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GOOD COOKING

Breakfast : To Make an Omelet, First You Break a Few Eggs

September 27, 1990|ABBY MANDEL

When it comes to fast-food preparations, no option is easier than an omelet.

The reasons are obvious: Most people keep eggs on hand, so there's no need for last-minute shopping. And once you've got the eggs, there is no limit to the range of ingredients that can be tossed in with them to make an omelet. Omelets have other attributes. They are inexpensive. They are appropriate at any hour of the day or night; they cook in about three minutes. And, with a little practice, they are incredibly easy to make.

What goes into the omelet is limited only by the imagination and inventiveness of the cook. Simple combinations--such as a handful of fresh herbs or leftover potatoes--create peasant omelets. Mix those potatoes with Swiss cheese and you have an omelette savoyarde . Saute some onions, add a little red wine vinegar and butter and you've got an omelette Lyonnaise .

Scraps of smoked salmon mixed with sour cream and sliced green onions make an elegant omelet. Leftover pasta with sauce or sandwich fillings, such as chicken or tuna in mayonnaise, make surprisingly tasty additions to the basic omelet. Leftover fresh vegetables make such wonderful omelets that it's worth cooking extras with dinner so you can turn them into an omelet the next day.

My basic omelet recipe uses one whole egg and three egg whites, which makes the omelet lower in cholesterol than the whole-egg version. It looks like the real thing, but the taste and texture are lighter than its classic counterpart. For those who require cholesterol-free foods, the all-egg-white omelet is a delicious answer. And when you're feeling really reckless, the go-for-it country omelet is completely satisfying.

The secret to successful omelet rolling is simple. All it requires is some practice. For batterie de cuisine, you'll need: one mixing bowl, one whisk, one dinner fork, one firm plastic spatula, one plate and one omelet pan, preferably non-stick and 7 inches across the flat bottom, with shallow sloping sides and a long handle.

BASIC OMELET

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 egg

3 egg whites

1 tablespoon water

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat butter in 7-inch non-stick omelet pan over medium high heat. Place egg and egg whites in mixing bowl with water, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth, without any egg white lumps.

When butter is sizzling hot but not browned, add eggs. Keep heat at medium high. Shake pan back and forth, holding it flat on burner.

Once bottom layer of omelet is set, simultaneously stir surface of eggs rapidly with fork without disturbing cooked bottom, accomplished by holding fork tines parallel with bottom of pan. Keep eggs in motion in this manner until almost set, about 1 minute. Then add filling, if any, on omelet half nearest pan handle.

Cover pan to fully cook eggs through, about 1 more minute. Uncover pan and grasp handle firmly with hand turned palm up. Tilt pan up and insert firm spatula under omelet nearest handle and roll onto heated plate. Omelet can be held in 200-degree oven several minutes while other omelets are cooked. Makes 1 serving.

This is a most refreshing omelet option, working well for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even as dessert after a very simple, light meal.

FRESH STRAWBERRY OMELET

1/2 pint strawberries, hulled

3 tablespoons sugar (use more if berries are tart)

Grated zest of 1/4 orange

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 large eggs

6 large egg whites

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Additional strawberries for garnish

Quarter half of strawberries (or cut into eighths, if large). Toss with 1 tablespoon sugar, orange zest and juice in small bowl. Puree remaining 1/4 pint strawberries with 1 tablespoon sugar in food processor or blender.

Whisk eggs, egg whites, water and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in mixing bowl until smooth.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 7-inch non-stick omelet pan over medium high heat until sizzling hot but not browned. Add half of egg mixture. Shake pan back and forth on burner. Once bottom of omelet is cooked, use fork to simultaneously stir uncooked surface of omelet without scraping bottom of pan.

When eggs are almost set, about 1 minute, use slotted spoon to arrange half of cut strawberries (reserve juices) on omelet nearest to pan handle. Cover pan and cook eggs until fully set, about 1 more minute. Uncover pan, grasp handle firmly with hand turned palm up. Tilt pan up and insert firm spatula under omelet nearest handle and roll onto heated plate. Keep warm in 200-degree oven.

Repeat steps with remaining omelet. Combine reserved strawberry juices with pureed sauce. Spoon sauce over omelets, dividing evenly. Garnish with strawberries. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

A well-seasoned puree mixed only with beaten egg whites is a delicious option for those on cholesterol-free diets.

SPINACH-AND-GARLIC NO-CHOLESTEROL OMELET

1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed completely

4 teaspoons light-tasting olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

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