Garlic Mashed (Terrie’s favorite potatoes)

I can’t remember exactly when I ditched boxes of potato flakes and started making mashed potatoes the real way for Thanksgiving (and every other time I wanted mashed potatoes). But I can say the process has evolved over the years. As my wife, Terrie, creator of this blog often says, cooking is about being inspired, taking chances and elevating your dishes. Just as I continue to try new methods and ingredients on the first dish I ever successfully created (chili), I’ve tweaked these garlic mashed potatoes over the past 20 years. In fact, they didn’t even start out as garlic mashed!

When I was growing up, I would sometimes take the baked potatoes my mother made, scoop out the innards, add margarine (Parkay, to be specific) and mash. It seemed to make them more tolerable.

For the current version, I’ve upped the ante by adding real butter, roasted garlic, our grated parm-romano blend and heavy cream, none of which were in the early year versions of this dish. About a decade ago, I decided to experiment with the potato mix. I loved Yukon Gold and had a hunch doing a 50-50 mix of Yukon and russet would work well. I was right. The garlic mashed I’m serving up here is a silky blend of flavor that kind of melts in your mouth. I usually add more butter than what the recipe calls for. Just because, as Terrie and I say about certain recipes, “There’s too much butter (or parm-romano blend, bacon, bourbon, chocolate). Said nobody. Ever.”


Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)

1 large garlic head, roasted

Extra virgin olive oil (or spray)

2-3 medium to large Russet potatoes

2-3 medium to large Yukon gold potatoes

4 Tbsp. (half stick) salted butter (with the option to add more)

4 oz. heavy cream (with the option to add more)

1/4 cup parm-romano blend (with the option to add more)

Salt and pepper to taste


Putting it together

Preheat oven to 350° F. Roast the head of garlic by cutting off the top, adding oil (olive oil preferred) either from a bottle or a spray can. Wrap tightly in foil and roast for about an hour. You can check out Terrie’s post from yesterday for more detail and step-by-step pictures, but it goes like this:

Peel and dice the potatoes and heat stove-top on high. As the water begins to boil, add salt and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork. Drain potatoes and return to pot.

Add butter and heavy cream, add salt and pepper. Squeeze out the roasted garlic bulbs into the potatoes. Use a potato masher and mash by hand if you like. Or use a potato ricer if you like (before adding ingredients) for an even silkier texture. There was a time when I added the blend to a stand mixer, but I’ve since disavowed those years (the potatoes get too pasty).

As you mix, continue to taste, adding salt and pepper as needed, but also adding additional butter and/or cream if it feels too potato-ey. Add the grated cheese blend and continue to mash until it completely disappears into the mix, which won’t take long.

Serve with an additional pat of butter, gravy or your own preferred alternatives. Terrie is already eating it straight from the pot.

Now we have perfection.

Terrie’s note:

The blend of potatoes Les uses makes these so special because the Yukon golds are smooth and creamy, while the russets add a soft fluffiness. The roasted garlic and parm-romano add new levels of savory flavor. They are good for Thanksgiving, but we also make them as a side for more casual meals, such as meatloaf, steaks, pork chops and beer can roasted chicken. I confess that I’m always on the lookout for another new main dish that would be an excuse to make these again. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section. 🙂

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Shakshuka (shiksa style)

We are inching toward a special day—and time of year—in Jewish tradition. Rosh Hashanah, in the simplest of terms, is the onset of the “High Holidays,” a 10-day celebration that concludes with Yom Kippur. The whole event is a spiritual reset button of sorts, a time for personal introspection leading to atonement. When I became engaged to my husband, Les, in 2016, I joined him for High Holidays services, and though I likely will not ever convert to Judaism, I love learning about this sacred part of my husband’s heritage. Going through the Hebrew readings and stages of reflection is something Jesus would have done as a regular practice (he was Jewish, remember?), and I have found that it gives me richer insight into my own Christian faith.

