My omelette flippin’ days are over.
I first learned how to make an omelette way back when I was a fledgling fry cook at Elmer’s World Famous Pancake House. Yes, there really was an Elmer; whether or not he is World Famous, only time will tell…
Elmer’s was a chain of restaurants throughout the Western US that were like I-Hops, except everything was made from scratch. They even kept their “secret recipes” in a safe in the office, and that’s no BS. I could tell you how to make their Buckwheat batter, but I’d have to kill you. We had waitresses with names like Betty, and Dot, and Patsy; average age about 60.
There were two facing front doors where lines would begin forming on Saturday and Sunday mornings around 8:00am. The two lines would converge into one and eventually they reached the podium, where this gigantic woman named Judy would assign high school girls in ill-fitting, covered-wagon-pioneer-lady uniforms with shower-cap-style hats, to shuttle customers into two cavernous dining rooms. There were about 200 seats on each side and they would all fill up, with the tables turning steadily every 45 minutes, until about 1:00pm. Busy doesn’t begin to cover it.
At Elmer’s we flipped everything: the pancakes of course, crepes, eggs in a pan, hash browns, burgers, sausage; we would even do the precision “Spat Flip” where all four cooks on the line would toss their spatulas in the air simultaneously, like baton twirlers in the Fourth of July parade, execute the triple flip and catch them by their handles. The kitchen had a long, narrow window so you could see us from our chests to the tops of our Chef’s hats. The people waiting in line for Big Judy to bestow them a table would see the spats fly into the air, disappear behind the top of the window, then re-appear; we would catch them in unison and continue on making twenty billion sets of eggs-over-easy without even cracking a smile. We were like a low-rent Benihana, with bacon.
So here’s the omelette procedure I learned at Elmer’s, which I repeated about a billion times, without fail, in my five years of weekend morning-with-a-hangover shifts:
Hot pan, a little Pan-Dandy (non-stick spray), three ounce ladle of whipped eggs; cook the eggs until slightly set; flip it by doing that cool wrist thing where you get the disc of eggs slightly airborne, then point the front end of the pan downward and catch it, dropping it perfectly back into the pan. Add fillings, roll it up and turn it out onto a plate and slide it over to the “Wheel Man” who would add hash browns or the World Famous Buttermilk Pancakes and the obligitory sprig of parsely. Betty or Patsy would stack the plates, six or so on each arm, and carry them out to the waiting masses.
So I have always thought that omelettes needed to be flipped, until the “Julia craze” hit a few months back with the release of the movie Julie and Julia. My wife bought a first edition of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” off Amazon (1961) and I finally started to read it. Her instructions on omelette making are no less than 10 pages long, and no where does she mention flipping anything (although there is a passage about smacking your fist on the handle of the pan to “loosen the omelette and make the far edge curl over onto itself.” If a six-foot tall woman in an apron gave me “4 or 5 sharp blows to the handle with her fist” I would curl over on myself too…)
Tried the “Julia technique” this morning with a sausage, feta, and calamata omelette and I gotta say, I am a convert. No more macho-man, high-wire-flipping of the eggs. Elmer may have claimed to be “World Famous”, but Julia is. I gotta go with Julia.