Omelettes are considered the gold standard in eggs, and in good culinary practice, although, shhh… getting neglected fried eggs to rise, and perfect scrambles are actually a bit more culinary machismo, because more skill and patience is needed.
In the film “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” a young Indian chef aspiring to be one of the best in the world, a Michelin-rated chef, has to convince the owner of a French Michelin-rated restaurant across the road from his family’s Indian restaurant that he is worthy of working in their kitchen.
Madame Mallory serves up one task: “Make me an omelette.”
While the scene is shot as wonderful food porn, and I’m sure that the chef who actually cranked out the omelette for it is pretty whippin, like 99.95% of the eggs made, it was made (gasp) wrong.
Before you begin, take a minute to read my article on Perfect Eggs, and the science that 99.95% of chefs, pro and home, ignore that will transform your egg dishes!
THE PERFECT OMELETTE
Great omelettes start with great eggs. Read my article on how to shop for them, avoid the egg scams, and buying unsafe eggs.
Science is our friend, overcoming centuries of “grandma/mom did it this way” with nice simple explanations as to why foods cooking behaves in certain, predictable ways.
Learn to bring science to your side, and you can outshine all but a handful of some of the world’s best chefs, pro or civilian.
We know that, in eggs, 68°C/154°F gives us a whole lot more. The Digest version of the article (Which you SHOULD read, hint, hint) is that eggs form protein chains that trap steam, allowing them to rise.
Heat accumulates, and our temperature, because home stoves are notoriously variable in range.
By the time that we’re done, our omelette, if we start at the idea cooking temperature, will have hit about 76°c / 168°F. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a finished temperature of 71°c/160°F or over to eliminate internal bacterial contamination that can occur in raw or undercooked eggs. Many doctors and scientists, though have found that Salmonella, the most feared bacteria, is cooked off by 50°c / 122°F, for those of you with concerns about not blasting your eggs like they were the Gatekeeper of Gozer in Ghostbusters.
I know how y’all hate thermometers, but zippy cool ones like the Thermapen Mark IV, pictured here, make it easy to check the pan and the eggs to keep them in the range where the lattices, the protein pockets that capture steam and make eggs rise, are maximized, and your omelettes routinely come out in the all-too un-culinary phrase “BAD ASS.”
PENULTIMATE JAZZ FOOD
The omelette is infinitely riffable. Like any other holder of stuff, too often chefs focus on the trees, and miss the forest. We can improve the lift of the omelette by following the temperature rules, but allowing the time for it to hit full stride, patience, is the difference between “Awful” House hash slingers and masters of the art.
There is a lot of bad custom in the omelette making game. Let’s correct it.
- Allow time for the basic eggs to form – All cooking duration is a combination of heat and time. Lower the temp, lengthen the time, and allow the egg’s proteins maximum forming time. Don’t toss things into your omelette right away. Give the eggs time to form the lattices that build its structure. Otherwise you have chunks poking out of whatever you put in.
- Pre-cook the ingredients in the center – You’ve seen this a million times at the brunch buffet stations. Chefs, mostly for speed, sauteé the stuff going in the omelette, and then pour the egg mixture, usually from some container that was made hours earlier, over it. The eggs, probably thin factory jobs, are not aerated well anymore, so that “lift” is lost. The hot pan sears the eggs, and the exhausted oil into the eggs, adding a ton of calories, and a bunch of free-radicals from the heat and oil are “locked in.”Any vegetables or meats that require cooking should be done in a separate sauteé, or steamed, as appropriate to the form. Sauteé at a medium heat, below the smoke point of any fats used. Use avocado or rice bran, both neutral oils with high smoke point temperatures that have no aftertaste like olive or canola.
When done sauteéing, turn the ingredients out onto some paper towels to capture the oils for a couple of moments. It cuts down unnecessary calories and cooked oils that can lead to feelings of bloating or indigestion after the meal.
- Strong flavors and fats – As a longtime watcher of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which I watch to see if there are any decent techniques hiding out there that can be riffed upon, I can tell you that strong flavors and fats are cheap tricks. They’re like holding heroin and a needle in front of someone who’s addicted. Cater to our palettes, very sophisticated things, instead of our fat-addicted brains.If you’re going to use bacon, chorizo, or other strong flavors, LESS IS MORE. You want them to blend with the other tastes, including the egg, which will amaze you when it’s made delicately! Have confidence in your product not to take the easy way out.
