Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The New Virtue Challenge: Omelets

In the brief chapter of Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw, "Virtue," where he lays out the foods that he believes every person should know how to cook or prepare, the item that he spends the most time on is omelets. In the two paragraphs (hey, I did say the chapter was brief) that he talks about the preparation of omelets, it is in an almost devotional manner; going so far as to propose that maybe learning the art of omelet-making should be linked with the loss of one's virginity.

With that in mind, it seems fitting that, while "Make an Omelet" is the second item on the list, it should be the first item that I tackle.

(As a quick aside, I have to wonder: What's up with the two spellings of "omelet." Omelet or omelette? I'm presuming it's an American English versus British English thing. Omelette looks nicer, and seems to be closer to the old French origin word of "amlette," but I'm going with "Omelet" in deference to Anthony.)

First off, I should probably mention that I'm not the World's biggest fan of eggs. If I do order them or have them for breakfast, I generally prefer them buried in sausage, peppers and potatoes. At their best, I've seen them as simply a way of conveying admirable amounts of Tabasco sauce to my mouth. So, I think this goes a long way to helping defend why I've never bothered to learn to cook an omelet; and why in those few, rarefied attempts I've made at cooking eggs, they've generally ended up being reduced to yellow cement caked to my frying pan.

None the less, onward!

So, in preparation for omelet, er, preparation, I began to do some research online. After reading a couple of simple recipes on various websites, and flipping through one or two of Sarah's cook books; I noticed that Sarah herself was giving me hints on what recipe I should follow. Or, more specifically, she queued up this video on her iPad, sat it in front of me, and pressed "Play":

Now, I've known of Julia Child for some time now. I've seen Dan Ackroyd's famous SNL skit and seen the movie Julie and Julia (whose blog my humble challenge lives in the shadow of, I suppose), but haven't ever really sat down and watched any of Julia's actual French Chef cooking shows. And, you know what? I've missed out. They're awesome. Both in terms of her raw cooking skills, their approach to cooking and in some of the inadvertent, low-budget, dated moments. In fact, go and watch the above video now. It's only 28 minutes and you owe it to yourself. I'll wait....

...Done? Good.

Anyhow, after watching that video, it was pretty obvious that I should follow Julia's method for a couple reasons:

1) It's simple: With the exception of one or two points, it's really something the humblest cook (read: me) should be able to manage.
2) It's fast: As she herself says numerous times: Only 20 seconds.
3) It's simple (Part 2): We aren't talking about some overly complex, super-omelet with a list of ingredients as long as my arm. Just eggs, butter, some salt and pepper and maybe a garnish or two. Keep it simple, Tyler.

So, last Sunday morning, armed with my new found knowledge, I awoke early, made my way to the kitchen and took a stab at omelet-making. Let's see how it went, shall we?

Eggs! Cracked and whisked.

Waiting for the butter to melt. But, being careful to not let it burn. (Something that happened on omelet #2. I had to wipe out the butter and start over.)

In go the first two eggs.

Gently stirring the eggs while they began to heat up.

Shaking the frying pan as the eggs as the begin to set. In theory, this is supposed to sort of roll the omelet into it's familiar shape, but was probably the most difficult part. I think I'll choose to blame the pan, instead of my skills. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

And finally flipping it onto the plate. Again, a little tricky, but more forgiving since you can straighten things out a bit on the plate afterward.

First omelet ever! I have officially made an omelet.

To the victor... or in this case the victor's daughter... go the spoils.

I ended up making four omelets that morning, and learned a bit from each. The later two came out a bit tough, most likely because -by that point- my pan was a lot hotter, and I should have left the eggs in a shorter amount of time. The "art" of omelet making, I suppose. Plus, these were admittedly, pretty basic. As I said, Eggs, butter, a little salt and pepper (and maybe a dash of Tabasco); so it's definitely still Kiddy Pool territory.

Which begs the question: Does this mean that I'm an omelet "Expert" now? No, of course not. But, I do think that, if asked, I could grab a couple of eggs and make something that could be fairly referred to as an omelet. Plus, I've decided that even as I push on to other items on the list, I'll keep practicing my omelet skills. And, have instituted "Omelet Sundays" to help force me to refine my abilities.

Next Sunday, I will try my hand at a filled omelet.