Cross-links. Protein. Butter. And how to make fluffier omelettes.
Need to prepare a quick, yummy and nutritious bite? What could be simpler than cracking a few eggs and frying up an omelette or two? From the fridge to the table, it takes barely 2-3 minutes, and the eggs are packed with goodness.
When we fry an egg, the egg’s proteins form new chemical bonds with each other called cross-links. This in turn forces out water, and the eggs thicken and coagulate (the famous French chef, Auguste Escoffier, who popularized French cooking, calls an omelette “scrambled eggs held together in a coagulated skin“). This coagulation forms a gel-like structure making the omelette firm, even tough.
But if we want something softer, we need to find a way to minimize the thickening and coagulation of the egg’s proteins. This is where butter comes in. Obviously for those of us who like butter, it gives the omelette a distinctive yummy taste. But the butter also plays another important role. Butter’s fat coats the proteins, making it harder for the proteins to cross-link with each other. The result is a softer and fluffier omelette.
Getting fat can thus make a big difference. According to Eater and Harvard University, an omelette made without butter can hold up a two-pound (slightly below one kilogram) weight. An omelette made with butter was crushed immediately (you can see a photo of that at their page). Hence, just like in real life, getting fat often makes us less strong, but in this case, arguably none of us would mind!
Don’t let the simplicity of omelette recipes fool you though. It takes great mastery something so simple simple. The venerable food write Harold McGee writes “If good scrambled eggs demand patience, a good omelette takes panache.” In the movie The Hundred Foot Journey, the owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant uses the omelette as an test for aspiring chefs who apply to work at her restaurant.
She does that because “she knows in just one mouthful, if a chef has the potential to be great” (see the video above – watch for 10 seconds after you click play). And that’s precisely what the aspiring chef in the movie does. He walks up to the restaurant and… (see video below – watch for 5 seconds after you click play):
Of course, getting fat is just the start of making a great omelette. We have to get many other things right too. Makes it both eggs-tra challenging and eggs-citing at the same time!
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