The omelet, as most Americans know it, is a French import. But chefs around the world have been combining beaten eggs with cooked ingredients since at least the ancient Persians. And often “omelettes” from other cultures are much less fussy than the full and folded classic bistro.
Take young eggs for example. This may remind you of the deep-fried dish with a rich egg sauce served in Chinese-American restaurants, but in China, Cantonese cooks use much less oil and much more crunchy vegetables. In this recipe from our Cook With What You Have book, which draws on pantry staples to put together easy weeknight meals, we go the Cantonese route for vegetable-packed omelets. It also turns out to be a great way to use up leftover vegetables.
We call for cabbage, onion, and bell pepper, but bean sprouts, mushrooms, and onions are also good choices; you will need a total of about 4 cups of raw vegetables. The vegetables are fried to give them an edge, but only cooked until crisp. A little cornstarch mixed with the eggs helps bind the mixture to form pancake-sized patties in the pan.
To increase the protein, add some chopped cooked shrimp, pork or chicken. A quick sriracha mayo served alongside makes a spicier and more complex substitute than the soy sauce usually spread over young eggs.
And for a fun twist, make St. Paul, beloved of St. Louis. Simply spread Sriracha mayo on white bread, then tuck in the omelette, lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Chinese Style Vegetable Omelettes
Start to finish: 40 minutes (30 minutes active) Servings: 2 to 4
¼ cup mayonnaise 1 tablespoon Sriracha OR chili-garlic sauce 6 large eggs 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon cornstarch Kosher salt and ground white OR black pepper 3½ tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage 1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced ½ medium red pepper, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and Sriracha; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, soy sauce, cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; set aside.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1½ tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the cabbage, onion, bell pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat the egg mixture to mix again, then add the hot vegetables and with a silicone spatula, stir until well combined. Wipe out the pan.
In the same skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil until shimmering. Drop 2 heaped ½-cup portions of the egg-vegetable mixture into the pan, spreading them on opposite sides of the pan. Using a spatula, flatten each portion into a 4- to 5-inch circle; if they spread out in an oval shape, don’t worry, just keep them separate. Cook until the edges begin to brown and puff and the omelets are well browned underneath, about 3 minutes. Using a wide spatula, flip the omelets and cook, reducing the heat if necessary if the omelets are cooking too quickly, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large plate.
Cook the remaining 2 omelettes in the same manner, using the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Serve with Sriracha mayonnaise.
Optional garnish: toasted sesame oil OR thinly sliced onion OR both
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap