Like Riding a Bike?

Like Riding a Bike?

It’s been a good week since I cooked anything more complicated than oatmeal—we spent last weekend with family (mine on Saturday, his on Sunday), and during the week I was either out or working, and too exhausted to cook when I got home. S was working just as hard, so we ordered in a lot. This morning I woke up itching to make something. It didn’t have to be fancy, just fresh and tasty, and homemade. I lay in bed, S snoozing beside me, and did a mental inventory of the fridge’s contents. There—on the top shelf, propped up on the parmigiano reggiano and six kinds of mustard—a container of crimini mushrooms. And down beneath, a dozen eggs. A little thyme in the crisper, an onion in the pantry. Omelettes. We’d have omelettes for breakfast—sophisticated but simple. Perfect.

Well, maybe not. In all honesty, the only time I successfully prepared an omelette in the French manner was years ago, during a cooking class at Peter Kump (now ICE). Within the confines of my own kitchen, I’ve never once managed to shuffle the egg pancake down to the bottom third of the pan and flip it over upon itself. Not once. I gave up trying, in fact, and settled for making omelettes the way my dad used to—by sliding it out onto a plate, inverting the pan over the plate, and flipping the whole thing. The filling gets spread on the right side, and the egg gets folded over it. You end up with a thoroughly-cooked, thin egg experience, but hell, I like it that way.

So what on earth possessed me to attempt the classic omelette technique? It was doomed to failure. My cooking skills were creaky enough after a week’s laxity, but somehow I was convinced that if I could just make it work this once, I’d be back in fighting condition. Um, no.

The onion/mushroom/thyme part went off without a hitch, filling the kitchen with the homey smell I’d been missing. I emptied them out into a bowl and gave the pan a good spritz with Pam, then whipped together three egg whites, one whole egg, and a little water. Poured that into the pan, and let it cook untouched until the edges started to set. Pulled the cooked edges into the center, letting the still-liquid parts run out to get their face-time with the pan. Here was where the trouble began: the edges were sticking, and the runny parts weren’t really filling in the gaps I’d created. Bits of browned onion (duh, I hadn’t wiped out the pan) were mixing in with the omelette. It was beginning to look more like scrambled eggs than anything. I lowered the heat and let it sit for another minute, hoping that it would coalesce into the desired egg pancake, but it just never came together. I gave up, and scrambled me some eggs. When they were cooked, I put half of the mushroom mixture on top. It would still taste good, I figured, even if it didn’t look pretty. I added a little fleur de sel and some freshly ground pepper to tart it up, and set it aside to try again.

Thinking that perhaps the dirty pan might have been the problem, I wiped it out with a wet paper towel before starting on the second omelette. This time, I’d get it right. Even more Pam, in case I hadn’t used enough before. And when I poured in the egg mixture, it seemed to be working. My creation was definitely behaving more like an omelette. It wasn’t until the fancy turning maneuver that things went awry. I gripped the pan underhand as I’d been instructed, and shimmied the eggs toward the far edge. They actually moved, which was exciting, but I guess I shimmied a little too vigorously—I’d neglected to add the filling, and while I was struggling to grab the bowl without dropping the eggs…well…I dropped the eggs. Part of them, anyway—about a third slipped off the side of the pan and onto the stove. On the verge of tears, I left the mushrooms where they were and set about resuscitating my omelette. It almost looked normal, so I poured the mushroom filling on top and called it a day.

My original plan was for S to eat the first omelette while I prepared the second, since they don’t hold particularly well, but when I messed it up I thought it was only fair to give him what I hoped would be the good one. The result: S ate a pseudo-omelette that he said tasted pretty damn good, while I ate cold scrambled eggs and mushrooms. It was not a satisfying way to re-invigorate my cooking muscles.