Utah’s first annual Omelet Cook-Off paid homage to National Agriculture Day last Friday, with Governor Gary Herbert as one of the judges.
“I’m happy to be here, because now I don’t have to cook my own breakfast,” Herbert said in a greeting. He pointed out that farmers contribute $17 billion to Utah’s economy, and 78,000 Utahns are involved in agricultural business.
The “Best Tasting Omelet” award went to Dan Waters, the customer relations rep for Oakdell Eggs in Cache Valley. KSL reporter Haley Smith tied for “Most Creative Omelet” with Matt Nihipale and Chris Williams, both sous chefs with Salt Lake Community College.
The three cooking teams showcased local ingredients such as Oakdell eggs, Beehive Cheese, Cache Valley butter, Meadow Gold milk and butter, onions from Peterson Family Farms, Clifford Family Farms bacon, and Colosimo breakfast sausage.
The panel of judges included Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Commissioner LuAnn Adams of the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food, Utah Jazz President Randy Rigby, and State FFA President Christina Nolasco.
When asked how honed his omelet-making skills, Waters was said, “I raised five kids, and they all liked omelets. My wife told me that was my job.”
Waters was self-effacing throughout the competition, telling egg jokes (or “yolks” as he called them.) “I’m so egg-cited,” he said.
“It’s just knack that you pick up,” said Nihipale, when asked for omelet-making tips. “I’ve been doing omelets for awhile.”
“The secret is love,” said Smith, while briskly stirring her eggs into a nice froth, which got a rise from the SLCC chefs in the next cooking station. The trio seemed to have a good time with some mock trash-talking.
“Don’t let my whisking skills intimidate you,” Smith told them as she briskly stirred her ingredients.
Amid the joking, there were some helpful tips, as I outlined in my Standard-Examiner column.
1. Prep all your ingredients ahead of time so they are ready to add when the omelet is nearly done, so you don’t overcook the eggs, said Nihipale.
2. “You have to know your ingredients and what will take the longest to cook, so you start that cooking first,” he added.
3. “A key is patience,” said Williams. “If you rush it, you’ll destroy it. Don’t try to cook it too fast, too high.”
Williams served his omelet as an open-faced frittata, where the eggs are cooked in on the bottom on the stovetop, then baked in the oven at 375 degrees for ten minutes to get the top cooked.
4. Use a heavy pan to hold the heat well. A nonstick pans helps keep the egg from sticking, although you’ll want to liberally coat it with melted butter, too.
5. As the omelet cooks, gently lift the edges with the spatula.
Nihipale wowed the audience with his pan-flipping skills, getting the omelet to flip over while he tossed it. But this technique takes some some practice to master. If you’d rather not risk sloshing egg all over the stove, Waters advises lifting with the spatula and tilting the pan until you can get the omelet turned over.
Omelets are a great way to spark creativity. Matt Nihipale called his Asian themed entry “Orient Express,” with Chinese five-spice powder, Chinese sausage, orange zest, and onion.
Chris Williams’ frittata featured broccoli, tomato, onion, bacon and bell pepper.
Avocado, bacon, cheese and salsa were Smith’s key ingredients.
Here is an approximate recipe for Waters’ “best tasting” omelet:
OAKDELL EGG OMELET
1 10-inch nonstick skillet
About 1/4 cup diced applewood bacon, or to taste
About 1/4 cup red and green bell pepper, or to taste
About 1/4 cup mushrooms, or to taste
About 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped scallions (green onion)
1 canned green chile, chopped
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon butter
Saute the bacon first and remove from the pan. Then sauté the bacon, pepper, mushrooms, onion and green chile, for about 2 minutes to soften them. Remove them to a plate for later use.
Mix the eggs and milk together.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet, and swirl it around so that the skillet is well-coated. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow it to cook. Slowly let it set up, and start lifting the edges with a spatula, tilting so the uncooked egg can flow underneath and cook.
When the omelet is finished, place the filling ingredients on the omelet and fold one side of the omelet over the top. Garnish with shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.