When I was young, my father would scramble some eggs with onions and maybe a couple of other vegetables, top it with cheese, and call it an omelette. While his scrambled-egg dishes were delicious, I know now that they weren’t really omelettes. Omelettes do involve beaten eggs and fresh ingredients, but the similarities end there.
According to Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food, The origins of the omelette (or omelet) can be traced to ancient Persia, but there have been similar variations throughout most cultures. Most agree that the name omelette comes from the French word lamelle, which means “thin strip.” Some argue, however, that “omelet” originates in the Latin ova mellita, which was a classic Roman beaten egg dish cooked on a clay dish.
Omelettes are beaten eggs fried flat in a pan, filled with fresh ingredients and cheese, then folded over. There are many techniques that can emphasize certain delicious qualities in an omelette. In this article, I will give you a basic recipe for an incredible omelette as well as tips to improve and change the taste and texture of your omelette.
Basic Omelette Recipe
makes one omelette
- whisk or egg-beater
- cheese grater
- 8-inch skillet, preferably cast iron.
- 1/2 cup grated cheese
- 1 cup chopped fresh vegetables, used to fill (see below for suggestions)
- olive oil
- 3 eggs
- fresh-ground pepper
- optional: sour cream
Notes on tools and ingredients:
Why cast iron?
A well-seasoned cast-iron pan is an excellent non-stick surface. Cast iron is known for its even heat-distribution and durability. In addition, cast iron is also especially complementary to eggs (which are a great source of iron) because a very small amount of iron leeches out of cast iron into the food cooked in it. The body uses iron to produce red-blood cells.
What vegetables make a good filling?
Onions are central to most omelettes (try red onions for a twist). Green and red peppers, tomatoes, garlic (thinly sliced), and mushrooms are very common omelette ingredients for good reason–they taste wonderful with eggs. Go beyond white button mushrooms–try cremini, portobello, a wild mushroom mix, or another more interesting and strongly flavored mushroom. Green onions or peas also work well. Don’t forget to use some sort of fresh herb that would go well with your other vegetables, like parsley, cilantro, or chives. If you’d like a little kick, try hot peppers like jalapenos.
And for a truly outstanding omelette, try something a little more special, like baby spinach, ramps, asparagus (blanch or roast the asparagus before adding), or roasted red peppers. Salsa goes very well with (pre-fried) small potato cubes. Make sure that the vegetables you pick will go well together. Asparagus with mushrooms are wonderful. But Asparagus and baby spinach together may release too much water and make your omelette runny.
What sort of cheese should be used?
The possibilities are endless, just make sure that you match your cheese well with everything else in your omelette. What sort of flavor do you want? Cheddar or smoked cheddar is more oily, but either would complement potatoes well. Mozerella goes very well with tomatoes or spinach. Asparagus would benefit from some feta and a sprinkling of parmesan. For a very creamy filling, try brie or cream cheese. Experiment with specialty cheeses. Strongly-flavored gorgonzola or blue cheese would go nicely with more mildly flavored vegetables.
1. Grate cheese.
2. Cut fresh vegetables, leaving separate any that need pre-frying (any that would be too strong nearly raw, like onions or garlic, or wouldn’t taste good raw, like potatoes) or pre-blanching (like asparagus).
3. Pre-fry or pre-blanch any vegetables that need it.
4. Warm your skillet with a light coating of olive oil over medium heat (medium-low for a gas range).
5. Beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. The longer you beat the eggs, the smoother your omelette will be.
6. Pour the eggs into the skillet when it is hot, and watch as they bubble and cook. When the base becomes somewhat firm, lift an edge of the base and tilt the pan so that the excess uncooked egg on top runs under, and quickly drop the cooked portion back. Do this on a few different edges until there isn’t any excess runny uncooked egg on top. Do not flip, or the egg will become too dry.
7. It is time to add the filling when the top of the egg no longer slides or
moves when the pan is tilted. Coat one half of the egg with half of the cheese, spread the vegetables evenly over the cheese, and then top them with the rest of the cheese. Fold the other half of the egg over the vegetables and press lightly with the spatula. Let cook until the cheese is melted and vegetables are steaming.
8. Serve. Top with fresh herbs and sour cream if desired. Enjoy!
Egg white only omelette: The above, but with five egg whites instead of three whole eggs. It is lower in cholesterol and has a lighter, more mild taste. Perfect to bring out the taste of more delicate vegetables or lighter meats, like salmon or spinach. Do not use this with heavier meats or heartier vegetables.
Meat possibilities: The above is a vegetarian recipe, but meat is great in an omelette too. You could try the basic sausage, ham, or bacon pieces, or you could delve into something special with poached salmon, chevre, and fresh dill. Shrimp and chevre? Lobster and brie? Steak tips? Pancetta with cremini mushrooms or asparagus? The possibilities go on. Pre-cook your meat, of course!
Truffle oil: For a very special touch, consider sprinkling some truffle oil over your omelette right before serving. Truffle oil is delicious with egg dishes.
Good luck, and be creative!