However humble its composition, the French omelet has for years been considered the litmus test for many aspiring chefs. “One of our deans, André Soltner, who was the former chef at Lutèce, felt that if you could make a good French omelette, then you were going to gain entry into his kitchen,” says Candy Argondizza, the Vice President of Culinary and Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center in New York City. “Eggs are really sensitive to heat,” she says. “Knowing how to regulate that heat, as to not overcook them, is really hard.”
Students at the ICC learn about the shape, color and texture of a well-made omelet, says Argondizza. It should be color free, wrinkle free and, above all, baveuse. That means that in contrast to a country omelet, which is browned, firm and wrinkly, the classic French omelet is rolled like a burrito and left half-cooked in the middle.
The average French omelet takes just over a minute to cook. Though the end result should be fairly consistent — a football-shaped torpedo that’s creamy in the center — the exact timing can vary from omelet to omelet. Success depends on the cook’s ability to read how the eggs are reacting in the skillet, and then interfere accordingly. Here’s how.
Classic French Omelet
Makes one single-serve omelet
1 teaspoon whole milk
1 teaspoon butter
1. Heat an empty 8-inch non-stick skillet on high. “Before non-sticks, you’d have to use cast-iron pans that were only used for omelettes or eggs,” says Argondizza. “Now non-sticks are the way to go.”
2. Beat two fresh eggs in a mixing bowl until the whites are totally emulsified with the yolks. “You’re not doing this to add air,” says Argondizza. “You just want to make sure that the egg yolk and the egg white are properly mixed.”
3. Add a teaspoon of milk or cream, the fat of which will make the omelet softer. Salt the egg mixture with a pinch or two just before you add it to the skillet. “You always season the eggs before cooking an omelet,” says Argondizza. “You never want to plate an omelet and then have to put salt on top.”
4. Once the skillet is hot, add roughly a teaspoon of butter to pan and swirl to coat the entire surface of the pan. Before the butter browns, add egg mixture to the skillet and lower heat halfway between medium and high. (Immediately move on to next step.)
5. Using a heat-resistant silicone spatula, vigorously mix eggs to prevent curds or wrinkles from forming on the skillet. “Otherwise, you’re going to have scrambled eggs,” says Argondizza. Do this for about 30 seconds, occasionally scraping the sides of the skillet to prevent any part from overcooking.
6. Once the bottom of the eggs firm up (the top should still be wet and runny), stop whisking and swirl the skillet to close any surface area of not covered by eggs. Turn off the heat and let the omelet sit for a few seconds to lock the shape.
7. With your spatula, roll one of the top quarters of the omelet onto itself. Follow with the other top quarter. You’re aiming for a convex shape similar to the gibbous moon.
8. Grab the handle of the skillet and tap the bottom edge of the skillet on a hard surface to inch the other side of the omelet above the lip of the pan. Fold that back over the rest of the omelet and simultaneously roll onto a plate. “Technique is really important,” says Argondizza. “There are flat omelets, like a frittata, and then there are rolled omelets. Rolled omelets are tricky, but, just like anything, the more you do it, the better you get.”
9. If you’re unhappy with the shape, use the side of your palms to tuck in the sides of the omelet.
10. To finish, “luster” the omelet by brushing melted butter across the top, which gives it both flavor and shine.