The Dirty Secret of ‘Secret Family Recipes’

“…true originality is rare. Multiple cookbook authors have stories of asking people to send in family recipes and receiving dozens of nearly identical versions. “A lot of that has to do with [recipes sharing] very common ingredients,” says Stephanie Pierson, who wrote in to describe her experience asking for brisket recipes.

—Alex Mayyasi. “The Dirty Secret of ‘Secret Family Recipes’.” February, 27, 2018.

Omelets, Perfection & Life

Several years ago, I stumbled across an article in Gourmet magazine called “Chasing Perfection” by Francis Lam. This is how it starts:

“Before Chef Skibitcky got ahold of my brain, I, like every other rational person, thought an omelet was something anyone can make. You throw eggs in a pan, stir them around, fold them in half, and put them on a plate. Done. No-brainer. It only gets interesting when you start tossing in other things—ham, some cheese, maybe a sautéed mushroom or two.”

Reading on, this article about the “perfect omelete” made with just a few simple ingredients: three eggs, salt, pepper and a little butter “got ahold of my brain”. I had to try my hand at it. How hard can it be? It’s turned into a minor obsession.

I have gone through periods over the last several years since, trying to make this “perfect omelete”. I’ve come close, maybe one or two times. It turns out it is pretty hard and the key is having good technique.

Since then, I’ve had friends ask me for a omelete making recipe, “for the lay person,” the unobsessed. I now recommend this article that explains some of the finer details. Initially, I was skeptical about adding Boursin, “the French Velveeta.” But, it does a nice job of adding a little fudge factor that helps you get that soft internal texture that you hope to get with the classic french omelet.

The things I might suggest that would improve this recipe for people that don’t make 30 omelets during a breakfast/lunch shift is to use lower heat (somewhere between low and medium, but closer to low – with a final 5-10 second burst of high heat at the end), breaking up the curds as they form with a fork if you can’t get them with the spatula, and adding a little butter around the edges helps to roll it up at the end. Even if you aren’t much of a cook, it’s worth giving it a try.

If you were like me before reading this article, you’ve probably never had a really well-prepared omelet. You will be amazed at the difference. Omelette making may, in the end, be trivial. But, I like how the “Chasing Perfection” article ends. Lam writes:

Three eggs, salt, pepper, and a little butter. That’s all there is in a classic French omelet, but it’s enough to keep reteaching me this vital lesson: Things are only simple when you’ve stopped asking the right questions of them, when you’ve stopped finding new ways to see them. Because what you find, when you learn how to find it, is that even simple things can be wonderfully, frustratingly, world-openingly complex.

Omelette making invites us to ask: What else in my life, besides omelets, have I stopped asking the right questions about? Where have I settled for the simple answer rather than “the frustratingly, world-openingly complex” one? The advantage of omelete making is that even when you make mistakes – it doesn’t roll off right, the skin of the omelete is too thick, or you didn’t stir enough and have to settle for a scramble – the end result is always a really tasty egg dish that’s still better than 90% of what you’ve have eaten in your life.

Spiced Maple Caramels

Time / Yield

2 hours / 100+ wrapped caramels (45 minutes to cook, 1 hour and 15 minutes to wrap)


  • 2 cups, heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups, sugar (light brown or regular)
  • 6 tablespoons, unsalted butter (more to taste)
  • 1 cup, light corn syrup (can use all of 11.2 oz. bottle)
  • 1 cup, maple syrup (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon, cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon, fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon, course salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon, vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon, ground cloves
  • pinch of cayenne pepper


  • 8 quart pot
  • 9″ x 9″ silicon baking pan (alternatively, grease regular pan with oil, line with parchment paper and grease again)
  • candy thermometer
  • wax paper or cellophane (easiest to buy high quality caramel wrappers from Amazon)


  1. Bring cream, sugar, butter, corn syrup, maple syrup to a boil in 8 quart pot and stir until sugar dissolves and butter melts and blends. Once dissolved, reduce heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramel reaches 248°F.
  2. Once at 248°F, remove caramel from heat and thoroughly stir in cinnamon, vanilla extract, ground cloves, cayenne pepper. Add salt last, and briefly stir, which will leave it only partially dissolved.
  3. Pour into silicon pan. And let stand, covered with a paper towel. (I tend to put it in the refrigerator overnight and cut and wrap the next day.)
  4. When cooled to room temperature, transfer to cutting board, and cut into 1″ squares and wrap.