"I'm going to make a humble, inexpensive meal; an omelette" says Annie Schennum, who trained and taught at one of the world's most distinguished culinary institutes, Le Cordon Bleu in London. The omelette, she tells us, "has in fact reached great culinary heights!"
An omelette? Really?
Yes, really. "There is a restaurant in France in Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy called Mere Poulard. They serve omelettes," Schennum tells us, "and if you wish to go there you're looking at spending in the region of $50 for your omelette." Her son, Jack, and his girlfriend visited Mere Poulard to try this very expensive omelette earlier this year and, believe it or not, "they report back and say it is worth every cent" says Schennum, a Manchester resident.
Most of us wouldn't dream of spending $50 on an omelette no matter how good and, luckily, we don't have to; as Schennum says, "we can make an omelette at home for probably 50 cents." But there is a knack to making a good omelette, it's not just a case of some eggs in a pan.
Dione Lucas also trained and taught at Le Cordon Bleu and she is credited with introducing the omelette to the American palate. She was seen as the foremost expert on omelette making in the U.S. and influenced Julia Child, who (with her co-writers Bertolle and Beck) dedicated an entire chapter of their cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," to omelettes, and not to a series of recipes, but rather to the technique.
"A good French omelette is a smooth, gently swelling, golden oval that is tender and creamy inside" write Child et al. "There is a trick to omelettes, and certainly the easiest way to learn is to ask an expert to give you a lesson." We have the next best thing, Schennum's video demonstration.
"First, I'm going to heat my pan," says Schennum. "You need a good iron skillet. And don't be scared about overheating; if you feel it's too hot when you're ready to add your eggs, you can turn it down." She beats three eggs with a little water - "no more than a teaspoon" - and then tests the heat of the pan by holding her hand a few inches above; if you can feel the heat, it's hot enough.
She adds her eggs to the pan and using a fork brings the outside of the mixture into the center; "keep it on the move," she advises, "you're not scrambling the eggs, you are just gently bringing the uncooked egg from the outside into the center." As the egg mixture begins to set, she adds the filling — some sliced ham, grated gruyere cheese, chopped chives and sauteed mushrooms. It is important that the filling has been prepared beforehand as making an omelette is a very quick process and requires your full attention.
After about 30 seconds — enough time for the cheese to start melting — she uses a palette knife to fold the omelette so that the filling is encased in the center. Then she simply turns it out onto a plate.
"Now for the moment of truth, I'm going to taste the omelette" she says taking a bite. "Excellent, that is a pretty darn good omelette if I say so myself. Now all that remains is for me to issue an invitation to my son, Jack, and his girlfriend, Sarah. I would like to invite them to come and share an omelette with me and see how this omelette compares to the $50 omelette they had at Mere Poulard in Mont Saint-Michel."
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons olive oil (or butter)
Salt and pepper
Gruyere cheese, grated
Ham, cut into strips
Mushrooms, sauté©ed and sliced
1. Break the eggs into a bowl, add water and seasoning. Whisk until lightly frothy
2. Heat cast iron pan on medium high heat. When hot, add oil and pour in egg mixture.
3. With the side of a table fork, gently bring the outside of the omelet in towards the center as it cooks. When the eggs are almost set (This only takes a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook omelet), add the fillings.
4. Allow to heat through briefly. Fold one half of the omelet over the other half. Slide out of pan onto plate and serve immediately.
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Recipe courtesy of Annie Schennum, former Le Cordon Bleu instructor, 2012.