Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Get Cracking

I once read that when a chef is applying for a job at a fancy restaurant, rather than being tested on something truly difficult, like a mille-feuille cake or a cheese soufflé, they are frequently asked to make a simple omelet. This is because it is believed that the omelet is so fundamental, that a person's entire cooking skills and style will be revealed during the 30 seconds of its preparation. This was good news to me, since I would probably run out of patience around the dixième feuille, and I have never even attempted a soufflé, but I have been preparing omelets since I was tall enough to reach the burners (that sounds bad, but it's true). But, like with everything, I wanted to know the right way to make an omelet, so I turned to the master, Julia Child. Here's what she told me:

In case you can't watch videos at work, or are a "just the facts, ma'am" type of person (in which case you probably wouldn't even make it to the troisième feiulle, Ms. Restless), here's the breakdown:
1. Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a non-stick skillet or omelet pan (Julia suggests about 7-8" diameter).
2. Whisk two or three eggs with salt and pepper to taste and about a teaspoon of water (I know - that surprised me, too!)
3. Pour the eggs into the pan. If the pan is the proper heat, the eggs will start to congeal and bubble immediately, but will not sizzle or pop too wildly (the butter should not burn in the pan, either).
4. Once a bubbly film has formed on the bottom of the pan (about 5-10 seconds), take the pan by the handle and start to vigorously shake back and forth over the heat, so that the runny part of the eggs slide onto the hot surface. (It helps to look at the video for this part, since I'm afraid my description of the action is falling a little short in painting the picture).
5. Continue to shake the pan back and forth for about 20 more seconds, until the eggs have formed a solid, but soft, mass at the far end of the pan.
6. Flip the omelet out of the pan onto the plate and top with a little butter (hey, don't question Julia), and chopped herbs.

If you wish to add cheese or other fillings to the omelet, have them prepared before you start cooking the omelet, and add them to the pan between steps 3 and 4. And then, once the omelet is plates, sprinkle more on top, if you wish.

Another thing that the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed in the video is how Julia nonchalantly cracks the eggs with one hand- actually, one in each hand- ambidextrously! The minute I saw her do it, I decided I needed to add that skill to my repertoire, if only to impress my husband now and then (or in case I am ever in a contest where I have to cook with one arm tied behind my back). It just takes a little practice to figure out just how hard to strike the eggs without getting shell pieces in the bowl, but otherwise, it's actually quite easy. Here's a video to help you master the technique. This guy's a little intense (you have my permission to skip the practicing-with-golf-balls nonsense) but he illustrates the method pretty well.

So, whether it be for an impressive weekend brunch with friends (made all the more impressive when you nimbly master the one-handedness), or a super-quick, nothing-in-the-fridge weeknight dinner, go forth and get your yolk on.


Unknown said...


Let me just say one thing..smoked salmon omelet with dilled sour cream. It's the best comfort food in the world..


Katie said...

I watched "Julie and Julia" this past weekend, so this post definitely resonated with me. I learned to make omelets from my mom, but I will surely give Julia's method a try.

P.S. I have been reading your blogs for several months and looked at your wedding pictures last week. They are gorgeous! As I was looking through the ones on, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that your wedding cake was the sole inspiration for mine. I decided on a pattern 10 months before the wedding, but it was just not working for me. After looking for a short time, I found the picture of your wedding cake. The other surprised here is that the princess/royal design echoed my wedding jewelry.

Jamie said...

Wonderful blog! Lots of great information...Plus, you have a really nice writing style. I've marked it as a favorite. Thanks for the inspiration. I'll look forward to more! said...

Oh, Julia. I love how she throws the other omelette pan onto the floor. HEE.

And I have been making omelettes "wrong" my whole omelette-making life ... they always take longer than 20 seconds!