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Master the art of the perfect French omelet
Classic French Herb Omelet
Photo: Tasting Table 

Diner omelets are OK. Those made-to-order stuffed ham-and-cheese ones you get from a hotel buffet aren't bad either. But here's what we want when we talk about omelets: the classic French omelet (see the recipe). It's an herbed egg pillow, luscious with custardy curds coddled inside a smooth, buttery skin. So simple yet so divine.

The technique isn't complicated, but it takes a little practice to get right. Here's how it's done:

Equipment is key. Like perfect scrambled eggs, a heatproof rubber spatula is key for swiping the bottom and sides for a clean finish. Whisk with a fork, like Jacques Pépin does. Since we are going for a perfectly smooth outer skin, pour your eggs into a buttered six- or eight-inch nonstick skillet. It makes sliding the omelet onto your plate effortless.

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Melting butter matters. And about that buttered pan: Use unsalted butter and barely let it foam. Otherwise, the butter could turn brown and take on a rough texture, which would yield something more like a country-style omelet. For the classic French variety, we are aiming for a clean, smooth finish.

Shake and stir. The classic French preparation demands quick cooking in a hot pan, but for novices who want consistent curds that aren't too wet or too dry, stick with medium heat. It takes about one to two minutes for this to happen, and it's critical that you are stirring and shaking the pan the entire time.

Aim for underdone. Yep, you read that correctly. Underdone. When the omelet is uniformly set with a center that's slightly runny, remove it from the heat and let it sit and firm up for 10 to 20 seconds. This allows the residual heat to set the curds without overcooking the bottom.

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