The fact that I am not Jewish, regardless of my stance on Jesus, earns me the unenviable title of “shiksa,” a Yiddish word politely translated as “a non-Jewish woman.” Some other definitions are less diplomatic and even derogatory, meaning something along the line of “sketchy non-Jewish woman who has taken romantic interest in a good, upstanding Jewish guy.” Yep, I’m guilty of all that! I take no offense, and our religious differences have never presented a conflict for Les and me. On the contrary, we find that it makes our relationship more interesting.

During our preparation for marriage, Les and I met a few times with Rabbi Mark, whom we had asked to officiate our small and informal ceremony. Over lunch, I mentioned how much I was enjoying exploration of the traditions, especially the foods. I had already learned to make latkes, one of the most recognizable Jewish foods (which I’ll share more about when we get closer to Hanukkah). Rabbi Mark made a recommendation for a next recipe to try—shakshuka. It’s fun to say (shock-SHOO-ka), and not the same as shiksa. 😀

I’d never heard of this, and neither had Les, so it was immediately placed at the top of the bucket list. Our first shakshuka turned out terrific, and when Les posted this picture of it to his Facebook page, he got an immediate thumbs-up from Cousin Caryn in Israel—“that is SO Jewish!”

Not a bad first effort in 2017!

Shakshuka is typically served at breakfast, so I’m counting it as part of my “better breakfast month” series, and it’s remarkably simple to make and flexible to accommodate a variety of ingredients. It usually begins with a thick tomato sauce base, though I’ve seen some interesting “green” shakshuka recipes on Pinterest. Any other favorite vegetables or ingredients can be incorporated, including cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, kale, peppers, onions, squash, chickpeas, or nearly anything else you have on hand. You stew it all together with Mediterranean spices in a cast-iron skillet, then you crack raw eggs directly into the sauce and simmer until they’re cooked to your liking, or (as I often do) slide it into the oven to finish.

It’s great for breakfast, or breakfast for dinner!

The result is a savory blend of nutrition and flavor, hearty enough to satisfy your morning hunger, or for “breaking the fast,” because after the 24 hours of fasting and prayer at Yom Kippur, you’re gonna get pretty hungry!

The cool thing about shakshuka (as if the flavor and flexibility aren’t cool enough) is that you do not have to be Jewish to enjoy it! You may have seen a similar dish from Italy called “eggs in purgatory,” featuring the same stewed tomato foundation. Both dishes are likely drawn from nearby North Africa during the Ottoman Empire, and during that time, meat (not tomatoes) was the original main ingredient.

My produce and pantry inventory included everything I needed for a hearty shakshuka, and it landed on our table last night as breakfast for dinner on Meatless Monday. I couldn’t resist serving this with the soft pita breads that have become such a staple in our home.

The soft pita is perfect for sopping up this rich tomato stew.

Basic Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil (how much depends on what you’re adding)

1/2 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in puree*

4 eggs

Optional Ingredients

Depending on your taste, and your inventory, consider adding any of these ingredients. It’s your kitchen, and you can make your shakshuka as chunky or saucy as you’d like. For the most authentic experience of this dish, I’d recommend keeping with ingredients that are common to the Middle East, where shakshuka was born.

Up to 1 cup other vegetables, such as fresh cauliflower, fresh cubed eggplant, fresh chopped bell peppers

Up to 1 cup canned chickpeas or cooked lentils, or 1/2 cup in combination with your favorite vegetables (above)

Up to 2 cups fresh greens, chopped (they will cook down to small amount, so be generous)

Other flavor enhancers, such as olives, capers, spices, tomato paste, chile peppers

There’s so much tangy, rich sauce in this dish, you’ll want to have some kind of bread nearby for sopping. Pita is a great option, or any other kind of soft bread is just right.

