My mother used to make us scrambled eggs on toast, which is an act of love and determination to quickly feed five hungry kids while also trying to keep a house in a semblance of order and also the kids from killing each other and/or themselves.
When my father cooked for us, it was with that perfectionism that comes from only having to cook when you really want to, and not having responsibility for the rest of the house or childcare at the same time. He made the perfect omelette.
The perfect omelette requires separating whites and yolks. Beat the whites forever and an age until they form stiff peaks. Carefully fold in the rest of the ingredients. Get the frying pan to the perfect temperature, and cook slowly
. You can't be in a hurry to finish, or the bottom will burn while the middle's still raw. The top will stubbornly stay raw anyway, so you can either quarter the omelette and carefully flip each quarter in the pan, or you can put the whole pan under the grill in the oven at a low temperature and cook the top slowly
. This latter method feels obscurely like cheating but it does get much tidier results. Finally you serve it with another wodge of butter melting on the top -- and then if you're making them for more than two not-very-hungry people, you go back and do it all again.
Dad's omelettes were thick and fluffy and delicious.
When I was in France and went to visit my penpal in her village near Avignon, I'd just arrived from the train station and she asked if I wanted an omelette. I was daunted by so generous an offer of so much labour, but she seemed keen, so I accepted, and she made... I still don't have a word for it that satisfies me. She beat the eggs whole
, yolk and whites together, then added the ingredients: no thick white peaks. No fluffiness. To my mind it was scrambled eggs without actually scrambling
them (which you do with a fork, in a saucepan with butter, to get large grains of egg while avoiding the bottom burning. I never said scrambled eggs were an unskilled
It was still delicious, of course. I ate it gratefully and put the episode down to cultural differences. Clearly this was the one thing the French did not know how to cook. (Well, that and hokey pokey.)
I still can't imagine asking someone to cook me an omelette unless there were exigent circumstances, like I was on my deathbed and it was my dying wish. For someone to offer to make me one -- now that I'm adult I have to imagine this in the third person, because romance and me does not compute, but I imagine it as a declaration of love, and a scene of perfect domestic felicity.
Today's omelette was not the perfect omelette, because I was impatient in the prep work. For one thing I managed to get some yolk in the white, though miraculously it still whipped up fairly well. Also I forgot to actually fry up the ingredients beforehand, and also to stir the yolk in with the other ingredients. Little things like that.
But my cooking
was perfect. I heated the frying pan to hot-hot, and sizzled some butter around, and poured the proto-omelette in, and turned off the heat, and did some washing up and some grating of cheese. I have a solid cast-iron pan, which holds the heat nicely. When I could lift the edges away from the side and see the bottom was a nice golden brown, I put the frying pan under the grill at 125C. I was taking a guess at this, but it seemed to work. When the top was just about to start darkening, I took it out to spread cheese over, then put it back in while I used the yolks which should have been in the omelette to make custard.
(Custard is also an act of patience because you have to mix the cornflour-yolk paste into the milk slowly
in order to avoid lumps (for best results, mix the milk little by little into the paste), and then you have to stir forever, and then you have to let it cool for an age, and then chances are it's still too runny because the recipe should have more cornflour or less milk.)
When the omelette was ready - this is the part I'm proudest of - I lifted/slid it out of the pan whole onto my plate.
One day I'll be patient enough to do the prep work right, and also to replicate this cooking methodology, and I truly will have the perfect omelette.