Monday, January 20, 2014

Cook's Day Off - Operation "Omelette Farcie"

Well, it's been quite a while since I've had the motivation to post anything here, but my Mom gave me a pretty solid idea.  I've been spending most of my days off cooking for myself lately, little experiments with dishes/techniques I've wanted to try, so why not document them?

For kicks, I'll include what I was listening to while cooking.  A big part of cooking (for me anyways) is having the right sountrack while you're working.  It's completely subjective, but I think it's as essential as pairing the right wine or beer with a meal.  Today I chose The Clash's "Combat Rock" album.  Mostly because it's a classic and has a great tempo for cooking, but also "Straight to Hell" will be playing right around the time it could all fall apart.

No guarantees, but I'll try to be disciplined enough to document them here on regular "Cook's Day Off" posts.  To kick things off, I decided to start with one of the many great absurdities in classical French cooking, and a pro-level egg cookery maneuver.  

Project: Omelette Farcie
Soundtrack: The Clash "Combat Rock"

Eggs are easily one of the most incredible, versatile ingredients in the food world.  There are countless preparations of just eggs, and countless more uses as an ingredient in the sweet and savory worlds.  A civilian might think cooking eggs is no big deal, but much can be learned about a professional cook by how he or she handles an egg...and some harsh judgement and doubt can be the result of a poorly cooked egg.

I first learned of the Omelette Farcie from Peter Ireland, chef/owner of The Lynn on Bryant, and one of my current bosses (I'm also working at Clancey's Meat & Fish).  If I remember correctly, properly executing one was part of his interview for a job at Café Boulud in Manhattan.  

What is an Omelette Farcie, you ask?  To put it simply, it's an omelet stuffed with scrambled eggs.  Simple, right?  Well, kind of, but this is French cooking we're talking about, so there are more steps than you'd think, and it takes about a half hour to make.  Since I have the day off, and another hellish "polar vortex" is work it's way into the area, why not attempt the king of all French omelets.

For more comprehensive direction, get Issue 9 of Lucky Peach, and Daniel Boulud will tell you how to make one.  

What you need - a double boiler, a good omelet pan, 8 eggs, a couple tablespoons of butter, some salt (preferably some nice Fleur de Sel), chives, white pepper.

Bring the double boiler to a gentle simmer, add 3 eggs (pre-whisked) and start whisking your little heart out.  try to keep the sides clean and make sure you move the whisk around.  Add the chives and season with salt and white pepper before the eggs go in the double boiler.  Slowly, the eggs will begin to take on a custard-y texture.  Keep whisking until a very fine curd starts to form, then remove the bowl from heat, add a couple tablespoons of cold butter and whisk to incorporate.  It will have a texture something like pudding.

While your whisking away, have an omelette pan over low heat ready to go.  Once the scrambles are done and holding, crank the heat on the pan, add some oil (Lucky Peach says clarified butter, but I didn't want to deal with that) and a tablespoon of butter.  Once the butter is foaming, pour in the remaining five whisked eggs.  Let the eggs set for a moment, then start whisking vigorously with a fork to create a smooth curd and prevent browning.

Once the eggs are beginning to firm up, but are still slightly wet, start rolling, adding some of the scrambles.  Once the omelet is rolled onto a plate with the seam-side down, slice open the top with a sharp knife and stuff the rest of the scrambles in.

This is the result.

Nailed it (I think.  I'll have to ask Peter to be sure).  Just need to brush up on my rolling technique.  A perfect in-pan roll is a feat unto itself.  Part of the problem was the beat up pan I was using, but there was a little operator-error in that I was hurrying.

The finished product was incredible.  A perfect example of two directions you can take whisked eggs.  As I said before, the scrambles had the texture of pudding with a very fine curd, and the omelet was smooth, firm, but just set.  Perfectly seasoned, and the chives gave it a little herby brightness.  Apparent simplicity in the subtly-complicated way only the French can do.

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