*Notes

I’ve never made the same shakshuka combination twice, but I tend to steer toward more body and texture when we are having it for dinner. And it always depends on what I find in the fridge. For this post, I used the basic ingredients, then reached into the fridge for some add-ins. Les made his fabulous pimiento cheese last weekend, and a half can of spicy Rotel tomatoes and a half jar of pimientos were still in the fridge. In they went, along with about a cup of chopped fresh cauliflower, 1/2 can garbanzo beans, a fat handful of chopped kale leaves, some briny olives and capers, tomato paste to thicken and harissa to add flavor and heat.

Harissa is a spicy paste-like seasoning that has origin in Northern Africa. It has hot chiles and garlic, plus what I call the three “C spices”—cumin, coriander and caraway. Harissa is common to Moroccan cuisine, and lends wonderful depth of flavor to stewed dishes like shakshuka.

Instructions

  1. Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil and sauté onions, cauliflower and any other firm vegetables until lightly caramelized.
  2. Add garlic, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and any other add-ins that strike your fancy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. For my recipe, I also added a little smoked paprika and ground cumin. Stir to combine ingredients evenly and cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes so that the tomatoes lose the “canned” flavor and mixture begins to thicken like a stew.
  3. Use the back of a large spoon to create slight depressions to hold the eggs. Crack eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup and transfer them into the dents you’ve made, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, cover the skillet and simmer until eggs are set to your liking. Alternatively, you can slide the skillet into a 350° F oven and bake about 15 minutes, or until eggs reach your desired doneness.
  4. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or oregano and serve with soft pita breads or other bread for sopping all the shakshuka sauce.
Oh, yes, some crumbled feta on top!

So easy, even a shiksa can make it! Shakshuka is delicious, easy and economical. Serve it family style, and let everyone scoop out their own portion into a bowl.

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Lemon Mushroom Chicken

Three favorite key ingredients, plus onions, garlic, butter and a splash of white wine—it sounds simple, because it is. This is a delicious entrée I like to call a “Sunday Supper” because there are a few extra steps that make it special without making it complicated. A recipe that takes a little more time is what I love, in part because it feels relaxing to prepare food slowly with more intention, but mostly because as the meal develops and the house becomes increasingly filled with savory aromas, it creates a tension and anticipation that isn’t often present with a quickly cooked weeknight meal.

The result of the extra care and patience required for this dish is well worth the time and effort—tender, juicy bites of chicken with a rich, onion-y mushroom gravy-like coating. It’s satisfying and comforting, in a way that only a home-cooked meal can be. You can taste the love in this kind of food. The mushrooms contribute an earthiness that is not overwhelming, and the freshly squeezed lemon, thyme and white wine give the impression of something far more gourmet than the simple instructions I’m about to describe.

I prefer to make this recipe on the stove in a skillet because it’s usually just me and my husband at the dinner table, and I like to keep my counter space open. But if you are doubling the recipe and happen to have a large electric skillet, that would be a terrific option—provided it has a cover, which is an important part of finishing the recipe. I’ll walk you through preparation of the dish, but if you’re ready to dive straight into it, you can scroll to the bottom to download a printed copy of the recipe. But then, of course, you’d miss the pictures. 🙂

A quick twist of the fork is enough to grab a bite of this lemon mushroom chicken. How scrumptious and tender is that?

Here’s how to make it.

First, the chicken breasts are sliced and pounded thin to ensure tender, uniform pieces. I do this myself at home because it’s an easy way to save the extra cost of pre-sliced cutlets. It’s OK if you don’t have a meat tenderizer; you can use the bottom of a small pot to do the same. Next, season the pieces with salt and pepper and a couple of pinches of dried thyme. It’s important to do this first, because you want the seasoning in the chicken—not just on the coating. Then drag the cutlets through some seasoned flour and let them rest while chopping a sweet onion and a couple cloves of garlic.


