Monday, August 22, 2016

Breaking eggs

“Life is a competition,” we used to joke.  It’s the stereotypical male/American perspective on work, friendships, love, and life. So when my w.wezen sent an early email with links to omelet recipes and the note You are brilliant at poaching, so now omelet-ting! …well…it was gAME oN.

As with all things me, it takes three tries to begin to get it right.  DSC03177The first is a mushy disaster, fit only for the trash bin.  The second overcooked, sticking to the bottom of the pan and taking the consistency of bread crust.  This can’t be that hard: I mumbled, channeling the countless hotel breakfast buffets I’d visited that made scores of omelets to-order.

Fortunately, the pollen is still thick in the UK and my breathing is wheezy inn sympathy.  So, as I sat up at 1 am waiting for the Benadryl to take hold, I went back through a dozen online videos, each promising the perfect omelet.

They fall into two camps: the ‘leave it and let it be’ French style, and the ‘fiddle with it and then some more’ British approach.

DSC03178The first, as seen in videos by Mike’s Perfect Eggs and by Jack Scalfani, involves keeping the edges free and popping bubbles in the crust,  but otherwise not disturbing the natural diffusion of heat through the layer (it is a bit like fried eggs).  

DSC03182The second, promoted by the BBC ,  by David Kinch, and by Jamie Oliver, suggests drawing the edges into the center, creating folds in the mixture and tipping the liquid potion back over the edges (it looks like scrambled eggs).

Otherwise, both techniques are almost identical:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper, whisk briskly until the texture is pretty uniform.  Some suggest adding cheese and veg at this stage, but I like my ingredients layered into a filling.
  2. Put a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter into the pan and heat.  There needs to be a layer of oils in the pan, more than the modest amount used when I sauté onion or garlic.
  3. Pour in the egg and proceed by method A or B: let it lie or stir it.  Delia likes to use a very hot pan, but it speeds everything up far too much for my taste.  Medium-low heat works.
  4. Keep the edges from sticking and check that the egg moves, free of the pan, once the edges have set.  I find that a rubber spatula works best,  a fork second, and a metal spatula ‘not at all.
  5. Once the edges have firmed and a good base is laid in, put a line of filling down the center.  Cook to about 80% of what you want, as the egg will continue to cook once its off the heat: that means its still runny in the center.
  6. Turn up the heat to high for a few moments, then flip one edge over the center.   Slide the omelet towards the edge and onto the plate, flipping over the trailing edge as it leaves the pan to get a good tri-fold.

DSC03187We’ve tested both ways, and the French version always looks better, but the British version is always fluffier and has better taste and feel.    The photo is my ‘third try’ experiment, when it all came together: my aesthetics have improved markedly since.

It takes half the time of the French, gives better results, and will likely stay my go-to technique for satisfying the Challenge.

Sasha Martin at Global Table is in the same camp, and he does literally approach this as a competition: I learned from a drill-sergeant chef how to make a perfect French Omelet. For my final exam I had to cook, plate and walk it across the kitchen to the chef in less than 90 seconds.

Ah, but minus my grilled veg and scones that make it Sunday Morning…

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