There are few dishes as shrouded in mystique as the venerated French omelette. Egg cookery in general but especially the ability to make a French omelette has been used as a metric to determine a cook’s skill for decades, maybe centuries. Whether it deserves this elevated position is largely a matter of debate, but one thing is for sure: it truly is incredibly simple, incredibly delicious, and can be incredibly difficult to learn to do well.
Though the learning process can be a frustrating series of failures if you try to teach yourself through trial and error (trust me), I think I can help guide you through the process so that if you really wanted to you could be making delicious omelettes with about a day of practice.
Before we get into the procedure, let's talk about what defines the style of a French omelette. Unlike your typical American omelette, a classic French omelette crucially has no color. No browning either of the butter or the eggs themselves. Furthermore, a standard French omelette has no filling; no cheese, no peppers and onions, just eggs. You can think of it as creamy soft scrambled eggs enveloped by a thin skin of set curds.
To be successful with this technique it helps to have the right equipment. You’ll need a bowl, a plate, and a fork of course, but also a rubber spatula, a pair of chopsticks and a very good nonstick pan. The nonstick qualities of your pan are really important here. To that end, I use a nonstick pan that in my kitchen only ever touches eggs, and cooking fat. In this pan I only use soft rubber or wooden utensils (hence the chopsticks), and I usually clean it by just wiping it out. When I do wash it, I do so only with soap and water and the soft side of the sponge. It never gets scrubbed.
It’s important for the technique to use the right number of eggs for the size of your pan. For a two egg omelette I use this rivet-less (!!) seven inch aluminum nonstick made by Vollrath:
For this post I’m keeping it pretty basic in terms of ingredients. I use:
About 2 Tablespoons whole milk
1 two finger pinch salt
2-3 Tablespoons the most delicious salted butter you can find
But the nice thing about these omelettes is that they taste good with all sorts of other flavors as well. Some common additions are finely chopped herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon, etc.), shallots or black pepper. If you really want to kick it into 12th gear, then you can add a whole bunch of white or black truffle.
For the technique itself, start by cracking the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk, and add the salt.
Then use the fork to break and mix the eggs vigorously, aiming to keep the fork under the surface of the eggs so as to not whip in too much air (this is also why we use a fork instead of a whisk). Mix until you have combined the yolks and whites as thoroughly as possible.
Heat your pan over medium high heat. Achieving the right level of heat is of vital importance. You need enough heat to quickly cook the eggs (once the eggs go in the pan the cooking process should only take about 45 seconds to a minute), but not so hot that some of the eggs become overcooked by the time you’re ready to plate. Here’s what my burner looks like:
As the pan heats up, add the butter. It will probably look like a lot of butter in the pan but trust me, this is good. Swirl the butter around in the pan as it melts, and wait until the foam mostly subsides before adding your egg mixture.
As soon as the eggs are in the pan, pick up your chopsticks. Use them to break up the curds that form by scraping around the bottom of the pan in a circular motion while intermittently shaking the pan back and forth to re-distribute the liquid eggs therein. Every now and then scrape the chopsticks around the sides of the pan to re-incorporate any egg that has stuck there. Continue cooking until just before the moment where the eggs are so set that you can no longer fill holes in the curds made by your chopsticks. Identifying this moment takes some practice, but I’m hoping the pictures can do the heavy lifting of helping you figure it out. As soon as the proper texture is achieved, stop stirring with the chopsticks, remove the pan from the heat, and tilt the pan down so the creamy scramble runs to the end of the pan opposite the handle.
Keep the pan tilted down while using the rubber spatula to fold the omelette from the handle end towards the middle. Then loosen any egg that may be stuck around the edges, and use the spatula to push the omelette up the far side of the pan so its just peeking over the edge by about a centimeter, then fold the far side over towards the middle.
Now we are ready to plate. Switch your grip on the handle of the pan so it will be easy to turn over. Get the plate in position, and flip the pan over so the omelette falls out seem side down onto the plate. Use your hands to make any adjustments to the shape, and glaze with a little butter.
I like to finish mine off with a little Parmesan cheese.
I cut mine in half just so you could see a cross section of the creamy scramble filling.
If you are interested in taking your egg cookery skills to the next level be sure to join us for our new Culinary Concepts: Egg Cookery class coming up later this month!
This omelette would be delicious made with the pasture-raised eggs from Verdant Hollow Farms. Order a dozen online now and pick them up at our Merchandise Mart location on Thursday, April 2. Here's why we love these eggs so much!