The Myth of The “Perfect” Omelet

fresh-herb-omeletThe omelet is one of those recipes: devastatingly simple, yet fraught with mystique and angst. There are hundreds of treatises out there, in various cookbooks and on the Web, discoursing on the One True Secret to the Perfect French Omelet. The advice is never-ending and largely contradictory: a large pan, a small pan, high heat, low heat (or broiler heat), cover, don’t cover, whisk eggs “barely” or for 80 strokes, whip in the pan with a fork, with chopstick, with a meat carving fork (??), 2 eggs, 3 eggs, 4 eggs; it goes on and on. And because of this surfeit of information, because the majority of these articles practically scream at you, that if this one method is not how you are cooking your omelet, then you are doing it WRONG and you will NEVER have the PERFECT omelet, many people, especially novice cooks, shy away from the omelet. This simple and delicious food, cooked in minutes and endlessly versatile, is ignored or avoided by thousands of home cooks, for fear of doing it wrong.

I’ve been to France many times. And, because I am such a picky eater, one who doesn’t eat beef, seafood, game meats, ham, lamb, veal, organ meats, mayonnaise (the list goes on I assure you) I often find it difficult to navigate my way to a Kaela-approved-protein at least once a day. Hence, I eat a lot of omelettes. Yes, the typical French café omelet is pretty good: tender, fluffy eggs, thinly wrapped around a slim filling of cheese, mushrooms, the ubiquitous ham. But you see, while I’ve eaten many a French omelette, and they have served the purpose of nutrition intake for the day (not to mention the base for many, many bouteilles de vin), it is not how I like my eggs. Not how I cook my eggs. I like my eggs well-done: I like the ‘skin’, the lightly brown ‘over-cooked’ egg on the outside of the omelet. You know, the part that everyone tries to avoid. (The entire country of France just gasped; then rolled their collective eyes and went back to their café au lait and cigarettes.)

Repeat after me: There is no wrong way to cook an omelet. There is no wrong way to cook an omelet. There is no wrong way to cook an omelet. Keep saying it until you believe it, because it is true. Omelets, because they cook so quickly, are one of the most versatile of dishes: each can be specially prepared to the exact tastes of the person eating it. A little ham in one, extra mushrooms in another, runny eggs barely cooked for one, eggs hard as nails for another. Chacun à son goût.

Below, you will find a recipe for my perfect omelet: eggs cooked medium-hard, a bit of cheese, a heaping handful of fresh herbs, chutney or ketchup or hot sauce on the side, a little broken because of that one sticky spot on my Le Creuset skillet. It’s not gorgeously Martha Stewart-esque, but it’s mine: perfectly delicious to me. Feel free to follow my recipe, or follow any of the hundreds of recipes out there in the world, just remember, short of burning the eggs beyond recognition, you cannot screw it up. So get in the kitchen, throw some eggs in a pan, and discover your perfect omelet. The more tries it takes you, the more delicious “failed” omelets you get to eat. Bon appetit!

fresh-herb-omeletFresh Herb Omelet with Cheese

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pat of butter
  • splash of olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of milk or cream
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs
  • ¼ cup grated cheese

METHODS

  1. In a small skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until butter foam subsides.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and pepper. Add to hot skillet, and swirl egg around and up the sides of the pan. Shake pan a bit, to loosen the middle. Sprinkle surface evenly with salt, herbs and cheese. Shake the pan, pulling it towards you with a jerking motion, until the edges of the omelet start to curl up. Flip edges into the middle with a spatula; lower heat if outside is browning too much for you. Continue to cook, as necessary, until middle is set to your liking. Slide onto a plate, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve hot.

Yields one omelet.

fresh-herb-omeletOPTIONS

  1. Practically endless. Once you get the hang of the amount of heat and the timing, you can fill an omelet with pretty much anything.
  2. Even winter farmer’s markets often have fresh herbs, as they are a staple greenhouse crop, and eggs and butter are some of the easiest things to source locally. Try Local Harvest to find a farm or market near you.

STORE

Best eaten immediately.

SEASON

Year round.

Advertisements

5 comments

  1. Damn–wish I’d read this months ago! See, I have Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking which led me to seek out old Julia videos on PBS.org. That’s where I learned that the outside of an omelet was not supposed to be brown, but simply firm and that the inside should be like a custard. I heard that the French don’t typically go for “stuffings” but will do warmed over toppings (if we really must). (In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t actually been to France–unless you count two flight connections on my way to Italy–so I certainly cannot speak authoritatively for the French.)

    So, I’ve been practicing and practicing. I’m working on the roulez method and more egg matter has ended up on my cook top than I’d like to admit. It ain’t easy, I tell you. I’m at about 5% (that’s 1 out of 20 eggs passing the French Test).

    The one time I really got the outside to be firm but not brown and the inside to be like a custard, it was divine. Really. Exceptionally.

    I do agree, “There is no wrong way to cook an omelet.” But I think that once you have had one that is exactly the way you like it, anything else could be considered the wrong way to cook an omelet.

  2. local kitchen

    Hi Sophie,

    I agree – a less succinct way of putting it might be “there are a million perfect omelets, made by everyone who ever makes an omelet.”

    I’ve tried the Julia method as well and I’m not very good at it either. Apparently, it should only take 20 seconds to cook a Julia omelet. I like my eggs way too hard for that to ever be possible. But then again.. that was Julia’s perfect omelet, not mine. And the French do typically include fillings in their omelets for lunch, just not about 3 cups of filling like we would do; often a dinner omelet may just be an in-between course that is sort of a palate cleanser if you will (never, ever for breakfast, of course – philistine!).

    If you are chasing the perfect omelet for taste, then check out the Bittman link to the Cook’s Illustrated method; he raved about how divine (though ridiculous) that method was.

  3. Pingback: Tortilla persa de hierbas - Recetín

  4. Agreed…There is no wrong way to cook an omelet! I love cheese and baby swiss chard in mine topped with some Meyer lemon salt (thanks for the salt, btw)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: