Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Classic" French Omelet

Classic French Omelet Attempt
Ever since I saw that YouTube clip of Jacques Pepin making omelets I've been anxious to try and make the classic French omelet myself. It's not a style of omelet you see at brunch in the States very often... and while I'm sure they're out there at fancier events... I've never had one served to me. The principle differences between the "country style" omelet and the "classic" is a) whether the butter is browned or not, and b) how big the curds are. In a country omelet (i.e. what we typically make in the US) the butter is browned and the curds are very large, whereas with a classic omelet has no browned butter and very, very small curds. The size of the curds is determined by how long you let the egg set before moving and how vigorously you move them around as they cook. A small curd looks a bit like runny scrambled eggs. Unfortunately, these small curds are pretty hard to make... or at least it seems so to me... I can make a tri-fold country omelet pretty much perfectly every time, but the fork and pan movements shown in that Jacques Pepin video frankly scare the bejezus out of me. Luckily I recalled that I had seen a Cook's Illustrated recipe a while back that claimed to make it "easy" and "fool proof" or something to that effect so I dove into my archives for the recipe you see below.

The keys here are using chopsticks (or skewers) so that you can vigorously break up the curds without worrying about scratching your non stick pan... and covering the partially cooked eggs with a lid off the heat to get them  a little more done without browning the bottom. In addition, little frozen butter cubes added to your eggs helps them keep a creamy texture.

I wouldn't say this is the easiest recipe to pull off... but it does seem to reduce the difficult technique parts to more manageable steps. Presumably using chopsticks to scramble your curds won't impress any of your chef friends, but whatevs. As you can see above my rolling was a bit of a disaster... so I don't have any tips for you on that end. It'll still be delicious even if it's not perfect and presumably practice will help.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated (January 2009 issue - subscription required).

Ingredients
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into 2 pieces
  • 3 eggs, cold
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Gruy√®re, grated
  • 1 tablespoon of herbs (chives, chervil, and/or parsley), minced
Directions
  1. Pour the oil into your omelet pan (a pan about 8-10" and non-stick) and put it over low heat while you work on the eggs and butter. You want it to heat up for about 10 minutes.
  2. Take one of the pieces of butter and cube it, put it in a bowl, and place it into the freezer for 10 minutes.
  3. Crack two of the eggs into a bowl, but the third you want to separate off the white (reserve for another use) and use only the yolk. Season with a little salt and pepper and whisk with a fork until there is no trace of egg white... they say about 80 strokes at a medium pace, but I'm not counting, are you?
  4. When you are ready to go... herbs and cheese ready... pan heated for 10 minutes and butter frozen for ten minutes... take your butter cubes from the freezer and mix them into the eggs.
  5. Wipe out the oil our of the pan with a paper towel so there is a thin coating on your pan.
  6. Add the remaining piece of butter to the pan and swirl it around until it stops foaming... making sure to not let it brown. Add your eggs and turn the heat up to medium high.
  7. Holding two chopsticks in one hand, move them in a circular motion around the pan, scrambling the eggs and pulling the egg away from the sides of the pan. When you've got what looks to be runny scrambled eggs, take the pan off the heat and smooth down the eggs into an even circle with a spatula. Sprinkle your cheese and herbs over the eggs and then cover with a lid. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes covered depending on how you like your eggs.
  8. Put the pan back over low heat and use a spatula to go around the edges and help free the omelet.
  9. Slide it gently onto a plate and carefully roll it up into a tight roll.