Clean and slice a full package of fresh mushrooms. It may seem overkill for a four-serving recipe, but they cook down considerably and they are a key component of the dish. My favorite type is cremini (sometimes called baby portabella, though technically they are not), but white button mushrooms or shiitake would work fine as well. Are you on the fence about the right way to clean mushrooms? I used to be afraid that rinsing them would make them soggy, but I learned a few years ago that mushrooms don’t absorb much water unless you soak them (thank you for that, Alton Brown!), so go ahead with a thorough cold water rinse then use a clean paper towel to dry them and wipe away any remaining debris. Finish the prep by trimming the stems and slicing them into 3/8” thick, perfectly uniform slices. Say what? Here’s how to do the slicing part in less than one minute:


My egg slicer is made of metal, with cutting wires that are sturdy enough to tackle slicing mushrooms and strawberries, and I love that I get clean, uniform slices with minimal effort. Maybe someday I’ll use this thing to slice eggs. If you don’t have an egg slicer, use your best sharp knife, and don’t sweat over the thickness—just slice them as evenly as you can, but not paper thin.

The onions go into a heated skillet with olive oil, but you’ll notice in the photos that I don’t take them very far toward caramelization. You want them to be nice and soft, so keep the heat in the medium-low range and cook just until they soften and begin to look translucent. Add the mushrooms in batches and cook them without crowding the pan. These guys give off a lot of moisture when they cook, and if you have too many at once, they will steam rather than brown. Take your time, and when the first handful of mushrooms reaches that “lightly browned” stage, move them aside and add another handful. When the whole batch is finished, add the chopped garlic and sauté briefly, then transfer the mixture to a bowl.


Give the cutlets another quick dip through the seasoned flour while you melt butter in the same skillet. It’s not unusual for the flour to absorb moisture from the chicken during the initial rest, and they should be completely (but lightly) coated before they hit the hot butter. This will create a roux-like coating on the chicken, and the broth you add later will break that down into delicious gravy as it simmers.

When the butter is melted and bubbly, carefully arrange the cutlets into the pan in a single layer, again taking care not to crowd the pan. Depending on how many pieces you have, this may need to be done in batches as well. Turn the cutlets over when they are a nice golden brown on the underside, and stack them on top of each other when both sides are done, to make room in the pan for any remaining cutlets.

Remove the browned cutlets and rest them on top of the reserved mushroom-onion mixture. This will make room for you to de-glaze the skillet, bringing all the beautiful browned bits back into the dish. Reduce the heat to low, then working quickly, pour in the white wine and use a whisk or other utensil to scrape up those flavorful remnants. Squeeze in the lemon juice and swirl the pan to combine. Place the chicken cutlets back into the skillet and pile the mushrooms and onions on top. Carefully pour in chicken broth, but only enough to slightly cover the chicken. Give the skillet a gentle shake to help the broth get under and around the chicken, then cover the skillet and walk away.


The chicken will simmer at this low temperature for 35 to 40 minutes. It will be fully cooked well before this time, but the long simmer will result in the tenderness and richness I described at the beginning. What’s great about a recipe like this is that while the magic is quietly happening in the skillet, I have time to tidy up the prep dishes, set the table and enjoy a glass of wine with my husband. This is also a good time to prep whatever vegetable or salad I plan to serve. When the main dish is more involved, as this one is, I usually opt for a simple vegetable side. The lemon mushroom chicken deserves center stage.

I love how the sauce becomes part of the chicken, rather than being poured over it. This dinner will melt in your mouth.

For this meal, I roasted fresh asparagus. If you are cooking asparagus some other way, I will be so bold as to declare you have been missing out! Try roasting once and you’ll see what I mean. Rinse and trim the stalks, arrange them on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roll them around to coat. Give them a little salt and pepper to taste, and pop them into a 400° F oven for 15 minutes. They should be slightly tender and retain a bright green color. Easy, yet so elegant.


