Imagine this: You have overnight guests, and when they wake up in the morning and drift bleary-eyed down to the kitchen, you whip up French-style omelets (with two secret ingredients!) that blow everyone's minds. Presto! An amazing day has begun, and you're a consummate host in ten minutes flat. Here, Alexandra from Alexandra's Kitchen explains how to do just that...
The Best Omelet You'll Ever Have
By Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra's Kitchen
The beginning of the end of my back-of-the-house restaurant career began at the Sunday brunch omelet station of a bustling Philadelphia restaurant. After the excitement and novelty of the first few Sundays had passed, sheer adrenaline got me through the rest, and pure dread shrouded the days preceding that shift.
In addition to discovering that restaurant work perhaps was not my calling, I learned a thing or two about making omelets during my year working that station—namely that organization is key, and that a hot pan and clarified butter can work wonders. When I make omelets at home today, I still make them nearly the exact same way: using a nonstick 8-inch skillet and always with my fillings prepped—onions caramelized, cheese grated, spinach sautéed, pancetta crisped—and arranged next to my stovetop. Never would I be so bold as to grate cheese while my pan is preheating.
Traumatized for life? Perhaps. But as with many kitchen endeavors, a little organization and the right equipment go a long way. Fumbling around the fridge and chopping ingredients on the fly is not an option when the entire omelet-cooking process takes no more than a minute to complete.
Despite assembling an inordinate number of variously filled omelets while working the line that year, I discovered my favorite omelet combination a year later on the opposite coast at a little French bistro just blocks from my apartment in the beachside town of San Clemente. Leek and goat cheese was their signature omelet—the only omelet on the menu, in fact—and it was served with a simple salad and a sliced baguette.
It may have been the idyllic sun-warmed patio or perhaps the view of the Pacific Ocean, or more likely the realization that—in the short term at least—I would never have to make myself or anyone else an omelet again, but this omelet was perfection: perfectly golden with a soft center melting with sweet leeks and tangy goat cheese. Instantly, I became a regular at the café, and while part of me itched to get back in the kitchen, I vowed never to inquire about openings at this sunny little spot.
Recipe: Leeks and Goat Cheese Omelet
Notes: I love the flavor of leeks, but they are a little more labor-intensive than onions or shallots or scallions, so feel free to substitute any member of the onion family. Also, clarified butter helps to prevent browning but really is not necessary—regular butter works just fine. And if you happen to dislike goat cheese, use any cheese you like; Fontina, which melts nicely, or Cheddar or Gruyère would make wonderful substitutes.
1 to 3 leeks
2 to 3 eggs (no more than 3 for an 8-inch skillet)
Freshly cracked pepper
1 heaping tsp. butter (if you wish to clarify, see instructions below)
First, sweat the leeks. Slice off the ends of the leek and discard. Slice the leek in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into thin half moons. Place the leeks in a bowl filled with cold water and break up the slices with your fingers. Let the leeks sit for a couple of minutes—this allows any dirt to fall to the bottom of the bowl—then scoop them out and transfer them to a colander to drain.
Meanwhile, place a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add a couple teaspoons of olive oil. Pat the leeks dry with a paper towel—it’s okay if they are a little wet—then add them to the pan and cook until they have softened. Add a pinch of kosher salt and continue to sauté the leeks until they are just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and place it next to your stovetop. (Note: If you sliced up three leeks, you will have extra. Store the leeks in the fridge for at least one week. They are delicious in pasta.)
Meanwhile, using a fork or a whisk, beat the eggs until the yolks are broken up and the whites and yolks are nicely mixed—when you lift your fork or whisk from the bowl, they should stream down evenly. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. (You shouldn’t need the oven, but preheat it just in case.)
Line up your ingredients next to your stovetop: butter, salt and pepper (if you haven’t already seasoned your eggs), sautéed leeks, crumbled goat cheese, etc.
Heat an 8- or 9-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. If you have an electric stovetop, this might take 2 to 3 minutes. Add the heaping teaspoon of butter. The butter should sizzle gently and start skidding around the skillet. If it doesn't, your pan isn't hot enough—wait for it to gently sizzle before proceeding. If it starts browning instantly, your pan is too hot, and I would start over. (Just wipe out the butter and let the pan cool down for a little bit.)
Tilt your pan so that the butter coats evenly, then pour your eggs into the center, scraping out the bowl with a spatula. Let the eggs sit for 5 to 10 seconds, gently swirling the pan. When you see the rim of the eggs begin to lighten in color, begin moving them in this fashion: starting at 12 o’clock, drag the eggs down to the center, letting the uncooked egg fill the space behind the moved eggs. Repeat this at the 6 o’clock position, then the 9 o’clock, then the 3 o’clock. Repeat this movement, always starting from a different spot on the skillet, until you are no longer able to move the eggs. The whole process should take about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and remove pan from heat. Sprinkle leeks and goat cheese over top.
At this point, your eggs should look a little soft on top. If they look too unset for your liking, pop the whole pan in the oven for about a minute but not much longer — keep an eye on them.
When you're ready to plate the omelet, run a spatula around the edges. Starting at one end, fold the edge into the center, rolling the omelet into a spiral. Gently ease the omelet out of the pan onto the plate.
1 lb. unsalted butter (It’s easier to make clarified butter by the pound, but you can use any quantity of butter that you wish)
Place butter in a small pot over low heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the foam rises to the top. Skim off foam and discard (or reserve for a later use: oatmeal, bread, polenta, popcorn). Store butter in a mason jar for months. I keep mine at room temperature during the winter, but if you live in a warmer climate, store it in the fridge.
Delicious! Thank you, Alexandra!
P.S. More best recipes, including a lazy egg sandwich and a hangover cure. Plus, French vinaigrette!
(Recipe and photos by Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra's Kitchen. Thanks to Shoko for helping with this series.)