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Real Omelets

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I was served an "omelet" for breakfast in a pretty well known Chicago restaurant yesterday that was basically spinach and feta cheese mixed with eggs and poured into a pan. The eggs were allowed to set and brown, then folded in half, put on a plate and served. I have just learned that that style is called an "American omelet."

In my world, an omelet is the French-style omelet. It is a work of art and a test of the skill of a chef. It is yellow, fluffy and folded around fillings before it is plated and served.

Who serves real French omelets in Chicago?

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  1. Just to clarify - it sounds like you're saying the main difference in styles is that in the so-called "American omelet" the extra ingredients are mixed with the eggs before cooking them, whereas in the "French-style omelet" they remain as a separate layer in the middle when the omelet is folded. Is that correct?

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      I didn't actually know that there were even different styles until I did some research on-line. And there is not a lot of consensus about it. The correct and accurate "main difference" is not what's important here.

      I suspect that what I had was not even a conventional American Omelet, but what the kitchen could get away with. It's just so often what passes for omelets and I'm frustrated because it's not what I want.

      1. re: chicgail

        I'm just trying to help, by understanding the distinction.

        I've always liked the omelets at Walker Brothers, but it's been a while since I've ordered one there, so I'm not sure exactly which kind they serve. What I remember most about them was that they are quite fluffy.

        Another thought - I would expect the omelets at our French bistros to adhere the closest to the "authentic French style". Have you tried them at the French bistros that are open for brunch? Bistro Bordeaux in Evanston and Bistro Campagne in Lincoln Square both have omelets on their brunch menu. (The current brunch menu at Bistro 110 only lists frittatas, in which all ingredients are usually mixed before cooking, and which are not usually folded over.)

        Another possibility might be to order them at a buffet-style Sunday brunch where the chef makes omelets to order, and where you could ask them to make it exactly as you prefer. The more upscale the brunch, the more they might be willing and able to accommodate your specific preference, so I'm thinking about places like NoMI and Seasons.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          The omelets at Walker Brothers are not what I had in mind. They are "fluffy" for sure, but that's because they are whipped just before the are cooked. They sometimes seem to be too browned on the outside and a little undercooked in the middle. In fact, I find their egg white omelets to be like a half-cooked meringue and almost inedible

          The omelets I'm referring to are more like these: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

          1. re: chicgail

            I know exactly what you mean. What passes for an omelet in American restaurants is an egg mixture that has been whipped and then cooked well past the point of tenderness. It is probably made in response to the American desire for quantity over quality, since a true French omelet is a very delicate sort of thing. In fact, if you read Elizabeth David's method for omelet making, it should cook for less than a minute and not be stuffed, just gently filled. I have never had such a thing in a restaurant in America. If you find one, let us know. To my mind, this is the best sort of casual supper, a simple omelet with salad and good bread.

            1. re: dulcie54

              Thank you. I was beginning to think I was an "outlyer." Many years ago I had an omelette aux fine herbes in an ordinary little neighborhood restaurant in Paris. It rocked my world. I had never tasted anything like it. Now I don't expect anything like that, but I wish I knew where to get real deal here in Chicago. I think I'm going to go buy a few dozen eggs and teach how to make it myself.

              1. re: chicgail

                "I think I'm going to go buy a few dozen eggs and teach how to make it myself."

                That's probably a good solution, and Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) is an excellent mentor for this. Other than for some good Greek omelets (filled with feta and spinach) I've had here and about, I've rarely had anything close to what I've had in France or could make for myself--up to the point where I've stopped ordering them. One exception might be La Petite Folie in Hyde Park. They used to have an omelet on their lunch menu, and if it's still there and you threw down the gauntlet, them they might rise up to the challenge.

                -----
                La Petite Folie
                1504 E 55th St, Chicago, IL 60615

                1. re: jbw

                  I watched a rerun of a TV episode of Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home, where Jacques Pepin demonstrated the preparation of a proper French omelet. You might be able to find it on YouTube?

    2. Many (many!) years ago when I lived in New York, I used to go to Mme Romaine de Lyon, a little east side spot that served ... omelettes, real french omelettes ... only omelettes ... you selected the primary ingedient you wanted as filling (many cheese options, many veg options,etc) and then the other items ... and they served you the most perfect omelette ever. The restaurant closed several years ago but there is a cookbook, The Art of Cooking Omelettes. I just checked Amazon and it seems to have become a collectors fave with *very* high prices but it's worth trying to get a copy from the library ... I miss them to this day.

      1. This the spinach and cheese omelet I had, together with this thread started me on an odyssey. I decided to find out how to make the perfect omelet. I will tell you that it was a fool's quest. There is no such thing

        Here's what I learned: No one - not Julia Child - not anyone, really knows how to make the "perfect" omelet. "Rules" I found included:

        • The eggs should be lightly beaten
        • The eggs should be well beaten to be sure there is no visible white
        • The eggs should be whipped to a froth

        • A good omelet has a small amount of water mixed in with the eggs
        • A good omelet has a small amount of heavy cream mixed in with the eggs
        • A good omelet contains nothing but eggs

        • Salt should be mixed in with the eggs at the beginning
        • Salt the omelet only after it is done

        • The heat should be very high
        • The heat should be very low
        • The heat should start high and then be brought down to medium – or turned off all together.

        • Omelets should be folded
        • Omelets should be rolled

        • The best omelet is made with two eggs on a six-inch skillet
        • The best omelet is made with three eggs on a 10-inch skillet

        If you're interested, I actually blogged about my experience at
        http://foodbeest.com/2011/01/17/omele...

        1 Reply
        1. re: chicgail

          This has been great fun to read. One more tip, I bought an all-clad d5 9 inch omelette pan and it has turned me into a regular (and male) julia child with the eggs. yes it was expensive, but there is no way to screw up an omelette in this wonder pan.

          Oh, and to stay more true to a CH topic, the omelette at Cafe des Architechts in the sofitel watertower was great. that was prior to the chef change, but they had terrific french styled breakfast items.

        2. To say I'm really, really picky about eggs is an understatement. Eggs are delicate and should be treated so, especially in this preparation.
          I'd recommend you try Nightwood in Pilsen-- best omelets I've had in the city.
          PS Your last post was hysterical, I can totally relate!