Spanish Tortilla with Broccoli, Chorizo, and Onion

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

As an easy brunch or light dinner, tortilla española can't be beat. Once you've got the technique down (the hardest part is flipping), it comes together in about half an hour. It tastes awesome when it's fresh and hot, the center just barely set, dipped into a swipe of garlicky allioli. Even better, you can count it among dishes like pizza and muffulettas as a food that arguably gets better as it cools. If I'm planning a brunch party, I'll make the tortilla first, then let it sit on the counter as I finish my other dishes so that it's at room temperature by the time it's served. Cut into squares, it's ideal party food.

And if you want to make the original, well we can help you make that happen with a step-by-step slideshow. That said, in the summer when green vegetables are popping up left and right, I like to mix it up a bit.

At first glance, broccoli and potatoes don't seem to have much in common, but when it comes to making a tortlla, they've got it where it counts, namely texture.

See, the real pleasure of a tortilla lies in its soft, giving, tender texture that comes from slowly cooking down potatoes that gradually give up their moisture to be replaced by the olive oil they're simmering away in. Broccoli achieves much of this same creaminess in just about the same time-frame, making it an ideal candidate for substitution.

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The cooking method is nearly identical, with the one great advantage that broccoli is easier to prep than potatoes, which need to be peeled and thinly sliced. I also like to sear my broccoli a bit at the start to give them a quick nutty char before turning down the heat to slow cook them.

Once you've got your broccoli and onions (an essential tortilla ingredient) tenderized and your chorizo (totally unnecessary but totally delicious) rendered, you've got to work quickly. I dump the hot ingredients out of the skillet directly into my beaten eggs so that the residual heat on the vegetables will start to set the eggs. This is an important step, as it allows the tortilla to cook more evenly when you slide the eggs back into the pan. Let everything cool too much, and it becomes difficult to get the eggs to set hard enough to flip the tortilla before the bottom begins to burn.

If you're scared of flipping, don't be. Flips can sense fear. If, however, you're very scared of flipping, you can finish off the dish like a frittata under the broiler, though you won't get the same dense, creamy texture. The practice is worth it if it means you can slip this valuable brunch weapon under your belt for future use.

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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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