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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Omelets Strike the Right Note at Breakfast

Breakfast is all-important. We need to be energized to take on the world but all too often we have the same meal, day in and day out. Bacon and eggs. Waffles with syrup. Cereal. Toast. A bowl of fruit. Power shakes. What started out as stimulating gets tedious.

Because they're so versatile, omelets are an antidote to breakfast-boredom. Just about any favorite herb, spice, vegetable, meat, or cheese works well with eggs. The only limitations are what you like.

(All the recipes are for 2 omelets.)

Cheese Omelet

The cheese omelet sets the stage for more ambitious fillings.

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan), grated or finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley (or basil, tarragon, oregano), washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

There are 2 essentials to making a good omelet: fresh eggs (ideally, Farmers' Market fresh) and a non-stick pan. The risks associated with Teflon are minimized if low heat is used and you avoid scratching the surfaces by using a rubber spatula.

The starting point for an omelet is to sauté the fillings. Too often in restaurants vegetables with high water content aren't cooked with a watery result. Sauté the shallots and parsley with the olive oil over a medium flame until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

To make 2 individual omelets use an 8"-10" non-stick skillet. Even though I use a non-stick pan, I add a pat of butter for flavor. For an Italian touch drizzle a bit of olive oil. For low cal versions use egg whites, skim milk and low fat cheeses.

Melt the butter over a medium-low flame. Beat the eggs (or egg whites) together with the milk and pour into the pan. Cook a few minutes until the egg has set on the pan side. Spread the shallot-parsley sauté over half of the omelet. Add the cheese. Using a rubber spatula fold the "empty" side of the omelet onto the side with the sauté. Cook another 2 minutes then slide onto a plate. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

As they do in all good restaurants, offer yourself a choice of hash browns, fresh fruit, sausages or bacon, toast, or orange juice to go with your omelet.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Bacon and Cheese Omelet

Using the basic recipe, start to build up the layers of flavor by adding bacon (or another salty meat like sausage or ham).

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
Olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan)
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cooked bacon (or sausage or ham) crumbled
Sea salt and pepper

Use the Cheese Omelet directions above, adding the cooked meat at the same time as the cheese. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Vegetable Omelet

Instead of using meat to add flavor, use vegetables. Just about any vegetable will work: spinach, zucchini, onions, carrots, kale, artichoke hearts, broccoli, asparagus, English peas, potatoes... Walk down the aisles of your local farmers' market and think "omelet" as you pass the row after row of fresh vegetables.

Sauté the vegetables for sweetness and the added flavor of caramelization but they can be steamed. Tomatoes can be used sautéed or fresh, although I prefer fresh.

The amount of vegetables you use depends on their final volume. 1 cup of uncooked spinach will yield 1/4 cup of cooked spinach. 1 cup of zucchini will yield 3/4 cup for the filling. If you like a thin omelet, 1/4 cup of sautéed filling per omelet is probably sufficient. For a plump omelet, 1/2 cup per omelet is probably more to your liking.

Sauté the vegetables with olive oil, garlic, shallots, and parsley until softened or lightly browned then set aside. Follow the Cheese Omelet directions above for technique. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Chicken Livers Omelet

I love chicken livers but they aren't everyone's cup of tea (certainly not my wife's). If you do like them, you'll really enjoy this recipe.

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
Olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan)
4 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 mushrooms (brown or shiitake), washed, julienned
2 chicken livers, washed, cut into nickel-size pieces
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Sauté the shallots (I doubled the amount of shallots for this recipe because their sweetness goes well with the livers), garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the chicken livers and brown on all sides being careful to keep the insides pink. Season with sea salt, pepper, and cayenne (if you want some heat). Remove from the burner and set aside.

Make the omelet as described above, place the chicken liver sauté on one half and turn the "empty" side onto the side with the sauté. Let cook for 2 minutes and serve.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

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