July 17, 2009

The Great Omelet Hero Quest


Once, a very long time ago, I desperately wanted a job at Vogue as an assistant to their food editor. I went to the library and there, spread out on the floor, read just about every food column ever written in the magazine. The one that has really stayed with me all these years later, was the writer’s attempts to make the perfect omelet, and the omelet quest seemed more like a hero quest. It was all such a test of fortitude, so maddeningly just out of reach, as if the writer were flying on the back of Falcor trying to get to gain access to Fantasia. I didn’t have enough cooking experience at the time to know better, and didn’t have enough real world experience to not buy the whole thing hook, line, and sinker. Omelets are the province of the truly skilled! Once you can make an omelet you’ve really made it!

There is a lot to be said for knowing the rules before you break them (pretty much the reason I’m doing this Grand Diplôme thing to begin with), and Escoffier would probably slap me if he could hear me say this, but I don’t think cooking is codified. One of the many reasons why Ratatouille is such a delightful movie is because it’s so empowering; just as Auguste Gusteau encouragingly proclaims, anyone can cook. And even the most classically trained chefs can go about the same dish differently.

My all-time favorite cooking series is Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. Julia’s hilariously curt witticisms and Jacques’ easy response to her unpredictability make this show pure entertainment. But what’s most encouraging and freeing is seeing two culinary greats, cooking side by side, and going about everything differently.

A good omelet is a wonderful thing and the making of one at home is a great accomplishment of quick agility and decisiveness. But to act like the process of making an omelet is set in stone, the completion of which gains you access to the next level of cooking mastery just makes it all seem so scary. Cooking doesn’t have to be scary; cooking is elemental. Everyone can cook. Everyone can make omelets. And there are as many different methods as there are fillings, but there’s one helpful hint that seems to remain constant across the board: it all happens faster than you think, so pay attention. But come to think of it, that’s not only true for omelets.

Here’s Julia’s classic omelet show for your viewing enjoyment, and her recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, complete with helpful pictures here.

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  • Sara Rose: Now I NEED an omelet.6 years ago

  • Pomona: I have always taken the coward’s way out – I stick to tortilla and frittata!

    Pomona x6 years ago

  • Christine S.: My omelets always turn out less than perfect, but they taste good…isn’t that all that really matters?:)6 years ago

  • Margaret: You’re 2 for 2, Sarah! This time, it’s the Ratatouille reference- I just checked it out from the library, and enjoyed it again. My favorite moment is the one where Ego tastes the Ratatouille and flashes back to his childhood memory- exactly how certain foods my Mom makes make ME feel! I just hope I don’t come across like Anton Ego…
    “Lightly coagulated” eggs, says Julia. Hmm… that might be perfect by French standards (although I’ve never had an omelet in France that way), but I am still a Scrambled girl, pun fully intended!6 years ago

  • Sara Rose, I wish I could whip you one up right this very second. You probably need a live in chef for the next few months just to make your life a little easier. :)

    Pomona — so not the coward’s way. In fact, I kind of like tortillas and frittatas better — more flavor, I think.

    Christine S, YES! :) Especially when watching Jacques and Julia, his came out perfect and hers was a little wobbly. Even Julia messes up! 😉

    Margaret, The first time I saw that scene, I think I was sobbing. SUCH a good movie.6 years ago

  • JennyMac: Always love GREAT cooking tips. Thanks for sharing. My husband cringes at the sight of eggs to this will be in my back pocket.6 years ago

  • Christine S.: Can I get a “heck yeah!” to being excited for the Julie & Julia movie coming out soon?! I plan to read the book through completely before the release date! I hope it lives up to my expectations!:)6 years ago

  • And if you haven’t yet, you have to read My Life in France. So, so wonderful. She and Paul Child had such a wonderful romance.6 years ago

  • B.: I like omelets, but I think they can be a bit tricky. You have to get the fire on the stove just right, or they burn or are undercooked.6 years ago

  • Evon T.: Well, I guess I haven’t “made it” because I’m scared to death of omelets. I suppose if I had a commercial-style grill, then I’d feel more empowered to cook the perfect omelet, but pan-style requires more skill. On my quest for even more domestication, I’d like to master it. I’d like to cook my fiance a proper omelet coupled with turkey bacon. He could wash it down with fresh-squeezed orange juice, with a tiny bit of sugar added. Mmmm….6 years ago

  • Sara Rose: I really liked “My Life in France” far better than “Julie and Julia” but I’m hoping the movie is better than the book was. Still craving an omelet. I really kinda blow at flipping omelets so I do like this version better.6 years ago

  • Julia (Color Me Green): I don’t make omelets probably because I never order them in restaurants either, just don’t care for them that much. would rather scramble my veggies into my eggs.6 years ago

  • Karen: My husband makes omelets. He first started making them when he was in college…. eggs went a long way to feed a hungry student!

    By the way, I just saw the Julia Child’s Kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian…. loved it!6 years ago

  • sebastian: Somewhere in heaven, Julia Child is riding on Falcor and making an omelete. Yum!!6 years ago

  • Eliana: I learned to make an omelet watching that episode! She really does demystify it. Around the time she died in 2004, PBS replayed a lot of the old shows. It’s a treat to see them; she’s the bug out.6 years ago

  • Bright Spots « Pink of Perfection: […] the kind of day when city rain soaks through your shoes, leaving your tights damp. Beating a few eggs for dinner feels like therapy. Now, zucchini is cooking on the stove, and a pot of water is set to […]3 years ago

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It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder