The French omelette has to be the ultimate fast food, it’s a slightly terrifying process for the uninitiated, but so good when you get it right.
First, catch your omelette pan. It should be non stick (whether that’s by dint of it being shiny stainless steel, Teflon coated, or seasoned cast iron, I don’t mind) about 20cm in diameter with 3-4cm high sides, and have a reasonably solid base. (For the record, the one shown above is a black iron Longlife pan, purchased from Jaeggi’s on Shaftsbury Avenue. There’s a story attached to this one, but I’ll save that for another day.)
- have everything ready to go
- make sure the plate on which it will be served is warm
- don’t even think of making more than two omelettes
- more than three eggs is inviting disaster
- make sure the eggs are at room temperature, eggs from the fridge won’t co-operate
Put the pan on a medium heat, and let it warm up.
Crack two or three eggs into a bowl. A two egg omelette is easier to tame. Nigel Slater and Julia Child both recommend adding a teaspoon (5mL) of water, and this seems to make it slightly more malleable. Mix with a fork. You’re not trying to beat it to a fluff, just combine everything.
Now, grind over some pepper and salt. If you do this before mixing, the pepper seems to form a clump, which can come as a bit of a surprise when the omelette is being eaten.
The pan should now be hot, so add a generous knob of butter; a tablespoon or around 20g. Turn the heat up as far as it goes. The butter should sizzle, and once it’s melted and foaming, but before it starts to burn, pour in the beaten eggs, and then do nothing for a slow count of ten.
Saint Julia (as demonstrated here on youtube) merely swirls the pan, starting with circular movements, and then changing to horizontal movements to fold it, and then flips it straight onto the plate. I have never quite managed this, and suspect it requires some special culinary Black Belt.
Saint Delia, on the other hand, is terribly proscriptive about repeatedly tilting and drawing the edge in.
Neither of these works for me, so what I end up doing is this.
- waiting for a slow count of ten, having poured the eggs into the pan – this lets enough of a skin form on the bottom so you can manipulate it
- swirling the pan gently, enough to make the omelette move around a little, and to make sure the it doesn’t stick to the bottom, and using a spoon to draw the edges in from time to time
- after about 30 seconds (this is why the heat is high) it’s cooked most of the way through, but still runny on top
- folding it using my pink girly silicone spatula, and
- flipping it onto the plate
It doesn’t matter if the omelette is very slightly gooey in the middle at this point, as it will carry on cooking on the plate.
I normally add fillings at the end of step 3.
Some good things to add:
- a few thin slices of cheese – some savage Cheddar is good
- as much fresh parsley as you can hold between your thumb and forefinger
- a slice or two of smoked salmon – the salmon will be just cooked when you finish