And there you have it—this “Sunday Supper” dish takes a little more time than an average weeknight meal, but the payoff for your patience is a tender portion of delicate chicken, covered in savory mushrooms and fully enveloped in a rich, gravy-like coating. We like this on its own with a fresh roasted vegetable or salad, but it would also be beautiful on top of your favorite mashed potatoes, rice or linguine.

Ingredients

1.5 lb. package skinless, boneless chicken breast (or same weight of prepared thin cutlets, if you prefer)

Salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Extra virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, sliced into crescent shapes

8 oz. package fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (cold from the fridge is fine)

1/3 cup dry white wine (I use pinot grigio, or sometimes dry vermouth as substitute)

1 fresh lemon 

1/2 to 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (use enough to just cover the browned cutlets)


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If you make this lemon mushroom chicken, please let me know in the comments how it turned out for you.


Oil-poached Tomato & Zucchini Dinner

(A “zero-waste” recipe)

It’s only been three weeks since our state went into lockdown over the COVID-19 risks, but it sure seems like I’ve been rationing fresh food items a lot longer than that. We’ve managed to only do our grocery runs about once every 10 to 14 days since the middle of March, when the walls first started to close in. And the consequences of our few-and-far-between trips became evident a few nights ago when I reached for the “brand-new” package of grape tomatoes I’d purchased, and found this:

Definitely not delicious.

If that isn’t disappointing enough, imagine my horror when I peeked into the crisper drawer to find another so-called fresh item to be way past its prime.

This is just pitiful.

I know. Kind of like those pics all over Instagram of celebrities without their makeup. Our produce drawer has been so jam-packed these past weeks, it has become a real challenge to keep up with the fresh ingredients we’re buying in greater quantity than usual. This discovery of wrinkly tomatoes and shriveled zucchini wrecked my plan for making ratatouille, one of my very favorite vegetable-centered dishes. I’m not even going to show you a picture of the eggplant. It’s rough, people.

So, a change of plans, but this need not be a disaster. I’ve been here before with the tomatoes and knew I could save them. With a little patience and the magic of slow poaching in some good quality olive oil, you can do it, too. We’re going to turn these sad little misfit vegetables into something delicious. This recipe serves two.

Let’s Get Cooking!

Ingredients:

One pint really wrinkled baby tomatoes (of course, fresh is good, also!)
1/2 cup chopped onion (I like sweet ones, but use whatever you have)
3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Italian blend herb seasoning
About 1 1/2 cups leftover cooked chicken (shredded scraps from a rotisserie market chicken is perfect)
1 medium shriveled-up zucchini (or fresh, if you must)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parm-Romano cheese for serving

Instructions:

First things first—we need to identify any tomatoes that truly shouldn’t be used. If they are wrinkled and a bit withered, they’re OK. Soft, oozing or moldy? Sorry fellas, you’ve been chopped.

Ick. At least I was able to salvage most of the tomatoes.

Rinse the tomatoes that remain and set them aside on a paper towel to absorb the excess water. Place a large, non-stick skillet over very low heat and add the full amount of olive oil. It’s going to seem like a lot, but it’s all good.

Add the onions, garlic and baby tomatoes to the olive oil and tilt the pan around to “roll” and coat the tomatoes in the oil. Add the Italian herbs, and season with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Keep the heat to a bare minimum. This super-slow pace might feel a little awkward if you are accustomed to sautéing in oil. We’re doing something else—rehydrating the tomatoes should not be rushed, and I can’t emphasize enough that your heat should be at the lowest setting your burner allows. You don’t want to see or hear any sizzling at all; if you do, it’s too hot. The pictures in this slideshow are time-stamped, and the captions will help explain how this should progress:

Pretty awesome, right? And you wouldn’t believe the depth of aroma and flavor the olive oil is able to extract from those sad little tomatoes. Actually, it’s more than that; studies have shown that cooking tomatoes in oil releases more of their lycopene, an antioxidant linked to heart health and protection against certain types of cancer. And to think, we almost threw them away!

