The Perfect Omelet
|Unsalted butter||1 Teaspoon (Whole)|
|Freshly ground black pepper||1 Pinch|
|Grated cheese||1 Pinch (Farmhouse Cheddar, Parmesan, Or Gruyere)|
1. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork until the yolks and whites are amalgamated. Avoid working in air: you’re making an omelet, not a sponge cake.
2. Add the butter to a small skillet, and cook it over moderate heat until the foam subsides and the milk solids begin to darken. Watch closely: the pan is at the ideal temperature when the milk solids just begin to take color. The butter provides all the guidance you’ll need: if the milk solids are white or pale yellow, the pan is too cool. When they turn dark brown, it’s too hot. When they’re a light golden brown color, the temperature is perfect.
3. Pour in the beaten egg and leave it undisturbed for a few seconds. As the layer of egg on the bottom begins to set, pull it toward you with a spatula, tilt the pan forward, and let more liquid egg fill the open space. Again, don’t disturb it; leave it alone for a few seconds before continuing in the same manner. Letting the egg set briefly is what prevents it from sticking, even in an ordinary metal pan. It’s not necessary to use a non-stick skillet. (Notice that in the companion video, I use a copper pan with a plain, stainless-steel lining, yet there is no suggestion of egg sticking to it.)
4. When about two thirds of the egg has set, it’s time to form the omelet. Flip the near edge forward, then fold in the sides with a spatula, and finally roll it like a burrito. You can use gravity if you like, tilting the pan and shaking it, or you can use a spatula. In either case, what you want is a stubby cigar shape.
5. As soon as the omelet comes together, flip it. It’s crucial that you not overcook it: what you’ve got is little more than protein and water. As the protein cooks, it loses elasticity, contracts, and, like a sponge, expels the water. That creates the tough, watery-tasting omelet that most people are accustomed to. It’s essential that you get it out of the pan while the protein is still elastic and the water is still suspended within it. This means undercooking it slightly. You don’t want it runny inside, but you don’t want it firm, either. There’s a sweet spot just between, which you’ve got to learn to identify.
5. Press it lightly with your finger. If it fails to spring back under gentle pressure, it’s not ready. If it springs back immediately and completely, it’s overcooked. But if it springs back lazily, and not all the way, it’s perfect. (Be prepared to get it wrong a couple of times, but after a few attempts, you’ll get the hang of it.)
6. When it’s barely set but not firm, slide it onto a warm plate and garnish it with a small pinch of salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and a light sprinkling of grated cheese. I prefer a mature farmhouse Cheddar. A cheaper and more readily available substitute would be Parmigiano Reggiano. Gruyère is also very good. For color, you might sprinkle on a bit of chopped chive, scallion, or parsley, and add a few halved, lightly-roasted cherry tomatoes. Finally, add a slice of toasted crusty bread.
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