Saturday, September 15, 2007

Back to Basics: The Omelette

Before I started this blog, I would just see what’s in my refrigerator or the market and put something together. No measurements, and definitely no staging of the finished product! :-)

Now I write everything down, every time I cook, just in case I decide to blog about it. But there are still some things I make that just happens because I’ve done it so many times and it’s so basic that I figured, eh, they probably already know how to do this. Or do they?

That’s what popped into my mind when I was making an omelette the other day. There might be some people who don’t even know the first step in making an omelette. And then there’s others (probably the purists out there) who would be aghast (is that a word? I guess so since Word didn’t correct it)—aghast I say!—that my steps are so off based.

So I decided to describe how I make my omelette. I wished I thought of taking pictures of the steps, but that’s always hard since I need my hands for cooking. So you have to just use your expert visualization skills. I recently had some leftover crimini mushrooms and gruyere cheese in the frig, so I decided to make a cheese-mushroom omelette. Here’s how it went:

Sweating the mushrooms: I don’t like my omelettes runny, and it’ll be half-way to a river when you use mushrooms, which have a lot of moisture already. So I sliced my crimini mushrooms and placed them in a non-stick skillet with a bit of extra virgin olive oil to sweat out some of the moisture. Adding a pinch of salt will help extract the moisture. I call this sweating the mushrooms because after awhile, the mushrooms will start to get moist like it’s in some spa. As a twist, I add a dash of balsamic vinegar (about a tablespoon) and then let the mushrooms continue cooking until the vinegar reduces a bit. I remove everything from the pan and set it aside until I’m ready.

Two eggs or three?: I get my eggs ready before I start making the omelette. In a small bowl, I whisk together my eggs. You’ll need about two to three eggs. I usually use three to make sure I get a nice thick omelette. I’ll add about a teaspoon of salt at this time to make sure the eggs are well seasoned. Also, sometimes when I have it leftover, I’ll whisk in some crème fraiche or heavy cream (about a quarter cup) just to give my eggs a richer texture. But it’s totally optional and I didn’t do it this time because I didn’t have either one available.

Let the magic begin: So now that I have my core ingredients ready, I start making my omelette. In the same non-stick pan that I used to cook the mushrooms (rinsed and wiped off clean, of course), I warm some olive oil first. Even though it’s a non-stick pan, I still like to use a bit of oil to make sure my omelette doesn’t fall apart if some parts stick to the pan. Also, it’s important to create that initial burn when you add your eggs. So have your pan fairly hot (about medium high heat) and then add your eggs, then after about 30 seconds, bring the heat down to medium to continue cooking your eggs but not burn your omelette. (Some people don’t like their omelettes to have any browning color, so then you have to have your stovetop on a low eat. I’m not that patient.)

Piercing the bottom: I saw a guy at an omelette station in a restaurant do this once when I was a kid. He added the eggs to the pan and then started swirling it around to cover the entire base and as it cooked, he would get his spatula and pierce some holes so that the gooey eggs on top would settle down to the heat and cook faster. So I do the same thing as I cook my eggs, helping it cook faster by scraping some small holes with my spatula.

Plump up with filling: When it looks like my eggs are 80 percent cooked, I started layering the ingredients on top for the filling. So I get my mushrooms in balsamic vinegar and place them evenly on top. I also had some leftover fresh basil, so I grabbed a few leaves and sliced them thinly (chiffonade for you French cooking experts) and sprinkled them on top as well. If you want to add a pinch of salt and pepper, this would be a good time. Then I finish everything off by grating my leftover gruyere cheese on top, about a quarter cup.

The fold: I guess this is the part that requires some talent. I’ve seen on food demonstrations a variety of ways people make an omelette. The most interesting way was when a chef did this constant shaking of the pan until the omelette simply crumbled together into one side of the pan. I’m not skilled that way, so I do an easy fold-over. Once I have all my filling in place, I use my spatula and rim the edge of one side of the eggs and then just fold that side over, creating my omelette. Sometimes if I feel like it, I’ll fold it and then flip the whole omelette one more time onto its other side just so that it’ll have a more cylindrical shape, like a burrito.

Once the fold is done and cooks just a few seconds longer to create a seal, I just slip my omelette (this is where you thank yourself for remembering to oil the pan) onto my plate, give it some garnish or more grated cheese and then enjoy a happy weekend breakfast. (Yeah, I don’t have time to do this every morning so I just save it for the weekends.)

Here’s my mushroom-cheese-basil omelette. So how do you make yours?

2 comments:

Mrs. L said...

How do I make my omelette? By telling my husband "make me an omelette"...I don't really do them well. But I like the idea of "sweating" the mushrooms first as I don't like runny omelettes either.

Chef Ben said...

Mrs. L, where can I get one of them "make me an omelette" guy? Pretty handy. ;-)