Sunday, 24 April 2016

Omelette Exploration 1: What I See As The Basics

This is a topic I have considered blogging on for quite a while.  I was prompted to finally do it by an article in the 'Cook' section of yesterday's edition of the 'The Guardian' newspaper in which Stephen Bush outlined how he had tried out Delia Smith's approach to omelettes from her book 'Delia's Complete How To Cook' (2009).


It is not an approach I have tried but hope to have a go at in the coming months as this facet of my blog continues.  In the meantime I have various other approaches that I have tried, which I will outline here.

Your first question might be why I am focusing on omelettes.  The easy answer is that I am very good at making them.  I have lived with a qualified chef who disliked the bulk of dishes I am able to cook.  I have lived in the same house as a boy, now aged 14, who is a wizard at making pancakes.  Both of these despite their own abilities, has been delighted to eat my omelettes.  As a result I have played from my strengths and have gone on to explore different ways of making them.

My starting point was back in the mid-1990s.  I was working in a low-paid job where most of my colleagues had a second or even a third job to bring in enough income.  One of these was a colleague known as 'Juggo' who was a qualified chef himself and would work in a local pub at the weekends doing basic pub food.  With a family he did not like the hours of catering full time, but this brought in a bit of cash and just impacted on two days of the week. His omelettes were so good that people would go to the pub specially to order them.  I asked him what his secret was.  He gave me a basic set of principles which I have stuck to ever since and I believe allow me to make omelettes that people enjoy.

The principles were:
1) No Milk
2) Just Butter to cook
3) Let the Omelette rise through any filling

I immediately stopped putting milk into my omelette mixture and consequently the taste improved instantly.  There is no need for milk in an omelette at all and nowadays I cannot understand how it ever entered the recipe.

Like a lot of people aware of cholesterol, at the time I had no butter in the house.  However, as Juggo pointed out, there is too much water in margarine so you are effectively boiling the omelette mixture and the transfer of heat is worse.  Oil provides too great a divide between the omelette and the pan and it tends to float around and again not cook properly.  You are looking for a golden brown colour to your omelette not a pale yellow and certainly not something that looks shallow fried.  I do break this rule slightly in that I put a small splash of olive oil on the melting butter, now this is probably hazardous due to the different flashpoints of the two, but it does give a nice flavour to the outside of your omelette.

The major mistake people make with fillings for omelettes is putting in too much and not chopping the pieces down small enough.  Keep the filling light and not too complicated otherwise you can easily verge into a Frittata or even a Tortilla de Patatas (Spanish omelette) if you get onions or potatoes in there.  I put a layer of omelette mixture on the pan rather than exactly following the Juggo approach as fillings can break up the outer layer of your omelette and also burn, so again making it look unattractive.  The only exception to the filling rules is grated cheese.  You can add this to the omelette mixture because it will melt.  The only challenge with a lot of cheese especially if it is yellow or orange that when it is melted you might mistake it for uncooked omelette mixture.

I will talk about the eggs to use and cooking methods for different plain omelettes in following emails.  For now the one final basic point I will include is beating the omelette mixture.  I favour a fork in a small ceramic bowl, one I actually bought in 1988.  I think it is best to 'fold' rather than beat the omelette mixture.  What is essential is to remove any translucent pieces.  With the best eggs you will end up with an orange mixture with light bubbles across the surface; with poor quality eggs it will beat much more easily but leave you with an almost watery, pale yellow mixture.

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