DID YOU KNOW – The perfect omelet is often used as a tool to gauge how good a chef is in the kitchen. I remember marveling at the scene in the movie 100-Foot Journey when the staunch, uptight French chef in pursuit of her next Michelin star is begrudgingly forced to test her rival restaurateur, a young man brought up amidst his family’s Indian restaurant, full of loud music and pungent spices. And what better test of culinary expertise than the omelet? The perfect omelet is not something you can just whip up willy-nilly. No, it takes time and practice and patience and finesse. It is an art! And who is the best culinary artist full of finesse? Jacques Pépin!
I’m finally ending my journey to cook one thing from each and every one of the cookbooks that graciously clutter my bookshelf. I have been saving Jacques Pépin cookbook, Jacques Pépin Celebrates, towards the end. Because I am still very much in the “learning phase” cooking and baking things that actually taste good. Emphasis throughout the journey on the what the heck did I just make and why does it taste weird, oh I forgot three key ingredients and that one essential step… oops. But the time for French cuisine has come! I considered making something fancy like wild-mushroom-and-herb-stuffed chicken. I also weighed the pros and cons of going wild and whipping up some country paté with walnuts and hot honey mustard. And of course I thought, why not just dive into the deep end without floaties and go for the lamb loins in ambush with fava beans neyron and leek-and-mushroom pie. Why not? Well, my friends, I totally chickened out and found an omelet recipe to try instead. But don’t be fooled. This book is by Jacques-freaking-Pépin, so this is not your drunk 3:00 am diner omelet. This is the perfect classic French omelet.
Now, the first step is to beat the eggs. Using a fork, beat them until there is no separation of the whites and the yolk. When you lift your fork out of the egg, the string the drips off the fork should be 100% the same color throughout. Mix in some chopped chives for a very classic french omelet.
Then melt your butter in a 6-inch to 8-inch diameter nonstick skillet on high heat. The nonstick skillet and the temperature of the heat are very important! If you don’t use a nonstick skillet, your omelet won’t gracefully cascade out of the pan. And if you don’t use high heat, your eggs won’t set right.
Once your butter is foaming in the pan, add the eggs and IMMEDIATELY start stirring the eggs with one hand while shaking the pan back and forth with the other hand. Get that dual-action arm workout going. Jacques uses a metal fork to stir the eggs. I just couldn’t bring myself to risk ruining my skillet, so I used a plastic spatula.
After you see that the eggs are a bit set throughout the pan but still very moist, tilt your pan away from you so most of the eggs slide down to the lower side of the pan. Using a fork, gently begin to flip and roll the thinner edge of the omelet over and over, towards the lower end of the pan where most of the eggs have gathered.
Finally, channel your inner French chef and gently tap the pan to make the omelet shake and shimmy to the very edge of the pan and fold down the edges so it’s in a burrito shape. Carefully slide the omelet onto the serving plate and cue the *oohs!* and *ahhs!* of your audience.
How did I do on my first try? Well. I made bomb scrambled eggs. They tasted amazing and the texture was like eating cheesy eggs without any cheese. They were so creamy and delicious. But the whole omelet-shape itself failed big time.
Behold, attempt number two! This one turned out more omelet than scrambled eggs, which is a huge advancement from the first try! And I even got to turn it into that sort of burrito-looking shape. *Is it okay if I compare French food to burritos?* My attempt #2 omelet is nowhere near as smooth and perfect as Jacque’s. But that’s what practice is for!
And finally, sometimes you need to just know what you personally like and go with that. I like my omelet with minimal steps. I usually just melt some butter in a pan, crack some eggs and whisk the eggs right in the pan with a spatula (minimal dishes), give it the ol’ flip-a-roony, and top it with as many yummy things as I can find in my fridge. 🙂 It may not be fancy or traditional, but it makes my taste buds and my tummy happy.
What’s your favorite way to make an omelet? 😀
If you are hardcore serious about making the perfect French omelet, I would suggest you watch Jacque’s video on repeat.
And if you need a reminder that you are not alone in the arduous struggle to master the perfect French omelet (or if you want to have a good laugh) watch the hilarious “french guy cooking” Alex’s video and his many attempts to master this very omelet.
fines-herbes omelet: classic french omelet
from Jacques Pépin Celebrates by Jacques Pépin
– 3 large eggs
– dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
– 1 Tbsp finely chopped mixture of chervil, tarragon and chives
– 1 ½ tsp unsalted butter
– Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1XoCQm5JSQ
– Watch the video a few times. Take notes as need.
– Put your skillet on the stove and do what Jacques does. Nobody can explain how to make the perfect French omelet better than the man himself.