You go to a greasy-spoon diner or an obnoxious chain pancake joint or a seedy meth-scented Waffle House, and you order an omelet. Well, OK, you don't order an omelet—you order a giant chocolate-chip pancake with a smiley face drawn in whipped cream, and then you drown it in pink, berry-flavored corn syrup, because you are an overgrown fucking toddler—but somebody in your party orders an omelet. Somebody always orders an omelet.
And out comes this glistening picturesque egg-horn, canary yellow and perfectly cylindrical, brimming like a goddamn cornucopia with colorful, delicious (figurative) shit: cheese and meat and veggies, and maybe even some potatoes. It's an entire goddamn meal, sheathed in a fluffy, golden egg purse. It looks incredible. It looks like the cover of Southern Living magazine. And because you are a chronic overestimator of your abilities, you think to yourself, hell, I could do that.
And then some bright morning not too long after, you decide to give it a shot. After 20 minutes of wrangling, cursing, flop-sweating, and frenzied slamdancing (unrelated), you dump onto a plate a slimy, saggy, quasi-shrapnelized monstrosity, oozing cheese and grease and runny, undercooked scrambled egg, studded here and there with cold, uncooked, liquid-egg-smeared vegetables, looking like nothing so much as the golden egg-horn's transient wino cousin after a knife fight at the railyard. It does not look like the cover of a magazine. It looks sad and injured. If you were exploring the surface of a distant alien world and happened across this thing, you would shoot it with a laser, out of disgust, and out of mercy.
Why do your omelets always come out looking like they got hit by a car? There's a simple, totally common reason for this, and it's that you're kind of a big loser. Thankfully, the good news is that—despite what your Family Guy-themed shirt, Family Guy-themed bedclothes, Family Guy-themed insistence that Family Guy is a good television show, and the Family Guy-themed Family Guy quotes that have gradually become your only mode of communication may have to say about you—at least in this one respect, you do not have to be a big loser. You can make a totally respectable, not-sad-looking omelet.
(Because, really, the looks make the omelet, right? That is to say, ultimately, there's no particular non-cosmetic reason why the diced veggies, meat, cheese, and so on must be wrapped in a scrambled-egg blanket, rather than simply served on a plate with some scrambled eggs, or cooked into some scrambled eggs like in Italian cuisine's vastly more sensible frittata. The reason to make an omelet, instead of making a frittata or, heaven forfend, just goddamn making some stupid scrambled eggs and serving some other [figurative] shit on the side, is because the bounteous-egg-cornucopia thing just friggin' looks good. It's showoff food.)
The tricks to a good omelet, such as they are, are: patience, control of the heat, moderation with the fillings, using the right size of pan, and not being a big chicken-livered weenie when it's time to bust out the spatula and do some spatulin'. That's really all there is to it. Hey, let's make one, and you can see for yourself.
The first thing to do is prepare your fillings. You can even do this the night before, if you're planning on being a gray heap of useless shit in the morning. The thing is, your fillings aren't going to get much time to really cook once they're in the pan with the egg—unless you're particularly in the mood for your eggs to taste like a sheet of foam rubber—so any of them that require actual cooking will need to be prepped and cooked beforehand. Also, if you intend your omelet to be breakfast rather than sullen, grouchy, hypoglycemic lunch, you won't want to spend all damn morning chopping things and shredding things and cooking things; you'll want to be able to whip your omelet up in just a few minutes, using stuff that's ready to go. So, even with the fillings that don't need to be cooked, it's best to at least chop them the night before.
So get prepping, dammit. Use what you like for fillings; for today's preparation, dice a ripe tomato or two*, chop some scallions into teeny little segments, and shred some pepper jack cheese. Also, remove and discard the casing from a link or two of hot Mexican chorizo (you do this by slitting the casing down the side with a sharp knife, and then peeling it off with your hands even though it's kind of gross) and give the uncased meat a rough chop with a big knife. If you're doing all of this the night before, sock these various fillings into little bowls or Tupperwares or whatever, cover them, and stick them in the fridge. There. Your fillings are ready to go. Go to bed, or go stalk the night, or whatever.
The next thing to do is prepare the eggs. This is pretty straightforward: crack, say, three or four eggs into a bowl, add a splash of water and a glug of milk, and beat the absolute holy motherfucking shit out them with a sturdy wire whisk. Great googly moogly, whip the goddamn hell out of those eggs. Fury. Murder. Hate. Destroy them. This can be done the night before, if you're really committed to the whole being-a-total-wreck-in-the-morning thing, but it's best if you wait until the morning and rise, with the fury of a trillion supernovas burning in your grim eyes, ready to do incredible violence to some poor unfertilized chicken gametes. It's best for the beaten eggs not to spend a lot of time hanging out in the cold refrigerator, or all the air you beat into them the night before will steadily bubble out, and you'll have to beat them all over again. Which might be OK if you're just that full of hatred and rage, except that you may very well have an aneurysm before you have an omelet.
