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Omelets 101

There's this big mystique about omelets, maybe because they're a part of classic French cookery. People think that omelets are magically difficult and that only a true gourmet chef can get them right. But I say: Bah. Omelets are easy. Believe it or not, I've been known to turn out omelets for 20 on a propane camp stove. (This is when my friends started referring to my pop-up trailer as "Dana's House of Omelets.")

You can learn to do this quickly. Really-you can. Before you begin, you'll need a good pan. What's a "good pan"? I prefer a 7- inch (medium-size) skillet with a heavy bottom, sloping sides, and a nonstick surface. However, what I currently have is a 7-inch skillet with a heavy bottom, sloping sides, and a formerly nonstick surface. I can still make omelets in it, I just have to use a good shot of nonstick cooking spray. The heavy bottom and sloping sides, however, are essential.

Here's the really important thing to know about making omelets: The word "omelet" comes from a word meaning "to laminate," or to build up layers. And that's exactly what you do; you let a layer of beaten egg cook, then you lift up the edges and tip the pan so the raw egg runs under the cooked part. You do this all around the edges, of course, so you build it up evenly The point is, you don't just let the beaten egg lie there in the skillet and wait for it to cook through. If you try to, the bottom will be hopelessly overdone before the top is set.

Dana's Easy Omelet Method

  1. First, have your filling ready If you're using vegetables, you'll want to saute them first. If you're using cheese, have it grated or sliced and ready to go. If you're making an omelet to use up leftovers-a great idea, by the waywarm them through in the microwave and have them standing by.
  2. Spray your omelet pan well with cooking spray if it doesn't have a good nonstick surface, and set it over medium-high heat.
  3. While the skillet is heating, grab your eggs (two is the perfect number for this size pan, but one or three will work, too) and a bowl, crack the eggs, and beat them with a fork. Don't add water or milk or anything; just mix them up.
  4. Test your pan to see if it's hot enough: A drop of water thrown in the pan should sizzle right away Add a tablespoon of oil or butter, slosh it around to cover the bottom, then pour in the eggs, all at once. They should sizzle, too, and immediately start to set.
  5. When the bottom layer of egg is set around the edges-and this should happen quite quickly-lift the edge using a spatula and tip the pan to let the raw egg flow underneath. Do this all around the edges, until there's not enough raw egg to run.
  6. Turn your burner to the lowest heat if you have a gas stove. (If you have an electric stove, you'll have to have a "warm" burner standing by; electric elements don't cool off fast enough for this job.) Put your filling on one-half of the omelet, cover the pan with a lid, and let it sit over very low heat for a minute or two-no more. Peek and see if the raw, shiny egg is gone from the top surface (although you can serve it that way if you like; that's how the French prefer their omelets), and the cheese, if you've used it, is melted. If not, re-cover the pan and let it go another minute or two.
  7. When your omelet is done, slip a spatula under the half without the filling, fold it over, and then lift the whole thing onto a plate. Or you can get fancy and tip the pan, letting the filling side of the omelet slide onto the plate and folding the top over as you go, but that takes some practice.

This makes a single-serving omelet. I think it's a lot easier to make several individual omelets than one big one, and omelets are so fast to make that it's not that big a deal. Anyway, that way you can customize your omelets to each individual's taste. If you're making more than two or three omelets, just set your oven to its very lowest heat setting and keep them warm in there.

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