Omelet cook-off gets cracking

Wednesday , March 25, 2015 - 12:00 AM

By Valerie Phillips
Standard-Examiner correspondent

What makes a good omelet?

Ask Dan Waters, the customer relations rep for Oakdell Eggs in Cache Valley. His omelet was deemed "Best Tasting" in Utah's First Annual Omelet Cook-Off.

Or you could ask KSL reporter Haley Smith, who tied for "Most Creative" with entries from Matt Nihipale and Chris Williams, both sous chefs with Salt Lake Community College.

With Utah Gov. Gary Herbert as one of the judges, well, that's pretty good cred.

The cook-off, held last Friday morning at the Utah State Fairpark, called attention to Utah's farming industry on National Agriculture Day. The three cooking teams used 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 he honed his omelet-making skills, Waters 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.

"Don’t let my whisking skills intimidate you," she added to the SLCC chefs, in mock trash-talking tone.

But, amid the joking, there were some helpful tips.

• 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.

"You have to know your ingredients and what will take the longest to cook, so you start that cooking first," he added.

"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 10 minutes to get the top cooked.

• 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.

• 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.

Judges were state Future Farmers of America president Christina Nolasco, Randy Rigby of the Utah Jazz; LuAnn Adamson, Utah Commissioner of Agriculture, and Governor Herbert.

"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.

"It's a rewarding life but it's hard work," Herbert said.

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

3 eggs

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.

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