There was a summer many years ago when I taught cooking classes to four little girls – two sets of sisters who were homeschooled. Their mothers thought that cooking classes would satisfy many interests and teach quite a few skills to the girls. And indeed, I’ve always thought that cooking classes are fabulous for not only learning about food, but also grasping important applications like math and chemistry.
During those classes we had a session on eggs – how to appreciate them for the wonderful little package of food they are, and how to treat them with respect in the kitchen. And one thing we made together were omelets. (Also a pavlova, which was a huge hit!)
Now, it may not seem that creative to put an omelet on my blog, but on the contrary, I think that an omelet requires learning some skills. Plus, there are a lot of terrible omelets out there, so perhaps I’m doing a community service with this post. I hope so.
To me, there are a few criteria for making the perfect omelet:
1. good eggs
2. good cheese, for a cheese omelet
3. the right skillet
4. a lid
Of course it goes without saying that the ingredients that you choose for your omelet have to be good. It’s especially nice to have access to farm-fresh eggs – the kind that are almost impossible to break open because the shells are so hard.
Cheese is subjective – there’s no “right” cheese. I like Fontina, Gruyere, or even a good Monterey Jack. Who am I kidding?! Any cheese that melts well will work.
The right skillet is important because you want your omelet to end up a decent thickness. Place your whisked eggs in too large of a skillet, and you will get a thin omelet. Unless you like that kind, I don’t recommend too large of a skillet.
The skillet I use for my one-person, 2-egg omelet, is actually a crêpe pan. It’s got a flat bottom and flat sides. The outside diameter is 8″; the inside diameter, or bottom, measures 6″ in diameter.
A perfect-fitting lid is also important for making a good omelet.
And then the most important aspect of making an omelet – patience. As Rome wasn’t built in a day, an omelet can’t be prepared in one minute. I know everyone likes fast food, but if you rush your omelet, it will taste and feel like something purchased at a fast food restaurant. Which would make me wonder why you’re even bothering to cook an omelet at home in the first place…
For today’s omelet, or omelette, I chose butter, 2 eggs, grated Fontina, and some diced, leftover ham. And here’s what I did.
A Basic Ham and Cheese Omelet
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Diced ham, optional of course
Cheese of choice – grated, or sliced fairly thinly
Whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl with a fork, before you begin heating the skillet. Also, please don’t think that brown eggs are better than white. My mother had chickens that laid many different colored eggs, depending on their breed.
Place the butter in the skillet over medium heat. It should begin melting immediately, but not burn. If you think the skillet is too hot, remove it from the heat source for a minute. Cooking is a lot about common sense.
You need to work fairly quickly at first, but don’t worry, it’s not a race. Just have all of the ingredients available, as well as the skillet lid. And don’t forget to adjust the heat on the stove. That’s why there are knobs. Or, if you panic, completely remove the skillet from the heat source and collect yourself.
Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet. The butter has browned a bit. You can see that the skillet is “grabbing” the eggs and the cooking process has begun.
Immediately place the ham and cheese over the top of the eggs and turn down the heat to the lowest setting. Trust me.
Then place the lid on the skillet. Let the omelet cook slowly, with the lid on, over the lowest heat, for about 4 minutes.
At this point, the top of the omelet will look like this:
Most of the cheese is melted, but there is still a bit of egg that need to cook through. Remove the skillet completely from the heat source, but leave the lid on.
After about 1 minute, the omelet should be ready. I prefer an omelette baveuse, or soft. Cook a little more if you can’t handle runny eggs!
You can use a thin spatula to remove the omelet from the skillet and fold over gently, or slide it out for an open-face presentation. Alternatively, use the skillet to slide the omelet on the plate, then fold it over into a semi-circle using the edge of the skillet.
The egg part of the omelet is cooked and somewhat puffy, almost like a soufflé, but not to the point of rubberyness. I don’t mind a bit of browning on the eggs.
Notice the cheese is fully melted inside because the lid on the skillet allowed the cheese to warm and melt, just like with a quesadilla.
What’s important is that in spite of the fact that this omelet took a little time, the results are superb.
I swore off omelets at restaurants a couple of decades ago. No more rubber omelets, ever!