Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Omelettes: No Need For Non-Stick

We've all done it before: had to scrape a carpet of egg off the bottom of our skillet when trying to make an omelette (though those browned bits are tasty). America's Test Kitchen recommends just using a non-stick skillet since it's easier to avoid getting eggs stuck in them. But what if you don't want to use non-stick cookware because: (1) you can't get as good of browning/deglazing with it, (2) you can't safely heat it as high as all-metal cookware without worrying about degrading and leeching chemicals, (3) it doesn't last as long as all-metal cookware, and (4) it just takes up more space and costs more to have more cookware? Well, I'm here to tell you that you can easily

There is a simple trick to make it so your eggs don't stick: bring your eggs to room temperature before cooking them. Or at least warmer than just out of the refrigerator. And of course this is assuming you've properly heated your pan and oil before adding in your eggs.

How do you do that? Well you could let the eggs just sit for maybe 10-15 minutes, but I find that the fastest way is to submerge them in a bowl of warm water for a couple minutes until they no longer feel cold to the touch. Once they're at that point, your ready to go.*

Actually, this principle applies to meat, too, and tofu. Basically, if your food is too cold when you put it in the hot pan, it's gonna stick. So let your meat or tofu or whatever (or the exterior at least) warm up somewhat before cooking by letting it rest outside the refrigerator for a while, 10-30 minutes depending on how warm the ambient air is.** Or, you could apply the same principle as the uncracked eggs in warm water--if your meat is conveniently vacuum sealed in plastic (or in a ziplock bag with the air squeezed out), you could put the package in a container of warm water to speed things up (also handy for thawing more quickly). I find that the time it takes me to prep other ingredients is a convenient window of time to let the meat/tofu come to temperature, though, so I don't bother with a warm water bath if it's not frozen.

Finally, what's in my omelette? This one was fried black beans (frijoles refritos), quick-steamed spinach, and chipotle tomatillo salsa. The spinach I steamed using a microwaving technique I learned from Bayless's Mexican Everyday. The basic idea is to put whatever vegetable you want to quickly steam/parboil in microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with water or add several tablespoons water depending on how much you're cooking, and then cover with a microwave safe plate or plastic rap with several holes poked in the top to allow steam to escape. Then you just microwave on high until the veggies are done. For this tiny amount of spinach I only needed 30 seconds. For a pound of broccoli you might need about 3 minutes. It's a very handy technique!

Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

*Tangentially, check out Kitchn's post on whether refrigerating eggs is necessary.

**DON'T set out frozen meat and wait for it to reach room temperature. It'll take so long that the outside will start to grow harmful bacteria before the center thaws. Let it thaw in the refrigerator instead before proceeding.


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