The Pleasure of an Omelet

I can't get my mind off of her. I don't care that she was once scorned. Her curves. Delicate. A smooth touch. I used to sneak around, making sure no one saw us together. There is no need to vilify her anymore simply because of what she does for a living. She is so gorgeous and sensual. She gives me exactly what I need, when I need it. Her pleasure is intoxicating.


I love eggs. They discreetly support our culinary dalliances yet pleasure us with decadent simplicity. A complementary dancer in a waltz of smooth custard. A rock steady partner that never misses a step in the rhumba of chilaquiles. A uniter (more so than any politician) of disparate ingredients that brings together the necessary ingredients to give us a perfectly baked cake. And, at her best she is a perfect guide to savor the purity of deliciously simple ingredients. You know her well. Brulee, flan, custard. Sinful.


I know all this to be true having had the pleasure of eating omelets in Paris. And I thank the country of France for my obsession and love for eggs. Why? Because while the French excel at the techniques of thoughtful and meaningful cooking (versus phoning it in), there are certain foods they simply cook better than anyone else. If you have not been to France, I hope you make time to go at least once in your life to see what I mean. There are many reasons to visit, but they way they cook eggs is reason enough for me. Excellent cooking focuses on the technical execution of simple ingredients. Only the French can cook fish in a simple way with a sincerity of perfection I have never been able to replicate or taste outside their country. The smell of real artisan breads, baguettes, croissants. The airiness. Deeply rustic or gentle crusts that are not an afterthought. And then there is the egg. In my opinion a true chef (not necessarily a professional that gets paid to cook) who cares about the end state of their cooking respects the egg and can cook her well. The French do and they do it with seriousness. They view the egg as a central player in the most respected of all meals from a preparation standpoint: dinner.


My first tryst with our mistress of the carton was at Christian Constant's Michelin 3 starred restaurant La Violon D'Ingress in the 7th arrondisement on Rue Saint-Dominque in Paris. A perfectly poached egg sitting atop a salad, with lardons and mustard dressing. Simply cutting into this oval of goodness was an experience I cannot forget. A slightly set yolk that was soft and flavorful. It elevated a simple salad to something greater. Another trip to Paris, brought me to Jamin, where chef Benoit Guichard (Superstar chef Joel Robuchon's executive chef) took over and made a crayfish stuffed raviolo with an egg yolk center. Bursting out of the first cut, the yolk came forth, making a bright orange sauce that delicately complemented the filling. No matter how conservative some view M. Guichard's approach to cooking versus his predecessor, I don't really care. The man knows how to cook an egg.

Yet for all of these expensive dining experiences, my favorite way to enjoy the French commitment to cooking eggs is from the humble omelet. Although not complicated to make, it is difficult to cook them perfectly. I have found that using a non stick pan will deliver the most consistent results. Eggfully soft and flavorful of the yolk's goodness, but not overdone. A medium flame provides the right amount of heat to allow the protein to harden. Too high of a heat and the eggs will become tough. Mixing in a small amount of cream, milk or even sparkling water, provides a better cooking base than simply a beaten yolk. Add about 1 TBSP for each egg. The most effective technique for properly cooking an omelet simply involves the use of a fork or small spatula that allows you to pull the cooked edges inward to the center so you can slightly lift the pan and allow the liquid egg mixture to move to the perimeter of the omelet. Doing it this way means you don't have to flip the omelet over, a true mark of proper cooking by not "disturbing" the food.




Fillings for omelet are endless. However, I find the tanginess and creaminess of goat cheese and the freshness of chopped chives to be the most enjoyable way to have an omelet. Add the ingredients to the center of the cooked omelet and fold it over about 20 seconds prior to coming off the heat. A simply tossed salad of butter or red-oak leaf lettuce with a mustard and shallot vinaigrette and a glass of champagne makes this the perfect summer evening meal.


Recipe for Goat Cheese and Chive Omelet
Serves 1

Ingredients
2 large eggs
1 TBSP milk
Kosher salt
Grind of black pepper
3 oz goat cheese
3 TBSP chives, finely chopped
1 TBSP butter for the pan


Method
In a small bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper gently to combine. Do not over mix, about 10-12 strokes is all that is needed. Heat a nonstick or seasoned 10 inch skillet over medium heat for 60 seconds. Add butter and let it melt to coat the pan. Pour egg mixture into pan and let it cook undisturbed for about 30-45 seconds until the edges start to harden slightly. Using a fork or spatula, gently pull the edges to the center of the pan. Tilt the pan slightly to move the liquid egg mixture outwards to the edges of the pan, keeping the entire pan base covered and let it set. It should take approximately 90 seconds to cook the omelet to this stage. Crumble the goat cheese onto the half of the omelet that is furthest away from the pan handle. You will want to do it this way because you will use the pan handle to flip the uncovered part of the omelet over the top of the goat cheese when you are done cooking. Sprinkle chives over the entire omelet. Slide the omelet onto a warmed plate (175 degree oven for 5 minutes) with the goat cheese covered half coming out of the pan first. When the goat cheese portion of the omelet is on the plate flip the other half of the omelet over the top. You will be able to do this easily because you are holding the pan handle. Dust the top of the omelet with 1 TBSP chopped chives, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

I let the omelet rest for about 60 seconds before serving. This is similar in a sense to allowing a piece of meat to rest when coming out of an oven or off a hot grill. The heat of the omelet will melt the goat cheese and dissipate slightly so your first mouthful won't be too hot.

Please enjoy. It's OK if everyone is watching you.

7 comments:

Tartelette said...

There is omelet for dinner at least once a week, which surprised my American husband at first but after spending some time with me, he is not surprised by much anymore!!

chefectomy said...

I can only imagine! Not sure why American's don't do this more, it is a great meal for dinner.

Paul Ward said...

Chefectomy,

I share your love of eggs! I've got omelet and scrambled egg obsessions that probably should be reviewed by a psychiatrist.

Thanks for a great piece.

Angela said...

I can see my husband, Paul, beat me to your comment section! Mark, your writing is superb and you are so on point with this posting. The egg is sensual on so many levels (GREAT intro!). And a medium flame is essential in cooking them. I can't wait to read more of your blog. Thank you for commenting on mine so I could be introduced to yours.

chefectomy said...

Tartlette, Paul, Angela - thanks for commenting on my blog. I am new to this and the feedback means a lot to me.

- Marc

Kevin said...

That omelet looks reall good!

We Are Never Full said...

This post is so true. In America, the Omelet is just something that's "whipped up" for a quick Saturday morning breakfast. It's still a quick thing to make in France, but it's looked at through a different set of eyes and with much more care. Watching Jacques Pepin prepare a simple chive omelet is a thing of beauty! But, the thing that I love most about the traditional French omelet is that it still has a bit of 'runnyness' to it. It's never completely cooked - but that's prob. because they are all using high quality eggs. We now try to make our omelets like this. Great post!!