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Once you've perfected basic techniques like frying an egg and cooking rice, it's time to move on to those things that may have initially scared you off. Every other Monday, chef and stylist Camille Becerra is going beyond the basics to help us tackle even the scariest cooking techniques.
Today: Camille shows us how to make a classic French omelette.
I am of the school of thought that finds it perfectly fine to judge fellow cooks by the way they make an omelette. As they say, “It’s the simple things...”
First off, a few rules: Omelettes should be made with 2 to 4 eggs. They shouldn’t have any color. They should be fluffy. And they must be well seasoned. The fillings are the cook's choice -- leftovers from the fridge work quite well. My favorite is simply just chives, and maybe some goat cheese.
In an episode of The French Chef devoted to the omelette, Julia Child succeeds in hosting an omelette party for 300 people! Guests chose their fillings, including chicken livers, ham, a sauté of spinach, ratatouille, and an array of stinky cheeses.
More: Another thing we learned from Julia Child? How to cook zucchini, in style.
Chefs and experienced cooks take their omelette pan very seriously: small and non-stick is everything. On another TV show, Anthony Bourdain hangs out with chef Marco Pierre White at his restaurant-pub in the British countryside. In the kitchen there’s a special nail where only the omelette pan hangs, and this pan is only used for making their signature trout omelet. The entremetier is the only one that can touch it, and nothing but egg and a rubber spatula can ever go into it -- it’s the law.
Here's how I make mine:
Crack 2 to 4 eggs into a bowl, season with salt, and whisk well.
With a rubber spatula in hand, warm your pan over medium-high heat. If you’re really committed, you’ll use clarified butter; if not, a touch of oil (any kind will work) and a bit of butter will do, but make sure you heat your pan gently and add your eggs before the milk solids in the butter begin to brown.
As soon as the eggs hit the pan, it's showtime. Make sure you stir aggressively with your spatula; this creates an airy omelette.
The next step goes very fast; once you see that the eggs are holding their structure but are still soft and gooey, lower your heat, add your heated filling (if using), and begin to roll your omelette out of the pan.
There are many ways to roll out an omelette from pan to plate, but I find this technique to be most useful: First, grab your plate and have it ready to catch your omelette. Then bring your hand, palm side-up, under the handle, which gives you much-needed leverage.
Gravity is your friend here. Start tilting the pan, with the handle lifted towards you and the far side of the pan tilting towards the plate. Using the spatula, begin to fold the omelette onto itself, starting with the edge closest to the handle. Then guide it along, folding it over a bit more.
Continue tilting the pan slowly as the omelette begins to roll onto itself. You want it to hop off the pan and onto your plate.
New techniques take practice, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it on the first try. Remember that once you do get it, no chef or fellow cook will ever judge you.
Photos by Emma Jane Kepley