Omelettes

When it comes to making omelettes, there’s always the question of how long to beat the eggs, what additional liquids to add (if any), what really goes well as toppings, etc etc. There are die-hard fans in every corner of America and all over the world that say, “do x and your omelettes will turn out perfectly.” Well, shit. What is perfect? What kind of tweaks are out there nowadays? Cue Frank’s test kitchen.

The Tweaks:

Add water.

I have tried this, and it does make a difference. However, you need to take notice to where that difference is. You can’t just pour some water into the beaten eggs, not adequately homogenize it and expect any difference in texture or taste. Upon adding water, I found that homogenizing it gives me a lighter, fluffier texture to the egg, albeit, it does not yield a dense egg. The addition of water also makes it difficult to harden the egg into a yellow, rubbery block. Adding water, in my experience, takes your eggs down a notch, and the water seemingly “steams” the eggs as it evaporates, and eliminates the rubbery, bouncy ball effect of massively overcooked omelettes. Is this what actually happens? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s happened in my pan. Or could it be because extra whipping incorporates more air? We may need more experimentation here…

Add milk, or cream.

For me, adding cream to the batter does not seem to significantly change the flavor or the texture. Since all you’re doing is essentially adding fat molecules to the mix, the egg still has the tendency to overcook. There’s no evaporation, or steaming effect going on here. You can still get rubbery eggs that are just…fattier (Nothing wrong there, right?). The French seem to take to this method quite often, and come up with brilliant results. Perhaps their mastery of heat is just better. The question of whether one is using cream, whole milk, 2%/1% milk, or skim milk may skew results, as the fat to water content often varies. However, adding the cream during the making of scrambled eggs may yield a different result, as cold cream can lower cooking temperatures, yielding creamier scrambled eggs through the prevention of too much heat, too quickly.

Beat the whites and the yolks separately.

“Beat the whites separately until you get soft peaks, then fold the beaten egeg yolks into the white foamy mix.” Another potential title for this tweak would be the addition of air. Does air make an omelette fluffier? In my experience, yes. The omelette can still be overcooked, but trapping small doses of air bubbles within the egg matrix certainly provides a smooth, soft texture. Try it. Take a bite right now of the air in front of you. Ah, yes, feel the non-resistance. Half-kidding, but its fun.

Just beat the eggs together.

For true minimalists and dull-palate days. Crack eggs, beat into a pulp, add some oil to the pan, heat until the phase change from liquid to solid occurs, and call it a day. A lazy day.

Olive oil, or butter, or other oils?

Butter foams. Oil does not. Butter imparts a rich, nutty like texture, if first foamed and browned, which is delicious. This is due to the small amounts of milk solids in butter. Oil can burn, especially extra-virgin olive oils, and you can get a wonderfully, delicious black crust on your omelette. However, if you use a lower heat, the light, discreet olive flavor actually can pull through, imparts a delicious twist, sans the carcinogenic byproducts. Mind the smoke points of the oils you’re using. All oils and butters can burn and give you cancer-crust…and not just on omelettes.

Moving the omelette on and off the heat.

Works. Taking it on and off the heat prevents complete nuclear destruction of the egg, and it employs the use of residual heat to gently cook your egg to the desired temperature. Same principle applies here: “If it’s done in the pan, it’s overdone on the plate,” courtesy of Alton Brown. Surely, your egg won’t be done in 30 seconds, but even if it was done in 30 seconds, I can guarantee it wouldn’t be delicious, much less cooked.

Stirring the egg before it sets.

I don’t understand how this affects flavor, but it may affect texture. I think shakin’ the pan is enough. If you stir the egg with a utensil, you run the risk of an ugly, broken omelette if the heat creeps up on you. Food should taste as good as it looks, although sometimes it doesn’t happen. Sometimes you won’t care, if you’re hungry enough.

Toppings?

I’d have to say the toppings or fillings of an omelette should always be sauteed, flash-fried, or cooked separately. The egg should be handled alone. After all, a crappy egg means a crappy omelette, regardless of how ridiculously awesome your filling is. There’s a reason why it’s called an omelette. Toppings can range from all sorts of vegetables to meats. The reason for separate cooking is because vegetables release water. I like my omelettes to not be bathing in a pool of separated water and oil. Good vegetables for omelettes? Onions, shallots, chives, parsley, cilantro, mushrooms, and peppers are common and tasty…just beware of sogginess. You could also try carrots, celery, and cucumber? Slightly odd to me, but if it goes, it goes. Sweat your vegetables so they bleed their water. Sweat, not saute, although both can work.

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Topping. Use it.

Meats should be sauteed separately as well in order to get a textural, crispy sear, and please, make sure you cook your meat thoroughly. No one likes a dirty tartare surprise. Good meats? All sorts of sausage, bacon, beef (get the right cuts, please…I don’t want filet mignon or a new york strip sitting in my omelette…I don’t prefer that, but it may be a new culinary experience). Somehow, I don’t think fish, spam, canned meats, or even chicken go very well with eggs. But whatever floats your omelette, right? If you like it, go for it. But remember, the egg is the star of the show.

Cheese?

Not much of a dairy fan, but use real cheese, not processed Kraft crap. Whether you like your cheese on the outside or inside is up to you. Outside gives a bit more texture, but inside can help bind the filling together. Eat it immediately, otherwise you’ll get a rubbery, filmy layer that separates easily. This is an omelette, not a sandwich. Grated parmesan is wonderful inside or out, or, as a treat, I sometimes throw in some aged gouda. Depends on how cheesy you want it. Pepper jack, swiss, provolone…all legit choices. Or go fancy and get some real fungus, you know…those aged goodies.

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Creamy goodness.

What about fruits?

Tomatoes and avocadoes, baby. Tomatoes can turn your omelette experience into a liquid smoothie experience, so dig out the fleshy parts and don’t mash em’ up in the pan. Not so sure about sweet fruits in your omelette…warm fruit seems a bit off to me…but hey, you could try it?

Pan?

Non-stick is best. Nothing is more exhilarating of watching your omelette slide around like a puck on an air-hockey table. Ejection from the pan is a cinch. Flipping is easy too. A hot pan…also works better.

Egg-white omelettes?

If you enjoy eating all the protein with none of the nutrients…then yes. Otherwise…WHY?

Eggs. It’s what’s for breakfast.