If you only had the tomatoes, you could stop right here, toss this sauce with some freshly cooked pasta and call it dinner (just add a sprinkle of parmesan and a glass of wine). But today is also the deadline for that pitiful zucchini, so I’m going to take this a step further and turn the squash into “noodles.”

One day soon, I’ll share my honest opinion about the different spiralizers I’ve tried. They definitely are not created equal, and although you’d think the expensive ones would be the best, I usually prefer this little gadget—called a “Vegetti”—that I picked up for about $6 at TJMaxx (a couple years ago—you know, when things were open).

It has two sides: one for thick spirals and one for thin. I’m using the thick side today, and as you can see, after twisting the zucchini through it, there’s very little waste. Just the butt ends and these cute little swirly buttons. Lucky for me, even these will not be wasted because our dog, Nilla, is certifiably crazy about vegetables. Sweet girl has such patience.

We’re now in the homestretch, where we will see the final transformation of too-far-gone vegetables turned into a delicious and healthful, zero-waste meal. I’m scattering my leftover chicken pieces over the top of my luscious poached tomato sauce, then the zucchini noodles, salt and pepper, and covering it with a lid to heat it through.

Turn up the heat about two notches to medium, set the table and pour the wine. By then, this one-skillet meal will be ready to be tossed and plated. Enjoy!


Creamy Tomato Bisque

There’s a reason “tomato bisque” is on so many restaurants’ menus. It’s a classic comfort food, and so simple to make from regular pantry ingredients you’ll wonder why you ever settled for the stuff in a can. My version includes a bit of red bell pepper and carrot for a touch of extra flavor and sweetness. This is perfect on a chilly day or rainy night, and we love to pair it with a tuna on homemade rye or classic grilled cheese sandwich.


Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

1 medium onion, chopped (I like sweet onions, but yellow works well here, too)

1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning (or some combination of oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary)

A pinch of crushed red pepper

28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano, if possible)

1/2 cup vegetable broth or 3/4 cup V-8 juice

1/4 cup whole milk, half-n-half or heavy cream (omit or substitute canned coconut milk if vegan)

Freshly grated parm-romano cheese blend (omit for vegan) and chopped parsley or basil for serving

Tools

cutting board and knife, heavy-bottomed tall pot, flat wooden utensil or spoon, immersion blender*


Let’s Get Cooking!


Place a deep, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add a generous swirl of olive oil (about 2 to 3 tablespoons). When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, pepper and carrot all at once. Salt and pepper to taste, then stir and cook until all begin to soften. Add chopped garlic and seasoning blend, stir and cook another minute or two until onions seem slightly translucent.

Add the plum tomatoes, using your hand to squeeze each tomato into the pot. This helps release the juices and gives them a head start on breaking up in the pot. Squeeze slowly and gently so you don’t wear it! Add all the tomatoes plus all remaining liquid from the can, but discard any basil leaves that may be in the can. Add broth or juice, stir to mix evenly and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered on medium-low about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Adjust seasoning to taste.

When mixture appears less chunky and somewhat reduced, turn off heat and use an immersion blender to puree until mixture is as smooth as you like. Simmer on low another few minutes to allow air bubbles to disperse and soup to reduce to your preferred thickness. If it’s too thick, stir in a bit more vegetable broth. Remove from heat and swirl in milk or substitute. Ladle into bowls and swirl a drizzle of olive oil over the top of the soup and sprinkle with parm-romano cheese and fresh chopped herbs as you like.

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Dinner is served. We love it with a sourdough grilled cheese, but any kind of sandwich is a good side.

