Omelettes, part 3

Now that you've got a basic technique* for making omelettes, you get to start playing. Eggs are fairly basic in flavor and meld well with all sorts of flavors from the savory end of the spectrum--pork and onions in U.S. diner-style omelettes--to the sweet--soy sauce, sake and sugar in Japanese omelettes.

* "A" basic technique, not "the" basic technique because there is no One Ideal Technique.

I'm staying closer to the savory end with this post because while I enjoy Japanese-style tamagoyaki, I've yet to cook one successfully in a way that achieves the folded layers of egg the traditional technique calls for. If you're interested in that, I suggest heading over to the tamagoyaki post on Just Hungry.

When to add fillings to your omelette: If you've got non-melting, non-watery items (not cheese or raw tomatoes, for example), you can dice them small and beat them into the eggs before pouring them into the pan, or add them into the egg once you've poured it into the pan and started pushing it about. Melting and juicy ingredients don't work well when added at this point, as they tend to make the eggs too watery, stopping them from jelling.

You can also add the ingredients partway through cooking, at the point where you've finished pushing the curds around and are letting the omelette sit and finish cooking, covered or uncovered. It's good to add cheese at this point, which gives it a chance to melt without adding too much liquid to the egg mixture.

Or you can wait until the moment that the omelette is done and fill it before folding it. If you're going to put in more than a basic minimum of filling, you'll probably want to just fold it in half instead of attempting the trifold. If you have a helper in the kitchen, once you've gotten the omelette halfway out of the pan, have them put filling on the half on the plate while you hold the pan, then fold the top half of the omelette over once they're done. Or you can slide the whole thing out, fill it yourself, and fold it over on the plate.

As the omelette doesn't cook for very long, other ingredients won't have much of a chance to cook, so for foods other than fresh herbs you may want to pre-cook them a bit before embarking on the egg portion of the omelette. In addition to the flavor developed by the Maillard reaction (i.e. browning), wetter foods like mushrooms and tomatoes benefit from sauteing a bit to render their liquid so they don't make your omelette watery. (I hate cutting into an omelette and seeing water run out!)

Leftovers are, naturally, perfect for fillings -- nuke them a bit in the microwave to heat them up a little, then spoon them into the omelette.

Here are a few possibilities off the top of my head, but really, you could put almost anything into or on top of an omelette:

Herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon, cumin, cilantro

Vegetables: Onions, asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, jalapenos, potato

Meats: ham, bacon, corned beef, prosciutto, sausage

Cheese: Softer cheeses like gruyere, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack work better, as harder cheeses may not fully melt in time. If you want a medium-firm cheese like cheddar, grate it finely to give it as much opportunity as possible to melt quickly, and if you want an even harder cheese like Parmesan, I'd grate it finely and sprinkle it on top of the omelette afterward.

I promised you a really fluffy, labor-intensive omelette up above, didn't I? Try this one! It's from the Cook's Country Dec/January 2012 issue (and on their premium site, linked in the first post in this series) and is absolutely fantastic. This will also feed three people (or one hungry teenage boy) if you use the filling below.

Filling: (the below is good, or prepare whatever your choice is)
1 small baking potato, chopped and cooked
3 pieces bacon
2 green onions, chopped

5 eggs
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1/2 cup grated cheese
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven on to 400°F.

Start by having potatoes for dinner the night before and reserving some, or by cutting up a small baking potato and nuking it a bit in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until it's just soft enough.

Cook the bacon until it's crispy, then chop it up and put it into a bowl.

Saute the potato pieces in the bacon fat until they start to brown, then put them into the bowl with the bacon. (If you have microwave bacon, just saute the potato in butter.)

Chop the green onions up and put them into the potato-bacon bowl and stir until it's all mixed up.

Whip the 3 tablespoons whipping cream until it hits the soft peak stage. If you over-whip, it won't incorporate into the eggs. I've linked to a YouTube video on whipping cream right about the point it hits soft peaks so you can see what that looks like if you're not familiar with it. (And use an electric beater if you don't have forearms and wrists of steel.)

Beat the eggs until they're light in color and have just about doubled in amount (again, with an electric mixer unless you are stronger than I).

Fold the cream into the eggs gently, to preserve as much of the air you've incorporated into both as you can. If you're unfamiliar with this technique, check out this video.

Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a 10 or 12-inch pan. Yes, it's a lot! When melted, swirl it around the pan and up the sides a bit.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan and DO NOT start stirring - leave it alone! You've just spent a lot of effort incorporating air into it, and if you stir at this point, you'll waste that effort. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, until the edges juuuust barely start to set (jiggle the pan a little to check).

At this point, take half of your cheese and sprinkle it over the top of the egg. If you're using a filling, take half of it and do the same.

Put the pan into the oven. Bake it for 4-8 minutes, until the egg is set. It'll puff up a bit, and if you're just using cheese and no heavier filling, it may look like it's attempting to crawl out of the pan. Awesome!

Once the egg is set, take it out of the oven and set it on the stovetop (NOT on a lit burner!), sprinkle the rest of the cheese, and put a lid on it until the cheese melts, about a minute or so. I advise putting an oven mitt on the handle at this point because you WILL forget that it came out of the oven and burn the hell out of yourself.

Once the cheese melts, with your oven mitt on, grasp the handle the way I explained in the previous post and gently slide the omelette halfway out onto the plate or a cutting board. Get a helper to spread the rest of the filling on that half of the omelette, then use the pan to fold the top half over. It may not fit, but give it a try. :)

At this point, I usually get a paper towel and mop up the extra butter. It really helps to keep the omelette from sticking, but really leaves quite a lot on it.

Slice the omelette into two or three pieces, and enjoy!


What are your favorite techniques and fillings?

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Tags: cooking, omelettes, recipe
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