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I was on my way to a cooking audition for Martha Stewart and didn’t want to fail. My newly acquired culinary school skills did me right, until the omelet. How could I forget the basic technique for making the perfect fluffy egg?
Originally published on KSL.com
I walked into the 42nd Street offices of Martha Stewart looking professional wearing my first skirt-suit and carrying a bag with recipes tucked inside. I was greeted at reception and escorted down a flight of stairs. That’s when I saw her, and my heart skipped a beat. Martha was standing at the bottom of the stairs. As I passed her, the nerves I had been carefully squelching went haywire. I couldn’t believe I was on my way to audition for an icon!
I was 22 and just about to finish my culinary arts degree from Utah State University — my classmates and I were the second graduating class. While most of my classmates wanted to become chefs or caterers, I spent time in my dorm devouring food magazines like Fine Cooking, Gourmet, Bon Appetite and Martha Stewart Living and asked my culinary professors, “Who makes the food in these pictures?” I wanted to be THAT person. I wanted to be a food stylist.
I applied for internships everywhere, and got a steady stream of “no’s.” Then I got a response from the test kitchen director for Martha Stewart Magazine. Of all the places to crack open a door! She said she only took kitchen interns from the CIA (The Culinary Institute of America just north of New York City), but she would give me a try. I bought a plane ticket and showed up at the famed Martha Stewart Offices at 11 West 42nd St.
The official test kitchen was just doors from Martha’s personal office. I lingered for the tiniest moment as we passed her glass-walled office and tried to soak in every inch, from the fresh flowers on her desk to the windowed view of the Empire State Building and downtown Manhattan.
But once in the test kitchen, I faced the cooking test of a lifetime. I had come armed with a three-course meal I had planned and perfected at school. After sweating, sifting and stirring for three hours I confidently presented the dishes to the test kitchen director, Susan Sugarman, who was notorious for being opinionated.
Sugarman dipped her fork into each dish, taking the tiniest of bites, without giving any hint of a smile of approval. Then she revealed that my test was only half over.
She handed me a cake recipe as well as a list of cooking tasks that included chopping an onion to medium-sized dice, cooking pasta al dente, and mincing garlic to a fine paste. I spent another three hours making the cake and breezed through the other tasks. The final task I thought I had in the bag, “make a fluffy 3-egg omelet.”
I had passed the egg tests in cooking school with flying colors. I was confident I could make any egg, in any preparation, flawlessly.
I started in on the fluffy 3-egg omelet. I whisked and whipped the eggs until they were foamy and proceeded to make a classic omelet, seasoned with salt and pepper.
“Not fluffy enough, and it needs more salt,” said Sugarman. “Make it again, fluffier.”
I whisked faster, harder and more this time; beating as much air into those three eggs as I possibly could. Seasoned it with a bit more salt this time and presented my creation to her.
Nope. “Not fluffy enough,” she said again. “Make another one.”
A third omelet? What was I doing wrong? How was I going to make it fluffier? I was panicked. I was whisking for all I was worth, and did not want to fail. I certainly did not want to fail on an omelet of all things.
I whisked until I could whisk no more and there it was, a third omelet that looked just like the others. I knew it and Sugarman knew it. I had failed.
Sugarman told me she would get back to me in a few days. I left her with pleading in my voice, letting her know I was a fast learner, and could do whatever they needed me to if I got the chance. I flew back to Utah with a pit in my stomach.
The next day I recounted my experience to my chefs, professors and classmates. They barraged me with questions about Martha Stewart, but I had one pressing question for them. “How do you make a fluffy omelet?”
One classmate immediately answered, “It’s simple, whip the egg whites separate from the yolks until peaks form, and then add the yolks.”
Of course! Egg whites without the yolks get extremely fluffy; the fat in the yolks inhibits this, so they must be separated first. I thought I had jeopardized my chances at working with Martha Stewart by not remembering this simple cooking skill.
Miraculously my lackluster performance did not get in the way of securing the internship. Sugarman called to inform me I was the new intern at Martha Stewart.
The audition that I failed ended up changing my life. I would fly to New York after graduation, the city I would call home for the next two decades. There, I would work my way up to senior food editor, and I spent six years at Martha Stewart, learning to develop recipes, cooking with her on TV and becoming a food stylist — the job of my dreams. I was finally the one making the food in the magazines, and not just any magazine, Martha Stewart Living.
And to think it almost didn’t happen — thanks to a fluffy omelet!
