The perfect egg is a puzzle. Professional chefs, and even scientists, disagree on how to make the best eggs; home cooks simply have a tendency to overcook them. Bottom line: "It's all personal taste," says the great David Waltuck, James Beard award-winning chef-owner of élan, his highly anticipated new restaurant opening this summer in New York City. Waltuck has been making eggs all his life, even before he and his wife, Karen, brought fine dining downtown with their acclaimed restaurant Chanterelle, which closed for good in 2009. Understandably, he has deep knowledge of what works best. "Mastering the art of cooking an egg requires a little patience," Waltuck says. "It's difficult to do a lot at the same time, but with practice it becomes easier." Here, he teaches us how to make gorgeous eggs in six classic ways, and he offers one easy but fabulous recipe for shirred (baked) eggs with ham and tomato.
How to Make an Omelet
Waltuck likes to use a cast-iron omelet pan that's well seasoned, but you can also use a sauté pan. He strongly recommends using clarified butter, which keeps for weeks in the fridge (see below to learn how to make it).
To make an omelet for one person, break three eggs into a bowl, add a tablespoon of milk, and salt and pepper to taste; whisk until combined. Heat the omelet pan until very hot. Then add a tablespoon of clarified butter, swirling it around in the pan to coat the bottom and sides evenly.
Add the egg mixture and immediately begin stirring with a fork so that you're kind of scrambling the eggs from the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down after the bottom of the eggs begins to solidify, and add desired fillings, such as chopped vegetables, cheese, and meat. Let the omelet set for a few seconds, then turn off the heat and roll the omelet. It should be smooth, egg colored, and a little runny in the center.
To make clarified butter: In a separate pan, heat butter until it melts, then turn off the heat. Skim off what's on top with a large spoon, save the clear butter, and discard the milk solids. The benefit of clarified butter is that it's purer fat and burns at a higher temperature, which is ideal for an omelet.
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