- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

If you looked at our calendar for the next few weeks, you’d see that we don’t have many free dates. That’s because once summer arrives in western Massachusetts, our phone begins to ring and e-mails start to arrive from out-of-town friends and family who plan to be in our area.

Some visitors are on their way to vacation rentals in Maine or on the Cape and want to stop for an hour or two. Others are on a leisurely trek through New England and hope to spend the night.

My husband and I love to visit and catch up with people, so typically we respond with an invitation to either come for a meal or to stay overnight. From years of experience, I’ve learned that keeping such entertaining simple is the best solution. As a result, I am always looking for easy dishes that aren’t time consuming.

I discovered one such recipe while planning a tapas cooking class this spring. I decided to include a Spanish tortilla, the celebrated omelet of Iberian fame.

Traditionally, these omelets are made with sauteed potatoes and Spanish onions, but for my version, I used sliced asparagus and diced chorizo sausage instead.

I also stirred in some grated Manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. In addition, I varied the classic technique for cooking the omelet.

Traditionally, tortillas are made by adding a beaten egg mixture to a hot skillet, then slowly cooking the omelet on top of the stove. However, after I had cooked my omelet for a few minutes on the burner, I finished it in the oven. I borrowed this latter step from the Italians who often complete frittatas, their national omelets, under the broiler.

This asparagus and chorizo tortilla takes only about 35 minutes to prep and cook and can be served warm or at room temperature. It’s also a dream when it comes to versatility.

You can serve it for breakfast or brunch. Or add a tossed green salad and some good crusty peasant bread and offer it as a light lunch or supper. It also makes a fine appetizer cut in small wedges.

This week we have two sets of company coming on different days, and I am planning to serve this tortilla on both occasions. The first time it will be paired with wine and other tapas at the cocktail hour, at the second it will be served at breakfast, accompanied by a plate of sliced melon.

Asparagus and chorizo tortilla

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

6 ounces thin asparagus, tough ends cut off and discarded, spears cut into 1-inch pieces

2 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch dice (see note)

7 large eggs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Manchego cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley or chives, divided

Place 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add asparagus and chorizo and cook, stirring, until asparagus pieces are just tender and chorizo is slightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of the asparagus. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Whisk eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, several grindings of black pepper and cayenne pepper in a medium mixing bowl to blend. Stir in cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley or chives.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in an oven-safe, 10-inch skillet with sloping sides. (A nonstick one will work fine, but you will still need to heat the oil in it.) Set skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, pour half the egg mixture into the pan.

Cook about 30 seconds, tipping pan and loosening the edges with a spatula. Then sprinkle the asparagus and chorizo over the eggs and pour in remaining egg mixture.

Cook the tortilla, continuously loosening the edges with a spatula and tilting the skillet to let some of the liquid egg mixture reach the bottom of the pan. Cook until underside of the tortilla is golden and set but egg mixture in the center is still slightly liquid, about 4 minutes.

Transfer tortilla in the skillet to center rack of preheated 350-degree oven. Bake just until top is set, about 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Have a large flat plate ready for serving.

Remove skillet from the oven, and using a spatula, carefully loosen tortilla from pan and slide it onto serving plate. The tortilla will be thin, ½- to 3/4-inch high.

Garnish tortilla with remaining parsley or chives and with several grindings of black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature cut in wedges. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Chorizo is a highly seasoned pork sausage available in both Spanish and Mexican varieties. For this omelet, use the Spanish type, which is made with smoked pork and is already cooked.

Do not use the Mexican variety, which is prepared with fresh pork. I used Wellshire chorizo, available at Whole Foods Stores.


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