Win at Brunch With These Savory Halloumi and Chorizo Pancakes

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Hold the syrup! [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

I have a good friend who often has the kind of ideas that only the intentional chemical expansion of the mind can bring about. More often than not, these ideas involve food. At his most sober, this friend is a fantastically meticulous cook with a limited repertoire. Think: Lebanese-style fette salad where each postage-stamp-sized square of pita is carefully toasted in olive oil and the pine nuts are procured at great personal expense and legal peril.* At his most impaired, recipes devolve into the "let's see what happens when this type of chocolate and this type of chocolate melt together in my mouth" variety.

* He simply can't abide by the imported Chinese pine nuts that invade American supermarkets, and after tasting his nuts,** I'm inclined to agree. It's peculiar that in California, those pinenuts are probably the most illegal thing he consumes.

** You are so juvenile.

But like Goldilocks, he's at his best right in the middle. That's where the idea of putting halloumi—the squeaky, salty, fry-able cheese from Cyprus—into American-style pancakes came about, and it was such a genius idea that I decided to run with it and make it my own.

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The first time I tasted it at his house, he had cubed up the halloumi into tiny pieces, suspending them in a pancake batter flavored with a touch of cardamom and plenty of sugar. I tend to like my breakfasts on the more savory side, so I decided to pair my halloumi with Spanish-style chorizo instead.

Rather than cubing up the halloumi, I left it in whole slices, which gives the final pancakes some pleasant contrast between the crisp and tender batter portions and the rich and meaty slab of chorizo embedded in its center.

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To get the most chorizo flavor into the pancakes, I add the chorizo in three distinct phases after crisping it up in olive oil and tossing it with a bit of chopped oregano (a classic pairing with halloumi). First, I add some directly to the pancake batter (a modified version of my standard pancake recipe). After frying a piece of halloumi on one side and flipping it, I add some more of the crisp chorizo directly to the pan on either side.

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Once a big ladle of the chorizo-studded pancake batter goes on top, those little bits of chorizo and the slab of halloumi end up frying into a pretty pattern on the other side...

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...which reveals itself when you flip the pancake.

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The final chorizo addition comes in a sprinkle of crisp cubes and a drizzle of the rendered chorizo fat after the pancake hits the plate.

This is a fantastic breakfast as-is, but of course there's an obvious way to improve upon it:

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A little oozing egg yolk never hurt anyone and I, for one, crave nothing more when certain self-inflicted hunger pangs strike. This is the kind of dish that's decadent and wacky enough to cook up as a 2 a.m. snack on a Saturday night, but will still be a welcome guest at your Sunday brunch table the morning after. That's a rare and swell thing when you can find it, with food or with friends.