Needless to say I have never forgotten how to make a proper omelet since. Here is my recipe for a fluffy omelet, courtesy of The American Egg Board. Called a soufflé omelet, the whites and yolks are separated and whipped separately. If ever you need to make a fluffy omelet for Martha Stewart, I’d use this method.
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar OR lemon juice
- 4 egg yolks, room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon butter OR vegetable oil
- HEAT oven to 350°F. COMBINE egg whites, water and cream of tartar in large mixer bowl. BEAT with whisk attachment on high speed until stiff but not dry, just until whites no longer slip when bowl is tilted.
- BEAT egg yolks and salt in small mixer bowl on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gently but thoroughly FOLD yolks into whites.
- HEAT butter in 10-inch nonstick omelet pan or skillet with ovenproof handle over medium-high heat until hot. POUR IN egg mixture; gently smooth surface. Reduce heat to medium. COOK until omelet is puffed and lightly browned on bottom, about 5 minutes. (Lift omelet at edge with spatula to judge color.)
- PLACE pan in 350°F oven. BAKE until knife inserted halfway between center and outer edge comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes. LOOSEN omelet edge with spatula. SERVE immediately.
This simple French-inspired oven-baked soufflé omelet can be made savory or sweet. Fill it with cheese, meat and vegetables or top it with fresh fruit compote and whipped cream.
Puffy omelets begin to deflate when removed from oven, so plan to serve immediately.
To serve folded: Using sharp knife, cut across center of omelet, cutting through upper surface but not through to the bottom of omelet. Top with filling, if desired. Tip pan. Fold omelet in half with turner and invert onto warmed plate with a quick flip of the wrist. Cut in half or into quarters.
To serve open-faced: Invert pan over warmed plate, or slide omelet from pan onto plate. Top with filling, if desired. Cut in half or into quarters.
You say “Golden Globes” and all I hear is “party.” I love any excuse to get people together, have fun, and of course, eat!
I’ve pulled together some of my favorite ideas to throw the Golden Globes get-together of your dreams—everything from food and decor to games and favors. And if you haven’t been dreaming for weeks about a Golden Globes party, not to worry, because these ideas are so simple you can pull them together with time to spare for the big bash.
For an easy treat, try dipping the tops of donuts in a simple icing, and then adding gold sugar or sparkles.
The entrance sets the tone for the entire party, so why not wow your guests and welcome them in style? I love the idea of doing a red carpet. If you don’t have an actual red carpet, you can use a roll of red paper, fabric, or a long red plastic tablecloth. You can even go a more simple route and just decorate your entrance with gold stars and helium balloons. I love the look of this entrance Red Tricycle did for a Netflix viewing party.
The paparazzi may not be hanging out around your house, but if you give your guests a selfie stick, you can pretend like they are. If you still have gold or silver Christmas wrapping paper and New Years photo booth props laying around the house, then you’re halfway to the finish line on this one. Put the wrapping paper on the wall and set out the props and selfie stick. It’s as simple as that. Trust me, your guests will have no problem taking it from there.
If you really want to take your photo booth to the next level, try this sequined backdrop from Oh Happy Day.
And the Golden Globe award goes to . . . anyone you choose. Have everyone cast their votes on these fun printable ballots, then see who gets the most answers correct.
Golden Globes Bingo
What’s a party without a little friendly competition? I’ve created this bingo board (you can download it here) to track the funny and noteworthy moments of the night. You’ll be hoping a winner takes a selfie, someone says it’s the “end of an era,” or a speech gets cut off by music. With four different cards, the competition will be stiff as you each race to mark off five in a row. You have to be on your toes though, or you might just miss your chance to mark off a celeb looking bored.
Not everyone nominated at the Golden Globes takes home a statue, but at my parties I like everyone to leave with a little something. These balloon “statues” are a fun take away for your guests. You can use mini statues like the ones below from Studio DIY, or you can make a simpler version. Personally, I like to wrap candy bars in paper (the fancier, the better) and label them with different “awards” like best dressed, most selfies, prettiest mani, etc. Tie a helium balloon to each candy bar, and you’ve got a fun gift in the spirit of the event.
If you missed it, here is the video of me running through all these tips on the Today Show.
Today on tv Brooke and I talked about holiday parties, holiday recipes, food buffets, how much to serve your guests and how to make food gifts at home that look like artisan delicacies!
