Cook's Illustrated (January/February 2009)
Last Sunday, we awoke to a gorgeous, sunny, unseasonably warm day in our nation's capital. We had nothing in our plans but a morning of coffee, reading the paper and relaxing.
What a great time, we thought, to whip up these lovely looking French omelets! We'll just waltz in to the sun-filled kitchen, crack some farm-fresh eggs, toss some gorgeous ingredients in a pan and -- voilà -- a perfect French omelet while we enjoy our café au lait.
Maybe we'd even be helped out by some chirpy cartoon bluebirds.
When we started getting into this recipe, though, our Cinderella vision of an effortless omelet quickly fell apart.
This recipe is so intricate -- so complex -- that we quickly felt more like we were doing a science experiment than spending a delightful morning in the kitchen.
Assembling this omelet is about as relaxing as putting together an IKEA bookcase.
First of all, in this recipe's defense, it is from Cook's Illustrated. We recently described Cook's as a cross between the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports and Popular Science. It's a food magazine that's known for its meticulous attention to detail, and we love it for exactly that reason.
Even for Cook's, though, this recipe is a little Byzantine. We could get behind dicing a tablespoon of butter into tiny cubes and then freezing them.
And we didn't have too much of a problem with using precisely two eggs and the yolk of a third egg for each omelet (although, would that third egg white really ruin the whole thing?).
Heating oil in a saucepan for 10 minutes, only to then wipe out the oil? Okay...?
Beating the eggs with "about 80 strokes"? All right, we guess. ("one! two! three! four! ...")
But by the time we got to the chopsticks -- yes, chopsticks! -- we thought it was all just too much.
It was the perfect consistency -- light, fluffy and gorgeous. The flavors were all just right. The Gruyere and the chives were subtle and graceful and absolutely delicious.
So the bottom line is, it just might be worth all the trouble.
Maybe if we were making it for lunch or dinner (and wouldn't this make a delicious dinner entree, maybe with some steamed green beans?), we wouldn't have minded the effort so much.
But for breakfast, we like to keep things a whole lot simpler. We don't necessarily need to throw all the ingredients in a bag, but surely there's a happy medium?
Something between IKEA and the cartoon birds?
Because making omelets is such a quick process, make sure to have all your ingredients and equipment at the ready. If you don’t have skewers or chopsticks to stir the eggs in step 3, use the handle of a wooden spoon. Warm the plates in a 200-degree oven.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
6 large eggs, cold
Table salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
4 teaspoons minced fresh chives
1. Cut 1 tablespoon butter in half again. Cube remaining tablespoon butter into small dice, transfer to small bowl, and place in freezer while preparing eggs and skillet, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place oil in 8-inch nonstick skillet and heat over low heat 10 minutes.
2. Crack 2 eggs into medium bowl and separate third egg; reserve white for another use and add yolk to bowl. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper. Break yolks with fork, then beat eggs at moderate pace, about 80 strokes, until yolks and whites are well combined. Stir in half of frozen butter cubes.
3. When skillet is fully heated, use paper towels to wipe out oil, leaving thin film on bottom and sides of skillet. Add 1/2 tablespoon reserved butter piece to skillet and heat until foaming subsides, 45 to 90 seconds. Swirl butter to coat skillet, add egg mixture, and increase heat to medium-high. Following photos above, use 2 chopsticks or wooden skewers to scramble eggs using quick circular motion to move around skillet, scraping cooked egg from side of skillet as you go, until eggs are almost cooked but still slightly runny, 45 to 90 seconds. Turn off heat (remove skillet from heat if using electric burner) and smooth eggs into even layer using rubber spatula. Sprinkle omelet with 1 tablespoon cheese and 2 teaspoons chives. Cover skillet with tight-fitting lid and let sit 1 minute for runnier omelet and 2 minutes for firmer omelet.
4. Heat skillet over low heat for 20 seconds, uncover, and, using rubber spatula, loosen edges of omelet from skillet. Place folded square of paper towel onto warmed plate and slide omelet out of skillet onto paper towel so that omelet lies flat on plate and hangs about 1 inch off paper towel. Roll omelet into neat cylinder and set aside. Return skillet to low heat and heat 2 minutes before repeating instructions for second omelet starting with step 2. Serve.