You Can’t Make An Omelette Without…
That's actually true of many people. Never mind. The inspiration for today came from the chronicles of Mr C's trip to Egypt. Among his many posts on social media, he commented on the (poor) quality of the omelettes served to him in a particular hotel. They were so poor that he felt he had to step in an give his professional expertise. I was stuck by the difference between Robert's idea of a perfect omelette and my own.
I had forgotten that the British way of doing is dramatically different from the French style. To illustrate this I turned to the book shelves. Today's contest features Gary Rhodes New British Classics playing Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et al. According to Gary, making an omelette just involves the setting of eggs with an added flavouring of your choice. It's not really a cooking process, more of a 'warming' to thicken the egg, giving you a set scrambled effect with a soft finish and no colour.
Julia Child and her co-authors, on the other hand. will tell you that an omelette needs about 30 seconds cooking time. Trying to explain the variations to novices is confusing, as the process of omelette making is, on paper, the same as scrambling eggs. Each involves beaten eggs and butter. The fundamental difference between the various methods is heat.
Please don't think you're reading an encyclopaedic guide to the subject of the omelette. There will be no Italian frittata (the delight which my mother, confusingly, used to call a Spanish omelette). Nor will you find the real Spanish version, the famous tortilla. There will be no Korean gyeran-mari, no Japanese tamagoyaki, no Thai khai chiao. My point is that wherever you find eggs you will find variations on the omelette. Food doesn't get much simpler although, as mentioned before, many cooks struggle with them. (My omelettes are brilliant, but I do occasionally struggle to get them out of the pan neatly.)
Cook it Gary's way and you have a finished result with no colour. He would turn his out to a plate and meticulously roll it to a cigar shape. A bit too anaemic looking for my taste. His answer to that is in his recipe for a sweet omelette filled with warmed home made jam. It's a dessert you never see these days. The end result is then dusted with sugar and branded using heated skewers.
My dear mama taught me surprisingly little, other than by my watching her. I guess she had little patience for the idea of a novice mucking things up in her kitchen. She did, however, demonstrate omelette making. Her way and therefore my way followed the French style. Are you ready to go when the butter has melted? No. Are you ready when the butter starts to foam? No. When and only when the butter foams subsides, just before it starts to change colour, do the eggs go in. And within a minute your meal is ready. Please don't tell me you don't have time to cook.
So what about scrambled eggs, I hear you ask? The polar opposite. It's a long slow process. Eggs and butter over a fairly low heat, stirring all the while. For a few minutes, nothing will seem to happen. Don't be tempted to increase the heat. As they start to set, remove from the heat and continue stirring till they reach the consistency you like. I prefer mine quite runny. As an aside add nothing to your eggs apart from butter, salt and pepper. NO milk, please.
In a nutshell, folk tend to get omelettes wrong because they cook them too slowly, and get scrambled eggs wrong because they cook them too fast. Cooking? It's a funny old game.
Nicely done Tom.
Just to say my omelette making in Egypt was teaching the chefs to make an Egyptian style omelette.
The foaming of the butter and subsiding before cooking adds more flavour to the omelette.
As you quite rightly say it is all in temperature control 👌👏👏👏👨🏻🍳🥰✅
I wish more people would cook scrambled eggs the cool slow way, as Tom recommends, then I might enjoy them more.
Don’t put your omelette on a hot plate ( just a slightly warm one) otherwise it keeps on cooking and is overcooked/hard !
Bacon and Tomato Omelette tonight, Tom, got it spot on. Am a make a hole and fill it in guy in the pan and use a splash of oil with the butter.cMalocco’s in Dunf used to do the perfect one with peas and chips moons ago for lunch, when I was getting a better grasp of Economics than Kwasi at bank exam studies!
Don’t know if you were ever in Capaldi’s in Auchterderran Road, Lochgelly. Peter’s wife used to create a monster concoction called a Jean Special which had everything in it bar the kitchen sink.
Omelettes are so wonderful when they’re done right. They seem much easier to find across Europe. For some reason, I always remember finding the fluffiest well made omelettes in Talinn.
Have you ever experimented with souffle omelettes? I think this involves whipping the whites first, as if making meringue. Not sure if that’s what the Estonians were doing but I wish I could replicate it(!)
Great post, there is an often overlooked magic to what seems like a very simple thing.
Lesley does a souffle omelette. I’m working on a future Tom Cooks! column with more egg recipes. Might include this. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Never had the pleasure of Capaldis, Tom. Sounds like she fed the Lochgelly Royal Artillery. Weirdly my Mother made a fine Italian Omelette that was ‘Spanish’.
In the late 70s they turned Capaldi’s from a basic cafe to quite a decent trattoria style restaurant in the evenings. My Dad took great delight in inviting friends out to dinner, then watching their faces when he told them they were going to Lochgelly.
What a trip down memory Lane. Joe Malocco’s after hockey practice circa 1968, perfec. And your Father taking friends to dinner in Lochgelly, just his sense of humour. Wonderful man.
How did all that come from a simple omelette?
And if you think Lochgelly was bad, the best omelette I ever tasted was in the back streets of Kosovo circa 2000.
Lochgelly bad? I think you mean unlikely. Joe (as in Angelo) just died a couple of weeks ago in his 90s