Everybody and their brother is headed to culinary school these days. It looks like a fun occupation (and don’t get me wrong, it is), but it can also be a grueling, hot and often stressful job—plus you have to wear that goofy hat. The traditional checkered pants and chef’s coat are comfy enough, kin to medical scrubs if you ask me, but the hat—yikes! Who came up with that design? Those style mavens, the French, of course.
The toque blanche or French for “white hat,” dates back to the 16th century when every tradesman wore a hat of some sort, but over the years it has evolved into the pleated cylindrical shape you see today. A true toque blanche would have exactly 100 pleats, which legend has it represents the 100 ways to use an egg.
Taking a cue from the eulogistic praise of shrimp in Forrest Gump: you can boil ‘em, bake ‘em, fry, poach and scramble ‘em; they can be basted, coddled, pickled and dyed. You can use ‘em in sauces, batters, custards, dough and quiche. There’s egg salad, egg-drop soup, egg sandwiches, and on and on and on.
The versatile egg can be used in sweet and savory dishes alike. They are indispensable for baking and have at least eight different functions: color, texture, moisture, volume, structure, foaming, binding and emulsification.
The “incredible, edible egg” has taken a beating over the years though. In the early 90s every medical journal demonized the poor little guy (spouting nonsense about cholesterol and heart disease), but he is currently back in their good graces and no longer the bad boy of the culinary world.
Packed full of protein, the ubiquitous egg is ready to take on the task at hand. So let’s put it to work and prepare a classic omelette that would make any professional chef proud. And all kidding aside, the toque blanche is a hat of honor and should be worn with pride. I’m just glad that as a baker I got to wear the cute, floppy number instead!
Now let’s move on to the eats and how to make a classic omelet that’ll wow all of your friends!
How to Make a Classic Omelet
1. Pick your filling ingredients—this is another great fridge clean out—you only need ¼ to 1/3 cup of filling per omelet. I had a shallot, green pepper, honey ham and sharp cheddar.
2. Prepare the filling first. Grate or crumble your cheese of choice and set aside. Dice ham and set aside. Dice some shallot and green pepper.
3. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in a small frying pan and quickly sauté your vegetables and set aside.
4. Crack two eggs (per omelette) into a small bowl and whip with a fork until well beaten. Add 1 tablespoon milk, salt and pepper to taste and a dash or two of dried parsley and basil.
5. Heat an 8-inch skillet (slanted sides help) over high heat until very hot (approximately 30 seconds). Add 1 teaspoon butter, and tilt the pan to coat the bottom and sides. As soon as the butter bubbles, slowly pour in the egg mixture.
6. Tilt the pan to spread the egg mixture evenly. Let them start to firm up a bit. The middle will start to bubble. Tilt the pan again and direct the egg mixture toward the outer edges of the omelette.
7. With a spatula, gently lift the edge and let the egg mixture run underneath.
8. Continue cooking until the mixture holds together. While the middle is still a little runny add the filling. Place filling in center of omelet, sautéed veggies first, then ham and sprinkle with cheese.
9. Tilt the pan to one side and use your spatula to fold 1/3 of the omelet over the middle. Shake the pan gently to slide the omelet to the edge of the pan.
10. Hold the pan above the serving plate and tip it so the omelet rolls off, folding itself onto the plate. And, voila!
Some Classic Omelet Suggestions
- Dice leftover cooked potatoes, onion and a pinch of rosemary for a peasant omelet.
- Try smoked salmon, scallions and chives for something different.
- Asparagus, fresh tomato and buffalo mozzarella could be interesting.
- Don’t just think fresh — use up those jarred roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes.
Let us know when you master how to make the classic omelet! —Karen