Une Petite Omelette

Grate the cheese (if not already grated)

If you bought a block of cheese, now’s the time to get it nice and grated!

Use the big holes on your grater, otherwise this is going to take you a loooong time to get enough cheese. You don’t need the cheese to be superfine, just thin enough to melt quickly.

Grate about a tablespoon or so for each egg. It’s okay to overshoot. If you have extra, you can always just pile them on top of the omelette before serving.

Whole vs. Pre-grated?

Pre-grated cheese is convenient for sure. But have you ever been to an Italian restaurant where they bring a block of cheese to your table and grate it fresh over your pasta? That’s done for a reason, and it’s not just to show off.

Grated cheese has a very limited shelf life. Once cheese is grated, more of its surface area is exposed to the air. This does two things: it causes flavor compounds to oxidize and degrade, and it also gives ambient mold spores an opportunity to colonize your cheese (Mold lives everywhere in the natural environment—that’s how many cheeses were invented!—so it’s not something to fear. But for culinary purposes we do want to keep it from growing where it shouldn’t.)

Pre-shredded cheeses are therefore problematic for 2 reasons: not only do they taste like a shadow of their former selves, they often have anti-mold and anti-caking agents added to them, so the final product is less pure. These additives can also affect the performance of the cheese, changing the way they melt or interact with your final dish.

Finally, there’s the question of cost. Pre-grated cheese costs a lot more per ounce than a whole block of cheese. So if you can spare the extra minute or so to grate your own cheese, I highly recommend it! It will make a huge difference in your cooking.

If you have other fillings you want to use, now is a good time to prep/chop/shred them. You can mix them right in with the cheese.

Season & beat the egg

Now let’s prep our egg(s).

If you have a small 8” pan, use one egg. If you have a larger 10-12” pan, use two eggs.

Crack the egg(s) into a small mixing bowl. Add a tiny pinch of salt (emphasis on tiny, as many cheeses already contain a bit of salt) and a teaspoon of water per egg. Then beat that egg vigorously with a fork. Use a vertical circular motion (imagine the tines of your fork tracing an oval) to beat the egg.

Beat it until you don’t see any streaks of egg white anymore. It should be quite foamy.

Now we’re ready to make the omelette!

Heat butter and make the omelette

Okay, here we go! This all happens in one smooth sequence, so before you turn on the heat, watch the video and read this through. Once you begin, there won’t be a chance to pause and check instructions. (But don’t worry, it’s not too hard.)

First, let’s discuss what we’re aiming for here:

An omelette is simply a scrambled egg wrapped inside a set (or “coagulated”) egg. Yup, two egg dishes in one! The outside should be golden yellow in color, and the inside creamy and ever so slightly runny. The “ideal” French omelette has zero browning. However I put “ideal” in quotes because in reality, it’s up to you. If you like your egg to have a bit of toasty browning on the outside, so be it! You are not in culinary school so you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT! (Cue crazed laughter.) Ahem, anyway. I will show you the technique with an emphasis on gentleness and speed, though, so if you want to be French about it, you can.

First, you want to set out a plate to receive the finished omelette. Put this somewhere near the stove so you can grab it as soon as the omelette is done.

Next, heat the pan over medium or medium-low heat, depending on the size of your pan and the strength of your stove. Wait for the pan to get nice and hot, then cut off about a teaspoon of butter and add it to the pan. Tilt your pan so the butter slides around and coats all the sides.

If your pan is nice and hot, the butter will immediately begin to foam up. That’s all the water in the butter escaping. Then gradually the foaming will taper off. Recipes usually call this moment “when the foam subsides.” Now you’re ready to add food to the pan.

Dump the entire egg mixture in all at once, then tilt your pan to coat it evenly with egg. The egg should immediately start to set at the edges, but there will still be runny egg in the middle. Quickly use a small spatula to push the sides of the egg in, tilting the pan to let the liquid egg run off to the sides. Do this all around the sides until the runny egg is mostly gone. It’s okay for a little bit to remain; that will contribute to the creaminess.

Now sprinkle about a tablespoon of cheese about one-third of the way from the handle. Lay the cheese out in a line perpendicular to the handle. You’ll see why in a moment.

A note on adding filling: less is more. You don’t want to overwhelm the egg. Think of the filling as a condiment, rather than the stuffing of a burrito.

Turn off the heat at this point to prevent excessive browning of the egg. Run your spatula all around the edges of the omelet to loosen it, then fold the edge opposite the handle inward, over the cheese. Shake your pan to see if the entire omelet is loose; if not, gently slide your spatula under again.

Now for the moment of truth!

Hold the handle of the pan with your palm facing upwards, and grab the plate with your other hand. Gently tilt the pan over the plate, letting the omelette slide off. Right before the omelette completely leaves the pan, use the lip of the pan to flip the final side of the omelet up, over the cheese. It’s a nice little flourish, perfect for impressing friends and lovers.

You now have a wonderful little omelette to enjoy!

If at first you don’t succeed…

In the famous words of Aaliyah, dust yourself off and try again!

Fun fact: it took me about 7 tries to record this mission correctly, not because the method is particularly hard, but because the egg can sense when you’re nervous! (Cooking in front of a camera will do that to you.)

Here are some common mistakes and how to troubleshoot them:

If your omelette sticks…

  • Don’t skimp on the butter, as it’s an essential component of the flavor and it helps the egg slide around freely.
  • Make sure the pan is hot enough when you first add the egg. Turn up the heat slightly so the egg sets immediately when it contacts the pan.

If you are having trouble folding the egg…

  • Try using a smaller, more flexible spatula, with a thin edge. If you have a silicone spatula, that would help a lot! You can also use a pair of chopsticks to help, if you’re handy with ‘em.

If your omelette is too brown…

  • Make sure the butter isn’t burning before you add the egg. Turn down the heat to melt it more gently.
  • Turn off the heat as soon as you add the filling, because the egg is basically done cooking at that point.

If the omelette is over-salted…

  • Add less salt before beating the egg, or skip it altogether. Remember, many cheeses (and fillings such as ham and bacon) are quite salty!

If you feel a little crazed once the egg hits the pan…

  • Put a receiving plate out ahead of time. Put the cheese next to your stove, within easy reach. Make sure your spatula is nearby.
  • Practice practice practice! :)

If all else fails, remember: the results will be tasty no matter how they look. You just can’t go wrong with eggs, butter and cheese! Bon appetit!

Nicely done!

You made some delicious food. Now go enjoy it!

P.S. - If you want to show off your work on the lesson gallery, send me a picture.

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Take a picture of your classy French omelette

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