MEET THE SOUS CHEF
IAN MUNTZERT, CHEF DE CUISINE, COMMONWEALTH
In contrast to Fairbanks, Alaska, where Ian Muntzert grew up, San Francisco is a verdant paradise. The chef de cuisine of Commonwealth, a progressive American restaurant in the city’s Mission District, spent summers exploring the Alaskan bush with his father, a geologist, and comments, “The growing season there is so short. It’s almost over before it starts.”
At Commonwealth, Muntzert takes full advantage of the Bay Area’s bounty, applying a mixture of fundamentals and modern techniques to top-rate farmers’ market finds. But at the end of a long shift, Muntzert isn’t messing with liquid nitrogen or hydrocolloids. Instead, he prepares a textbook omelet, teaching us an important, awesome trick for making it as fluffy as possible.
TRACK THIS CHEF
DAY IN THE LIFE
"When I was a kid, I'd get helicoptered into the Alaskan bush for the summer with my dad, a geologist. Around that time, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut."
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
Muntzert's Omelet Trick
To make the fluffiest omelet, Muntzert adds small cubes of chilled butter to the beaten eggs. "It's kind of like puff pastry," he explains. "As the butter melts, it coats the egg, creating these fluffy layers."
On Making Restaurant-Quality Food
"Add the amount of salt you think you should, then add another pinch."
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
6 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 scallion, finely chopped
6 mushrooms (preferably black trumpet), stemmed and chopped
1 large asparagus spear, tough end snapped off
2 tablespoons English peas (frozen are fine)
3 large eggs
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
1. Cut the butter into ¼-inch pieces, place on a plate and refrigerate.
2. In a small skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the scallion and cook until soft and tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small plate and set aside. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil to the pan with the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook until the mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the scallions.
3. Fill a medium bowl with ice and water and set aside. Bring a small saucepan or a small and deep skillet (the asparagus stalk should easily fit in the pan) of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus stalk, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 6 minutes. Use tongs to transfer the asparagus to the ice water and set aside. Return the water to a boil and add the peas to the water and cook until bright green and tender (yet still with snap), about 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peas to the ice water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl and using a fork, whip the eggs until well mixed but not frothy. Add ½ teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the chilled butter.
5. Heat an 8-inch carbon steel or cast-iron omelet pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil and heat until nearly smoking, about 30 seconds.
6. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and immediately reduce the heat to low. While using one hand to swirl the pan, use the other hand to stir the eggs with the back of a fork in the opposite direction. Once the eggs are mostly cooked yet still tender and wet looking, stop stirring so the eggs can form a skin on the bottom. Turn the pan so the handle is in front of your left hand--or right hand if you’re a lefty (it should be parallel to the edge of the stove).
7. Add the scallions, mushrooms, peas, asparagus spear and goat cheese to the lower third of the omelet closest to the pan’s handle. Reverse your grip on the pan handle so your palm is facing up. Still gripping the pan, use your right hand (reverse if you’re a lefty) to firmly yet quickly hit the handle to release the eggs from the bottom of the pan. Use a heat-safe rubber spatula and a firm shaking motion to help you roll the omelet into a tight cigar shape and slide or roll it out onto a plate. Sprinkle with tarragon and serve.