creamery, such as Liptauer, to enjoy with your favorite foods at home.