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No-Fuss Mushroom and Spinach Omelet

I like this style of omelet because it’s quick and simple, and it doesn’t require removing the extras from the pan and then stuffing them back in. Your “fillings” will be cooked into the outside of the omelet, with melty gooey cheese layered inside. This recipe is super flexible, too! You can add or substitute leftover vegetables of any kind if you don’t have spinach and mushrooms on hand—peppers, kale, broccoli, asparagus or whatever is taking up space in the fridge. If they’re already cooked, just chop into smallish pieces and toss them in the pan long enough to warm them and proceed with the recipe from there. As with most my recipes, I rely on formula and technique more than the ingredients. So, let’s talk about that:

How do you make an omelet fluffy?

Whisking cold water (not milk!) into the eggs just before cooking them gives a nice airy lift to the omelet. The scientific upshot is that the tiny water droplets evaporate quickly in the heat of the pan, creating airy pockets inside the egg mixture. If you want even more fluff, separate the eggs before you begin (this works best when they’re cold) and whip the whites into a soft foam (this works best at room temperature). Fold this into the rest of your egg mixture just before pouring into the hot pan.

Which cheese melts best for an omelet?

Good melting cheeses include Monterey jack, cheddar, Colby, Muenster, Havarti, Gouda and gruyere. Hard or crumbly cheeses such as feta, chevre and parmesan will add tons of flavor; just don’t expect gooey goodness from them, as they pretty much hold their shape when warmed. Whenever possible, grate your cheese from a block. The packaged pre-shredded cheeses are coated to prevent sticking in the bag, and this also prevents them from melting well.

Do you need a special pan for an omelet?

Years ago, my mom had one of those hinged, fold-over pans “designed for omelets,” but this is absolutely not necessary. It didn’t produce a fabulous omelet and mostly just made a mess. My go-to pan for omelets is a good non-stick skillet with curved sides. The shape and coating makes it easier to slide your spatula underneath the set egg mixture for folding and serving. If your skillet is not coated, swirl in a little extra oil just before adding the eggs, to guard against sticking.

This recipe is a delicious way to work in an extra serving of vegetables and works especially well as “breakfast for dinner.” Three eggs make just the right size for my husband and me to share, but we are not big eaters at breakfast. Feel free to throw in a fourth egg with no other adjustment needed.

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper

1 thick slice of onion, finely chopped (we like sweet onions, but red or yellow ones are fine)

3 to 4 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (cremini is my go-to, but white button or shiitake would also work)

Big handful of fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped and tough stems removed

3 large eggs, room temperature

About 1/2 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard (or hot sauce for a spicier twist)

Splash of cold water

1/3 cup freshly shredded cheese (or less if using more pungent cheese, such as Parmesan or feta)

Tools

Get Cooking!

Place a 10 inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and add a generous swirl of olive oil.

When you notice the oil beginning to shimmer and flowing easily around the pan, add your chopped onions. Give them a stir and cook until they are just soft but not quite browning, about 2 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and toss them around with your wooden utensil to be sure they get lightly sautéed on both sides. Add the chopped baby spinach leaves and stir until wilted and noticeably reduced, but still bright green. Salt and pepper to taste.

While the veggies are doing their thing, crack your eggs into a large measuring cup, add Dijon mustard (or hot sauce) and whisk briskly until lightly foamy. Add a splash of cold water – about 1 Tablespoon – and whisk again until light and foamy. You want lots of bubbles in this mixture, so whip it…whip it good!

Spread out the sautéed veggie mixture evenly in your pan. Slowly pour the eggs around the outer edge of the mixture, encircling your veggie ingredients, then pour gently to “fill in” and cover the entire mixture. Again, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the egg mixture looks set about one half inch around the edges but still wet and somewhat loose in the center.

Sprinkle shredded cheese over the entire mixture, turn off the burner and place a cover over the pan, allowing trapped heat and steam to finish cooking the eggs and melting the cheese into them. This will take about 3 minutes. Using a wide silicone spatula, fold in half. Or for a slimmer omelet, fold one third toward the center, then fold the other side over the top of that, as if folding a letter. Carefully cut the omelet in half crosswise to share the other half with your other half, and enjoy!

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