Omelet You Have it
My posts are beginning to alarm me, because I seem to have developed some sort of baffling ability to produce an ongoing list of topics that cry out for me to address. I have never been at a shortage for words; that’s patently obvious. I have been plugging away at a number of self-centered projects, which I have found to be most rewarding.
However, out of the blue, topics are assailing my little pea-brain at a rapidly accelerating pace. This morning, while cooking up a Spanish rice omelet, I suddenly fixated on the notion of writing about cooking the perfect omelet. I should say it’s the perfect omelet for me. I am not going to insult anyone out there who is already quite comfortable in his or her own ability to create the perfect omelet, by suggesting that my omelet is a better version than your omelet, or even that my method is better, because that’s not where I’m coming from. I think it’s probably more for the reason that I am a self-taught male cooker, who got lucky and wants to crow about it.
The first thing to establish is that I never had an omelet, until I was in the army, overseas, when I was introduced to chili omelets, at a base cafe. I loved eggs and I loved chili, so I figured, why not? Up until that point, I had always thought of an omelet, if I thought of it at all, as a partial threat, as in, “Watch out, Clownie, or omelet you have it.” When we had eggs, we had eggs, and we didn’t mix mushrooms, onions or threats in with the eggs.
Then, when I came home from Korea, I experimented with making omelets on my own. I had limited success, except for the redeeming factor, that even the resultant mess, as unappealing as it may have looked, was usually edible. I either burned the eggs or they were runny. Well, you might ask, if they were runny, why didn’t you cook them longer? The answer is that then they would end up burned. Says so in the manual, page twelve, paragraph four, subsection c.
It stems from my tendency, when I was a small boy, to do everything at warp speed, including cooking. My father was a very talented cook, and got lots of practice working with my mom, to prepare meals for the nine of us kids, and them. I got lots of OJT peeling potatoes, dicing onions, cutting up the green peppers and taking out the compost. It was always deemed acceptable by the management for us to be able to cook up a little something for ourselves to eat at breakfast or lunch, when we were home. I guess the rationale was twofold: one less mouth for Mom to have to feed, and I was going to end up doing the dishes anyway, so I was not creating more work for her.
However, to slow down enough to cook eggs properly, even if we are only talking about the difference between five minutes and seven, was always impossible. It never even came up for discussion. So I would turn the heat up too high on the burner, and the eggs would burn, or I would turn the fire on too low, and get impatient, and eat the eggs while they were still runny. Any attempt to try and distract myself, to give the eggs adequate time to cook properly-you guessed it-resulted in burned eggs.
Somewhere along the line, as I both got older and less impatient, I figured out that the problem was in the setting of the flame. I never grasped the concept that there was something between full blast and simmer, so I took the flame to the halfway point, decided it was still too high, and turned it down to about a fourth of the way up, at the most. Preheating the pan is nice, maybe not so important as pre-heating the oven when baking, but still keeps the eggs from sitting in olive oil that is still heating up. I put in just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and then add an extra tablespoon or so. It’s hard to put too much in,but too little can result in a minor scorch.
So the flame is adjusted correctly, the oil is heated and you have a lid for the pan. I have strangled those eggs vigorously with a whisk, or if I’m feeling jaunty, an egg beater, to create fluffy eggs. I don’t add half and half or anything, but I have seen it done. The rest is the same as I used to imagine it would be like when I was a kid, only different, because the eggs cook gently and correctly, every time. I remove the lid after a reasonable amount of time, and lift up the edge of the omelet here and there to allow a little of the runny stuff to slip under the rest of the omelet, where it doesn’t stand a chance. If I have not already done so, I add salt and black pepper, crucial for eggs.
If the flame is adequately low, then the oil will prevent the eggs from browning, and you can use the widest spatula you have to do the quick flip, being then ready to add your Spanish rice, or chile, or onions/mushrooms, et al. The fire under the pan only needs to stay on another minute or two, before it can be shut off, while the pan remains on the stove long enough for the cheese to melt. With the flame turned off, there’s no fear of burning. No cheese? Have at it.