About 3 years ago, back when I regularly managed to swim, run, hold down a full-time job, devote whole weekends to yard work, survive Cleveland blizzards and still find time to cook every night, I somehow also managed to begin each morning with a healthy breakfast, homemade breakfast.
Notice, I said healthy. I did not say delicious. In fact, most mornings my breakfast consisted of a thick paste slow-cooked overnight and with about as much flavor as sodden paper towels - oatmeal mush. It was healthy and filling - and that was the important part. If I had time between showering and dashing out the door, I might try to enhance the mush with a sprinkle of raisins or a scoop of fresh pineapple. But breakfast was about nutrition and starting off healthy each morning - who has time for delicious?
To be honest, I still eat the same oatmeal most mornings for breakfast. For the past couple of months, I've been testing different variations of a somewhat more exciting baked oatmeal (it's almost ready to share) and very recently I've even been dabbling with more creative uses for oats - like waffles and muffins.
Yet as much as I adore the nutrition, fiber and slow-release protein all packed into one bland serving of oats, I must confess I sometimes grow weary of this super-grain. That's not really fair to oats - after all, they really are perfectly speedy, versatile and healthful. In truthfulness, I really should be devoting this entire post to a love note for oats. And I promise I shall - soon.
But today's post is about what I eat for breakfast when I'm not shoveling down oats - a mostly egg white omelette. This is what I would make a friend for breakfast - it's fast, packed full of flavor, and still respects the health of those I love. Granted, a hot bowl of oatmeal mush would certainly be another outpouring of love for healthfulness, but somehow mush isn't quite as special as an omelette.
I really can't take all the credit for this omelette - the real thanks would go to my mom. In support of my dad's cholesterol-restricted diet, my mom often tried to eliminate yolks from her cooking and baking. She taught me to replace one egg yolk with 2 egg whites - sometimes it works out fine, sometimes not so much. A mostly egg white omelette just happens to work out perfectly and on very special occasions, my mom would treat us to one of these cholesterol-reduced omelettes.
As a kid, the real reason I loved omelettes had nothing to do with the soft creamy eggs or the buttery flavor from the pan - it was all about the melted cheddar cheese inside. Twenty-some years later, not much has changed. An omelette remains the perfect vehicle for sneaking melted cheese into my breakfast. And when it's all about the cheese, who needs the extra egg yolks?
Traditionally, omelettes are made with 2 or 3 eggs - and I keep with tradition - I just separate out two of the yolks and save them for something else I'm making (like ice cream or cookies). Removing the yolks lightens the omelette - both in texture and calories - yet the single remaining yolk provides pleasing yellow color and improves the final flavor. A little melted cheddar cheese and even the tastiest bowl of oatmeal is forgotten (sorry oats - you know I still love you).
Oh, and about the word omelette. Don't let it scare you into thinking you have to learn some kind of fancy French technique to make this delicious breakfast. Forget the horror stories about rubbery eggs, raw uncooked eggs, flipping eggs in the pan, or perfecting a trifold. Grab a non-stick pan, heat a little butter, add your eggs, and shake and stir. 60 seconds in the pan and you've got an omelette.
Mostly Egg White Cheese Omelette
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 1 min
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 egg
- 2 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, lightly packed
Herb Filling (make before starting omelette)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons onion, minced
- 2 Tablespoons Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- In a small pan (I use my Corning Ware pyroceram grab-it bowl), heat olive oil over medium-low heat, then add minced onion. Saute onion 2 minutes, then add parsley, thyme and garlic. Saute mixture until onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes; set aside
- In a medium-sized non-stick pan, melt butter over medium-high heat, swirling butter around the pan every minute or so until butter loses it’s foam (about 3 minutes)
- Use a fork to whisk together egg, egg whites, ground mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl or glass measuring cup until just combined and egg yolk is evenly distributed; do NOT over-beat this mixture
- Pour egg mixture into the hot pan and immediately begin to shake the pan back and forth with one hand while stirring the center of the eggs with a heat-proof spatula in your other hand
- The egg will begin to set around the edges of the pan immediately; slide your spatula around the edge of the pan to lift up the cooking egg, tilting and rotating the pan to allow the uncooked egg to run beneath the edges of the cooked egg; continue to shake, tilt and rotate the pan while gently scrambling the center of the eggs with your spatula to allow uncooked egg to reach the bottom of the pan
- Within 30 seconds or as soon as the egg is mostly set (no longer running freely when you tilt and shake the pan), reduce the heat to medium-low and spoon your herb filling evenly over the top of the omelette; sprinkle cheese over top and allow to melt for 30 seconds (or less)
- Remove pan from heat and shake the omelette to the lip of the pan; rest the edge of the pan with the omelette on the edge of a plate and turn out the omelette by flipping over the pan on top of the plate (typically omelette will naturally fold in half, although sometimes I’ve been fortunately enough to achieve a tri-fold); serve immediately
- Prep everything in advance. Once the egg hits the pan, you don't want to realize you forgot to grate your cheese or prepare your filling. An omelette really does happen in about 60 seconds of cook time, so be prepared
- Never add raw herbs, onion, garlic or cold meat to an omelette - it will never cook in time and you'll either end up with overpowering raw onion and garlic or tragically overcooked eggs. You really need to prepare your fillings separately and in advance
- As much as I love cheddar cheese, there can be too much of a good thing - as you'll discover if you decide to unleash your exuberance for cheese in an omelette. If you really load cheese onto the omelette it will never melt in time - the eggs will overcook and you'll end up with cheesy rubber
- The herbs I used in the filling are herbs I always seem to keep stocked in my fridge. However, if I've got basil waiting to be used, I sometimes add a little. Same thing with fresh dill. And I actually prefer using shallot over onion, but I don't always have shallot in my fridge. The point is, use what you've got handy
- Don't stress about turning out the omelette - you can always slide the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate and then fold in half. Who cares? You're putting the effort into cooking because you love someone, not because you're trying to win a ribbon for technique...