Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fiddling With the Test Kitchen

The current issue of Cook's Illustrated features something they have done in the past: Omelets. I tried out the recipe and whaddya know, it turns out a nearly flawless omelet. While I was making a few for friends, I couldn't help but think that the recipe became too fiddly for its own good.

The big idea this time was that adding little bits of frozen butter to the beaten eggs would slow down cooking and keep the whole thing from browning on the outside (which with this style of omelet is something to avoid). I tried melting down all the butter at the beginning and the end result was exactly the same as with frozen butter. I also found the idea of using 2 whole eggs and one egg white to be just plain silly. I'm never going to use that extra yolk for anything (and the time I need an extra yolk I'm going to forget it's in the freezer), so I tried making the omelet with three whole eggs and it's just fine. The last thing I wondered about is the use of black pepper. When making something such as an omelet where nothing is supposed to get browned, black pepper shows through as little specks, making the diner wonder what you spilled into said omelet.

One thing I would like to work on is tenderness. I know that cold eggs and eggs handled with a heavy hand both contribute to a tougher end product. Will room temperature eggs make the omelet overcook? Will gently pushing the cooked egg with a spatula make for a more tender omelet than one stirred vigorously with chopsticks? If my memory serves me correctly, adding salt toughens the egg proteins too, so that may have to wait until later instead of getting stirred in at the beginning.

I'm currently having problems with excess fat on the plate once the omelet is served. It's entirely possible I'm using too much cheese, but too much butter is the more likely culprit. I'll try weighing the cheese to get a more precise amount than "2 tablespoons shredded cheese"; are you supposed to pack the cheese in or leave it kind of loose?

Anyway, here's the working recipe:

Soon To Be Perfect Cheese Omelet
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/8 tsp regular salt)
Pinch white pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons shredded Gruyère cheese (1 ounce?)

Warm an 8 inch nonstick skillet over low heat for about 10 minutes while preparing ingredients. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, salt, and pepper just until combined. Add butter to skillet, and melt until foam subsides. Swirl butter around sides of pan. Add eggs, and stir with two chopsticks (hold them like you normally do chopsticks), pushing cooked egg toward center of pan until eggs are set on the bottom and still liquid on top. Turn off heat (or remove from burner on an electric stove), sprinkle cheese on top, cover tightly, and let sit for 2 minutes. Remove cover and return to heat for 20 seconds to warm, then fold omelet, turn onto plate, and serve.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Someone heard me...

Apparently the folks at Cook's Illustrated can read minds. I just got the last issue of my current subscription, and lo and behold, they did a whole bunch of stuff like what I wish they did! There's French omelets (I'm having one now and it's flawless), Swedish meatballs, braised short ribs, chicken noodle soup, French toast... and all of it looks sanely done. I just may work my way through the entire magazine this time.