Now it's time to start cooking. First cook the chorizo in a big (say, 8- to 10-inch) nonstick skillet (you're going to use this pan for the omelet itself, too), breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. This should take, oh, maybe four minutes over genuine heat; when it's done, get the chorizo out of the skillet and into a covered bowl. Also, remove the skillet from the heat altogether for a couple of minutes so that it won't be too hot when you add the eggs to it. You can save the rendered fat—hell, you can even cook the omelet in it, but holy shit is that ever gonna be one salty goddamn omelet—or you can discard it if you suck and are an asshole.
So your fillings are ready to go, and so are your eggs. Time to cook the eggs. Put the now-cool skillet back on the stove over low-medium heat, grease it with some butter (or some of that rendered fat from the chorizo), give the egg mixture a few last-second beatings with the whisk, and pour the egg stuff into the pan. After oh, maybe 30 seconds or so, the eggs will begin to set in the bottom of the pan; with your trusty rubber spatula, gently prod the edges of the mass toward the center, so that the still-liquid egg flows over them, out to the edge of the pan, and gets a chance to cook. What you're trying to avoid is the bottom of the omelet turning to rubber while you wait for the runny egg sitting atop it to set.
Keep the heat low and be patient, and eventually the eggs will be pretty well set all the way through, or very close to it; thanks to the low heat and the little spatula move you did to expose the runny egg to the surface of the skillet, the egg ought to be cooked pretty evenly. Time to add the fillings to the omelet. The shredded cheese goes down first: throw down a thin, non-ridiculous layer of it across the entire surface of the omelet so that it has a chance to melt evenly. Lay a generous (but, again, not ridiculous) strip of the cooked, crumbled chorizo along the diameter of your omelet; scatter some of the chopped scallions and diced tomatoes atop this strip. While nobody's looking, [exaggerated air quotes] accidentally [close exaggerated air quotes] fumble some more shredded cheese across the strip of fillings. There.
Now comes the part that you are afraid of because you ruin everything you touch because you are cursed with a congenital inability to have nice things: the spatula-wrangling. Look. This can be a pain in the ass, and you may very well fail at it. But hey, if your pan is suitably stick-resistant, and if you were patient enough to let the eggs set and you haven't laden your omelet with six tons of filling, and if your spatula isn't actually a large soup ladle (idiot!), and if you approach this goddamn miserable fucking chore of a task with some by-God gusto, by God ... well, you are probably still gonna fuck it up the first time or two. But then maybe someday you will get it right in the alternate universe in which perseverance is a trait that you inherited instead of loserdom.
So. Fold your fucking omelet. Grab your trusty rubber spatula, slide it gently and deftly under one of the un-covered-with-chorizo sides of the omelet, and flip that sonofabitch over onto the strip of meat and scallions and tomatoes. Do it. Do not be intimidated by a floppy friggin' egg-frisbee. Do it! And then also do it to the other side. Give the top of this egg-log a gentle press with the flat of the spatula in the vain hope that this will cause the melty cheese to act as an adhesive and hold it all together. Is it holding together? Sort of but oh God not for long shit shit shit? OK! Get the omelet out of the skillet and onto a plate as quickly and gently as you can. It's OK to bring a second spatula into the mix, here. Nobody's looking except the NSA.
Hey, wouldja lookit that! Glistening and canary yellow, rolled attractively, with a snazzy-looking assortment of colorful fillings brimming forth from its open ends: your omelet! Beautiful, isn't it? Professional-looking? Like the cover of a magazine?
No? Not at all? Still looks like Jack the Ripper just finished with it? You're fucking hopeless. But, hell, it's still gonna taste good. Since it's food, after all, this is all that really matters. Dig in.
*About those tomatoes: Once again, don't waste your time with fresh tomatoes if you can't get good, locally- (or home-) grown, ripe-picked tomatoes. If you can't get good tomatoes, swap them out in the preparation above for some salsa or, if your local supermarket stocks some, a bit of fresh pico de gallo. If you can get good tomatoes, buy a couple of extra ones to throw at me when your omelet comes out looking like a food truck that got hit by an atom bomb.
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at firstname.lastname@example.org, or publicly and succinctly on Twitter @albertburneko. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
Image by Sam Woolley.