Tuesday, December 18, 2012
When I was a kid, late Dad used to cook us Cantonese fried noodles for breakfast on weekends. It was a great treat - crispy, deep fried rice vermicelli noodles bathed over with smooth, silky egg gravy flavored with the freshest, largest prawns, homemade fish cakes and some chicken, balanced with plenty of choy sum (flowering Chinese cabbage). Only problem was, he didn't get the gravy quite right the first time.
We ended up having Cantonese fried noodles every weekend for the entire month.
I completely put the blame on late Dad for my mad obsession for perfection and extreme pickiness. Being secretly proud of it doesn't help. Sometimes it drives the other half mad, though he will noisily chomp down the perfection and lick his plate later. As for me, I needed to conquer the egg. That means all methods possible to cook it, as I love to eat it in all forms. Yes, even a hardboiled egg thrown into thick, spicy sambal is good, see?
So that evening I badly wanted eggs for dinner, initially there was some toying around the deep-fried version. It was quickly and sensibly ditched for too much potential mess on a weekday evening. Then I recalled how Jacques Pépin did his classic French omelet in that unforgettable New York Times article on technique being paramount in good cooking. Will I be able to pull this off, I asked?
With an slightly iffy non-stick and completely wrong-sized pan, it was close. Not perfect. Chef Pépin would probably shake his head and laughed had he seen my maneuver. I know late Dad would. But the omelet done this way was unlike those I grew up with - soft and moist in the center, with tender curd and full flavor from the butter and herbs. Serve immediately topped with your favorite breakfast fry up.
Now, all I need for Christmas is a 6-inch cast iron skillet.
Jacques Pépin’s Classic French Omelet
Recipe adapted from Jacques Pépin Celebrates
Yields 1 large main course omelet
Note: You may serve the omelet on its own or anything you fancy. Here I sautéed some mushrooms and cherry tomatoes with butter, parsley and more chives. Anything with bacon is also win. From the recipe reference site you will also see Pépin’s country style omelet, very similar to the way we normally do ours, nicely brown and rustic. For a video guide on his exact moves, check this!
- 3 large eggs (I used 5 medium large)
- Dash salt and ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped mixture of chervil, tarragon, and chives
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter
Using a fork, beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, and herbs in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a 6-8" nonstick skillet. Once butter starts to foam, pour in the eggs. Holding your fork flat, immediately start stirring the eggs quickly while shaking the pan back and forth. Continue so the eggs coagulate uniformly.
When eggs are lightly set but moist, incline your pan forward so most of the eggs gather at the far end of the pan. Stop stirring. The mass of eggs should thin out around the edges at the higher end. Using your fork, swiftly fold this thin edge toward the center of the omelet, enclosing the thick, moist center.
Press the fold into place, creating a rounded edge. Run your fork between the edge of the pan and the far edge of the omelet to loosen. Using the palm of one hand, tap the handle gently where it joins the pan, to shake the omelet and make it twist and lift onto itself, so the lip rises above the edge of the pan. Fold this lip back toward the center of the omelet, meeting and overlapping the edge of the other lip. Press down gently with the flat of the fork to shape the omelet into a point at each end.
To plate, start by holding your serving plate, bang the underside of the pan against the counter (a chopping board is advisable) at the omelet end, so the omelet moves against the edge of the pan. Invert the omelet onto the plate. Press with the flat of the fork to shape the omelet into a point at each end. Serve.
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