Omelette

Ready in a flash

Nothing is easier to cook than an omelette – yet nothing could be harder to perfect. The official definition is straightforward: a dish made from beaten eggs cooked in a pan. We may like it thick and runny, or thin and flat as a knife, hence its name, derived from alumelle, meaning “thin blade”, or âmelette, “little soul’: a precious gift symbolised by the egg.

All culinary cultures have their version of the omelette. Traditional French with potatoes, bacon, asparagus or truffles, the Spanish tortilla, the rolled Japanese tamagoyaki, Italian frittata, Cameroonian, New York or Californian folded omelettes…the omelette is adaptable to all tastes, ingredients and forms.

Beat it fast

The eggs should be fresh, of the highest possible quality, and at room temperature. We recommend a maximum of 6 eggs to keep the cooking manageable. These are beaten whole with a few strokes of a fork, immediately before cooking. If you want the omelette to be very soft, the yolks and whites should be mixed lightly, to avoid solidifying the albumen. The mix can be enriched with a dash of milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper, then let it stand for fifteen minutes if possible. Herbs and spices can be added at this time.

In the pan

Choose a thick-bottomed pan of a size appropriate to the quantity of eggs: 24 to 25 cm for 6 eggs. Grease it and heat it before adding the beaten eggs. A rounded edge will help you slide the cooked omelette onto the plate. The benchmark protein, egg goes with everything. Natural or with any imaginable ingredient, an omelette is a nourishing dish that is perfectly satisfying on its own.

You can also turn it into a sweet dessert, soufflé or not, filled with fruit, cream, or ice cream. Or even a surprise omelette*, each bite of which will provide a delightful taste experience or a flavour different to the last.

The mark of an expert

Heat reaches the edges of the omelette faster than its centre. So turn the pan in a circular motion to spread the liquid or urge the poured eggs towards the edges of with a spatula. If they’re not already part of the mixture, this is where the omelette’s filling, preferably hot and pre-cooked, should be added. Be careful not to overcook the omelette. It should be more or less runny on the inside, according to taste, and cooked to perfection on the outside. Chefs’ tutorials demonstrate a jerky movement of the pan that turns its contents in on itself and results in an oval-shaped omelette. The omelette can also be folded with a spatula or turned over onto a dish larger than the pan and briefly fried again on the other side. * “The surprise omelette provides the double pleasure of biting into a hot crust and of cooling the palate on the scented contact of the ice cream”, suggests a famous culinary journalist in Les 365 menus du Baron Brisse, published in 1868.

The Mother Poulard

Annette Poulard, wife of the Mont St. Michel’s baker, invented this dish in 1888: a quick and easy meal for waiting pilgrims. In France this version of the omelette is as famous as ever. The egg whites are separated from the yolks and whisked to a snowy consistency in a bowl with melted butter, then added to the yolks in 3 stages. Whether savoury or sweet, the result is a sublime puffed omelette: airy, always cooked in pan over a wood fire, and garnished with a wide choice of toppings.

 

A short anecdote

 

An early recipe for an omelette with calf’s brain and maceron (an ancient Mediterranean vegetable seed with a celery flavour that’s still produced on the Ile de Ré, known as Alexanders in English due to a supposed connection with Alexandria) can be found in the Ancient Roman cookbook De re coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), sometimes attributed to Apicius, a cook during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius (25 BC).

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