Time to play with your food.
Asparagus season has lasted into July, one of the few benefits of the cool-and-wet May and June this year. Asparagus, like artichoke and several other foods that don’t begin with A, is a funny-looking vegetable, the kind that’s prone to inspiring whimsical dishes. Admiring a pile of asparagus at the farmers market, I saw a new purpose for them: a tic-tac-toe board built into an omelet. Why not?
The idea’s pretty simple. If you cook your eggs on very low heat in a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan, you can arrange whatever you like on the top while the omelet cooks through. Pre-sauté your vegetables or meats. Lay down a tic-tac-toe board made of two very thin asparagus stalks one direction, and two stalks broken into pieces the other direction. Play tic-tac-toe with edible Xs and Os, solo or with someone else. Let it cook, putting a lid on it for the last minute or so if necessary.
It’s not something I’d make every week, but it’s a fun treat for kids, game/puzzle enthusiasts, or anyone who likes to play with food. Plus, it looks cool.
Ideas for O:
- Small onion rings
- Zucchini or summer squash slices
- Sausage slices
- Small tomato slices
- Peas in a circle
- Round slices of narrow hot chili peppers
Ideas for X:
- Baby carrots or asparagus pieces; you can cut a notch in them if it helps
- Mushroom slices, sliced again lengthways and crossed
- Shiitake slices, with some stem still intact, placed back-to-back
- Four small pieces of broccoli
- Two long, thin pieces of a cheese that doesn’t melt much or is added very late in the cooking process
- Thin greens
- Thin slices of bell peppers
- Smoked salmon pieces
Here’s how to make it:
- 2 eggs (per person)
- a dash of cream or milk (per person)
- very thin asparagus
- other appropriate vegetables or meats (see above)
- other flavorings as you choose. Fish sauce, combined with Thai sausage, mushrooms, and hot chilis, for a Thai omelet? Fresh herbs?
- a nonstick or very-well-seasoned small cast iron pan, about six to eight inches across
1. Choose your thin asparagus stalks for the board, and your X and O vegetables or meats. You can pick exactly the number you’ll need for your omelet(s), or you can just sauté a whole bunch and pick from them later when you cook the omelet. If you’re just making one or two, or if you’re doing this for the first time, I recommend laying out the board in an empty pan to get a sense of what size things should be. This also allows you, if you’re making it solo and are extra nerdy, to make sure you’re laying out a game that will fill the board but still be logical; you can write it down if it helps.
Plus, this part is pretty:
2. Lightly sauté all these vegetables and meats in butter. Set aside.
3. You want to make the omelets one at a time. Beat two eggs with a dash of milk or cream. Set pan on low heat (I alternated between the 2 and the LOW settings). Add more butter, let it melt, and pour egg mixture into pan.
4. Lay out the tic-tac-toe, placing each piece gently into the eggs. Place whole asparagus first, then asparagus pieces. Then fill in the board. On low, this should take nearly the amount of time it takes the eggs to cook, but keep a lid handy in case it doesn’t. You should cover it if you still see liquidy raw egg in places like so:
In that case, cover the omelet for the last 30 seconds or minute if needed.
5. Turn off the heat and slide out of the pan onto a plate. Serve immediately.
6. Optional: If you prepped a bunch of extra sautéed veggies, you can serve them on the side.