Recipe – The Omelette hypothesis

There are few things in this world that are as seemingly simple and yet as daunting as making a professional quality omelette. You may have heard of the urban legend that some chefs, when interviewing for positions in high end kitchens, are requested to produce only one thing – an omelette.

Whether or not this is true I cannot say for no one has ever asked me to cook an omelette for a skill test – but if I can borrow an idiom, I would buy that cow. Like Smaug sitting atop his piles of gold in the old dwarven city, interviewing for some chefs can feel just as daunting a challenge as approaching the silent halls preparing to face down a dragon.

Omelettes are a kind of litmus test for a chef’s basic cookery skills. They can showcase a chef’s attention to detail, ability to produce good results on demand as well as his/her ability to get consistent results. As many a chef can recount, eggs are easy to cook but it can also be challenging to get consistent results.

That’s the reason the traditional chef’s toque ,the pleated chef’s hat that’s just as tall as Gandalf’s hat (just whiter, less pointy and without the rim ) has such a strong association with the humble egg, each pleat is supposed to represent the ways (100 apparently but I was never counting) that a chef has mastered cooking of egg dishes.

With such an emphasis on eggs it is little wonder that omelettes can seem intimidating. They are also surprisingly unforgiving, There’s no place to hide your mistakes, their light colour and delicate nature certainly require panache to master. Perhaps that is why they have garnered a certain mystique with chefs, food writers and home cooks alike.

On paper it should be so simple – eggs , some butter, a pan and 2 minutes … what could go wrong and why did it sometimes seem more sorcery than cookery?

just eggs, butter and a pan …how hard can it be ??

I do not have a magic answer to fix the everyday omelette but i can share my experience that there is no one recipe to rule them all nor one method either. It is still going to require some trial and error to achieve a quality product but hopefully my recipe can give you a glimmer of hope to see the possibility of what a simple and delicious thing an omelette can be.

As we depart on our quest together to demystify the omelette let us do so with a song in our heart and a spring in our step this is a quest to the kitchen not the great outdoors but in spirit at least we may soon be chuckling besides the fires of mount Doom at the end of what some will call our daunting hero’s journey , cooking omelettes, perhaps for second breakfast, over its hot volcanic ashes.

To dispense with what will be a fair question on many a mind; is there a perfect or “correct” way to make an omelette ?

A quick search on the internet will imbue you with enough conflicting articles to make Gandalf the grey turn blue, if the library at Minas Tirith had as many conflicting articles on magic as egg making , he may simply have thrown in the towel and let Sauron have free run over middle earth. Fear not however intrepid adventurer for we have discovered a clue.

The Chef Auguste Escoffier described the omelette as “scrambled eggs held together in a coagulated skin” so not being one to argue with the master let us apply Occam’s razor and take it at face value, in this case, we will make an omelette that requires the smallest number of assumptions and variations (were not trying to cast spells here so fork positioning and angle of the wrist will not be of concern)

So with that we set forth to conquer the omelette ,which you will see is more boogeyman under the bed than actual dragon ready to grind up the bones of unprepared chefs within the halls of Erebor.

Basic Omelette

  • 4 eggs
  • a knob of salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

now at first glance you may think that something is fishy with this ingredient list, you may have learnt while pouring over the old tomes of the internet that omelettes are supposed to be butter for the pan and the whisked eggs only, while that may be ,we are gonna try something a little different and take the road less traveled so as to to make it more accessible, reproducible and more in line with Escoffier’s descriptions.

Scrambled egg mixture

Firstly take 2 eggs and using a fork whisk them with the milk until homogenized, on a low heat place a block of butter in the pan and let it melt down until it’s just starting to foam (against conventional wisdom do not let the butter splatter or let your pan get too hot) then pour in you mixture and using a plastic ladle stir the mixture in the pan.

the butter is just starting to foam

This is only gonna take 30 – 35 seconds , you want your eggs to be lightly scrambled. once they come together remove from the heat and pour into a bowl , if they seem a little bit runny don’t worry as they will continue to cook from the residual heat as you make the next part of the omelette,the coagulated skin.

Coagulated skin sounds a little ominous and it’s probably what saruman was using to make the Orcs of so let’s call it an egg crepe instead.

Egg Crepe – Method

For the crepe , whisk two eggs together until homogenized , on a medium heat add a knob of butter and when it starts to form pour in your eggs, stir it three to four times and let it sit for 30 seconds.

Shake the pan lightly and your thin egg crepe should move freely in the base of the pan , continue to rotate the pan above the heat to keep the egg mixture moving when done it should still be slightly liquid on top ,as per the below photo. once it is done slide it out of the the pan and place on a plate or board the still liquid side facing up.

sliding the egg crepe out of the pan, notice how the top of the egg is still slightly liquid and unset

Assembly

Spoon some of your scrambled egg mixture on top of your omelette and using a spatula roll it up as if you were rolling a cigar. (sorry everyone there’s no LOTR references to cigars everyone was smoking pipes in the books and a pipe shaped omelette although that would be impressive isn’t what were after)

Spooning the scrambled eggs over the egg crepe
Folding the crepe

Note: if you want to add any toppings, add them with the scrambled eggs but remember to go light on the toppings, one to two tablespoons max, you will want to maintain the panache of the light fluffy eggs you’ve worked so hard to achieve and overstuffing the crepe may cause it to break.

The finished Omelette
Taking Escoffier at his word , a lightly colored ,delicate and fluffy scrambled egg mixture held together with an egg crepe.

To those of you who persevered and overcame – though you may have throw out a few eggs while learning the perfect temperature for your stove top , though you may have throw out your old pan and bought a new one , though you may have fed your friends and family rubber balls passing off as omelettes along the way , to you my friends go the spoils – an easy , delicate and delicious omelette.

Enjoy your treasure for it is truly a rare thing and I’m sure you will agree was worth the journey and hopefully quicker to get through and master than an actual reading of J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Note: I am a big fan of De Buyer pans, for omelettes the 8 or 10 inch Choc Extreme pans are what i was using in my professional kitchen and what I am currently using at home. This not a paid plug, it’s just my personal opinion. for they are great pans period. 

 

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