- Add Cheese Last – Cheese should be the last thing that you put in at the folding of the omelette. Once you fold, it will continue to cook, and the steam will cause it to rise. It will also melt the cheese perfectly. Avoid American, which is largely water, and, if you use a low fat 2% shred, allow for a bit more time because it has a slower melt point. Remembering my Less is More theory, LESS CHEESE, though, is not only better for you, but it allows the other ingredients in your omelette to be tasted. You obliterate an omelette with fats (cheese) only when you have something to hide in the omelette’s build, and this will be perfect, so you can paint, not slather.
- Have all ingredients ready for your omelette at hand – Mise en place is very important to the success of good omelettes!
- A warming oven is your friend – Unless you have multiple pans, an option if you’re Shiva or an octopus, you can’t make all of the omelettes simultaneously. So plate and put the omelettes into a warm oven of about 70°c/160°F while you finish the others. If you are making anything with brie or whey-based “American” cheese, that may need to be a bit cooler on the warming, if you can set your oven to warm. If you can’t warm it up to 175-200, and then turn it off. It will work just fine.
- Since egg whites are easy to come by these days, I add some egg white to lower cholesterol and improve the lift of the lattices in the whites’ protein chains a bit.
- Evaluate your eggs – When you put the eggs in the work bowl, how are they? Viscosity is key. If they’re thick, then you’ll add the milk along with the small touch of cream. *If they’re thin mass-market eggs, you’ll leave the milk out.
- Liquids as time stalls* – If, for some reason, you need more time on your eggs, add a bit of milk or water and it will lengthen cooking enough to get whatever you need to do done.
- White pepper/nutmeg? A pinch doesn’t impart a ton of flavor, but it puts some pop with a little nutty edge on to the back, which accentuates the ghee used as the lubricating fat.
- Whisking – Unlike the perfect scrambled egg, we want to whisk/whip the egg more evenly here. We’re realigning and highly aerating, so put your back into it!
(Serves 1; Scalable 1:1)
Cook time – 7-9 minutes
Prep time: 8-15 minutes, filling dependent.
- 1 Vital Farms pasture-raised egg
- 1/4 cup egg whites
- 15ml / 1 tbsp cream
- 5 ml / 1 tsp milk*
- 2g / 1/4 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
- Pinch of ground white pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 10g /2 tsp. Organic Valley Purity Farms Ghee
MISE EN PLACE
- Prep all of your ingredients going into the omelette first.
- If cooking hot ingredients for the filling, start them in time to finish as the egg solidifies. The egg will need 3-4 minutes from the time that it was put into the pan to form well enough to receive the filling. Plan accordingly.
- While your filling items are cooking, if they are, whisk together all ingredients except the ghee.
- Spoon the ghee out of the jar with a clean spoon (Avoid cross-contamination) into the pan. Brush with the silicone brush.
- Quick whisk the egg mix to aerate again. Add to the pan. Formation begins
- Rising – As the omelette rises, rotate the pan a bit to level out the egg evenly throughout.
- Shaping – Using your silicone spatula, strengthen and shape the edges by pushing them inward a bit. You can also roll some of the uncooked egg into those spaces to level it out.
- Add cheese – Once the bottom becomes more opaque, and there is still egg forming on the top, add the cheese if you’re using a low-fat. There is already enough “lift” going on, and it will incorporate it and melt it, as it takes longer. If not, wait until you see the top more cooked for brie or “American.”
- LIFTING – Gently slide the spatula under the omelette to make sure that nothing has been sticking. Work around the entire pan so when you go to fold, there will be no breaks.
- BINDING – The omelette continues to rise, and the top with the cheese binds, still just a touch wet and uncooked, but we still have a little ways to go. If you are going to add any extra ingredients, now would be the time. Remember not to overload the omelette, as there is only so much space that it will have in the fold, and we want bottom to top making closer contact for the remaining cook because steam is still powering the project.
- FOLDING – Insert the rubber spatula under the omelette and gently fold in half.
- FINAL RISE – Even though we flipped the egg, we leave it in the pan for another minute or two. It allows the top skin to finish cooking, and, amazingly, with the heat redistributed, there is a bit more rise left in it.
- SLIDE! – Slide the omelette out of the pan on to the plate. It is well enough formed and lubricated. Using a spatula can cause it to tear or fall apart if the filling is uneven, and we didn’t overcook it so it’s not rubber holding together.
- PLATE – Finish plating the omelette with the sides and/or a little chili thread, or something else that looks nice for garnish. Serve.
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