I love visiting the beautiful Brooke Walker on Studio 5, on KSL here in Utah. She is honestly such an amazing host. So genuine and keeps the show upbeat, positive and informative.
We had so much fun talking about (well I talked everyone’s ears off) holiday-worthy apps and bites as well as delicious sweets that are perfect gifts.
I live on the upper west side of Manhattan. There are several grocery stores and gourmet food markets, right in my neighborhood that have the most amazing cheese counters. I’ve picked some favorites out over the years and I know a bit about different cheeses, cultures and flavors–but I’m no cheesemonger! It’s still a bit overwhelming when I go to buy a variety for a party cheeseboard.
If cheesemongering isn’t your expertise, then this guide will help you. I’ve included some of my faves and others that make for a good variety and beautiful presentation on a cheese plate. Because…that’s what I’m into.
Party pointers for serving cheese:
• When you shop at your local cheese counter, or gourmet food store, ask to sample the cheeses you’re interested in buying – they expect you to.
• How much should you get? Figure on 1-to-2-oz of each cheese per person. It’s sold by weight so you can add up the numbers.
• Have labels for each cheese on the platter so people can remember the ones they especially like. You can make your own, write it with wax pen on a slate or buy those cute little reusable labels.
• Cheese doesn’t taste its best when served too cold, so take it out of the fridge an hour or so in advance.
Putting together that board:
- You can’t go wrong with a Swiss-style cheese like Uplands Pleasant Ridge from Wisconsin, or even a classic Gruyère.
- Goat’s-milk chèvre, with its tangy flavor, is a crowd-pleaser. I like spicy Majorero Pimentó, rubed withpaprika – or try Cypress Grove Chèvre.
- Every board should contain at least one buttery-soft cheese like Brillat-Savarin, Brie or Camembert Châtelain.
- For an adventurous crowd, choose a pungent cheese that has been “bathed” in salt water or wine for added flavor. Try Stanser Rotelli or an Époisses.
- Not all cheddars are created equal. Include a crumbly English-style variety, such as Grafton Special Reserve Clothbound Cheddar, from Vermont, or a French Cantalet.
- No board is complete without a sharp, fragrant blue. I like Oregon’s Rogue River Blue and Grassland Blue from Minnesota.
• To keep and store cheese, wrap it first in parchment or waxed paper, then loosely in plastic wrap or place in a ziptop bag. Many will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
• Don’t throw out the rinds! Toss them into soups, stews and sauces when you’re cooking for extra richness and flavor.
• A dollop of chutney or jam tastes great with salty, tangy cheeses, while a drizzle of honey delivers sweet balance to sharp cheeses like aged cheddar. Dried fruits and nuts are delicious with many types of cheese and it’s always nice to have rustic bread and plain crackers to nibble on.
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Originally published in Ladies Home Journal November 2010
Prop Stylist: Jen Everett
Photographer: Paula Hible
Cooking in parchment is an easy, low-fat and fun way to do dinner.
- 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ⅓ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp red-pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup golden raisins
- 3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- Heat oven to 400ºF. Place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to an even ½-thickness. Prepare four 20-by-30-inch pieces of parchment: fold in half and cut into a half-heart shape. Unfold and place chicken on one side of each paper.
- In a bowl combine parsley, garlic, zest, salt and red-pepper flakes. Divide mixture among chicken breasts, covering the surface of each piece. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts.
- Fold parchment over chicken breasts and pleat in 1-inch increments, folding edges over tightly to seal packet. Fold the last pleat underneath the packet. Place packets on a baking sheet; bake until packets are puffed and chicken is cooked through, 15 min.
- Carefully transfer packets to plates, cut the paper across the top and tear to open.
If you’re French you call this cooking technique “en papillote.” I am not French, so we’re calling it Chicken In Paper. (But feel free to throw that French term around if you want to impress folks with your foodie genius.)
En Papillote means to cook something in paper…parchment paper in this instance. Your prepped food, lean meats, vegetables, seasonings, etcetera go into a sealed packet and essentially get steamed in the oven. Usually it takes about 15 minutes (remember, steam is super hot–this stuff cooks fast!), and your results are locked in flavor, moisture and a really cool presentation.
For even faster cooking, give your chicken a few taps with the rolling pin or meat mallet to flatten.
For cute parchment packets, fold 20-by-30-inch pieces in half and cut into half-heart shapes. Unfold and fill.
Fold tightly around the open edge to seal, tucking the final pleat under.