Photo by Benjamin Kemper

The country's traditional omelet isn't a beauty queen, but it has a wonderful taste and texture

Benjamin Kemper
July 18, 2018

Lately it seems like the world can’t stop fawning over Georgia’s down-and-dirty cheese pies, grippy amber wines, and coriander-scented soup dumplings. But no matter how many times I visit the Caucasus, it’s the omelets I can’t stop thinking about. They’re nothing fancy—just butter, salt, and eggs cooked in a pan—but it’s their texture, snappy like a Spanish fried egg yet billowy like a French omelet, that has made the “Georgian omelet” (I coined it here first, folks) a fixture in my breakfast rotation.

From the Black Sea coast to the remote villages of the Caucasus, breakfasts in Georgia’s family-run guest houses tend to follow the same formula. There’s always a basket of bread—usually of the flame-licked tonispuri variety—and a cool tomato-and-cucumber salad, dressed with oil and a fistful of herbs. And then there’s the omelet, the star of the table, always made on the spot and plopped before you glistening and hot. At first glance, it’s an ugly thing. Flat, misshapen, and scorched in spots. It’ll have you wondering if maybe the phone rang just as the eggs were hitting the pan. But after the first bite, your doubts will fall away. Lacy, singed edges redolent of brown butter give way to a fluffy, rich interior. In any other school of omelet-making, streaks of white and yellow would be blasphemous; here, you relish the differences in texture between the dense, velvety yolk and squeaky, bouncy white.

In all my years of brunching, I’d never tasted anything quite like Georgian omelets. I was determined to learn how to make them. That’s where Tamara Gvichiani comes in. She’s the cook at Kristina Guesthouse in Mestia, a mountain village in Svaneti known for its thousand-year-old stone towers. One morning, as the sun flooded into the linoleum-floored kitchen, I peered over her shoulder as she dropped a dollop of butter into a screaming-hot pan, cracked in two eggs, stirred, and—as the omelet bubbled and hissed for what felt like a century—went back to peeling carrots. She then gave the omelet a quick flip and shimmied it onto a plate. And that was that.  

Convinced there was more to Georgian omelets than a hot pan and patience, I called Meriko Gubeladze, the chef of Shavi Lomi, one of Tbilisi’s top restaurants, to get some clarity. “You want to know the secret?” she asked, chuckling. “Georgians don’t know how to cook eggs. Even my cooks make terrible omelets. I don’t know where it comes from.”  

To meticulous chefs like Gubeladze, these rustic, unpretty omelets must be irksome. But to me, their honest simplicity is precisely what makes them worth preparing morning in and morning out. So, give this three-minute, three-ingredient recipe a try. I promise, its whole is far greater than its parts.  

 

Georgian Omelet

Photo by Benjamin Kemper

 

Serves one

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
Tkemali plum sauce (optional)

Directions

Step 1

Heat the butter in a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat until the foaming subsides and the butter is beginning to brown.

Step 2

Crack eggs directly into the pan and stir for a couple of seconds to combine the yolks and whites slightly. Leave the eggs undisturbed in the pan for about 1 minute, or until the edges start to brown and the top is almost dry.

Step 3

Using a spatula (or a flick of the wrist, if you’re swaggy like that), flip the omelet and return the pan to the heat for another 10 seconds.

Step 4

Off the heat. Slide the omelet onto a plate, sprinkle with salt, and serve with tkemali on the side, if you’d like.   

 

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