Saturday, June 15, 2024

Discover chorizo’s world of possibilities

Chorizo is essentially an unassuming pork sausage. But all you need is one bite to taste its spicy Hispanic roots and realize the world of possibilities for using it in the kitchen.

Chorizo’s bold, zesty chile flavor is complemented by the warmth of cinnamon and cloves and balanced by herbs and spices like oregano, paprika and garlic. And pork — ahhh, pork! — imparts its unparalleled richness and depth of flavor.

First things first: there’s Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo, and they’re completely different things: Mexican chorizo is raw, made with fresh pork, herbs and spices. It must be cooked before eating. On the other hand, Spanish chorizo is smoked and can be eaten as-is, sliced like salami and often sold chilled. This is an important distinction, so be sure you know what you’re buying.

(The spicing is different too.) We’ll be talking about Mexican chorizo here.

tacos with chorizo
Tacos with chorizo is a classic dish for a reason — because it’s delicious!

Mexican chorizo is sold in sausage-like tubes or links; they can be sauteed or grilled whole, like any other sausage, but another more versatile option is to cut open one end, squeeze out the filling and sauté it. Then the crispy, zesty crumbles can be used in a myriad of ways: mixed into any pasta dish or sauce where you usually use ground beef — like lasagna, Bolognese or Carbonara; added to scrambled eggs, omelets or frittata; crumbled atop papas locas (ask your local street food vendor) or nachos; added to quesadillas or tacos; or mixed into chili.

Chorizo is a simple “secret” ingredient that adds pizazz to any dish and turns “ho-hum” into “wow!” And it’s easy to keep in the fridge so you always have some on hand.

In the grocery store or market, you’ll find many brands of chorizo, all with different spicing. It may take some trial and error to find a couple that work for you. Butcher shops will often make their own as well. You’ll also find vegetarian chorizo, made with soy protein and traditional flavorings and even lower-fat chicken or turkey chorizo.

Feel like making chorizo yourself? Check out this recipe, head to the butcher and have at it. Let me know how it turns out!

Black Bean-Chorizo-Sweet Potato Tacos

Substitute regular white potatoes if you like.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, in ¼-inch dice
  • 1 lb. fresh Mexican chorizo, removed from casing
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • For serving: corn tortillas, crema, pickled red onions, cilantro, queso fresco, salsa

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add sweet potato. Cook, stirring, 4–5 minutes. Push sweet potatoes to edges of the skillet; add chorizo.

Brown chorizo for 4–5 minutes, breaking it into bite-sized crumbles as it cooks. Once the chorizo is browned, mix with sweet potatoes. Add black beans to skillet, stirring to combine with chorizo/sweet potato mixture. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt or pepper as needed. Spoon into tortillas, add toppings and serve.

Rachel Ray’s Chorizo Sloppy Joes (meat and veggie versions)

For Sauce:

  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato paste
  • ½ cup beef stock
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar or grated piloncillo
Chorizo Sloppy Joe sandwich
Who knew you could make a Sloppy Joe sandwich with chorizo?

For Joes:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 big jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 rib celery with leafy top, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1½ lb. 85% ground sirloin (or plant-based beef substitute)
  • ½ lb. fresh beef or pork chorizo (or soy-based chorizo substitute)
  • For serving: Soft burger rolls, chopped white onion, pickles

Heat oil in cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers and celery, season with salt and pepper; stir and cook a few minutes. Stir in garlic.

Add beef and chorizo. Cook till browned and crumbly.

Stir in the sauce, reduce heat to low. Simmer a few minutes to combine flavors. Serve with rolls and toppings.

Grill-Pressed Chorizo Tortas

  • 4 links Mexican chorizo
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch rounds, skewered horizontally
  • 2 avocados, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 6 oz. Oaxaca, Chihuahua or Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or grated
  • 4 bolillos (sandwich rolls)
  • 1/3 cup chipotle mayonnaise
  • For grill cooking: 4 bricks wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil

If using a grill, prepare the fire and grate for cooking. (If using a griddle, follow same instructions for chorizo; char poblanos over an open flame using tongs; sauté onions in skillet or on griddle.)

Place chorizo, poblanos and onions on grill. Cook chorizo until browned all over, about 8 minutes; transfer to cutting board. Cook poblanos until charred all over, about 10 minutes; transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let rest until cooled.

Cook onions until softened and charred on both sides, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to cutting board, remove skewers. Place bricks on grill and cover.

Remove charred skin from poblanos; stem, seed and cut peppers into long strips. Halve chorizo lengthwise.

Place 1 chorizo link on bottom half of bolillo, top with poblano strips, onions, avocados and cheese. Spread chipotle mayonnaise on other side of roll; place on top of sandwich. Repeat with remaining rolls.

chorizo torta
Regular sandwiches don’t hold a candle to tortas stuffed with chorizo and all the fixings.

On grill: place prepared sandwiches on grill. Wearing well-insulated grilling gloves, carefully place one brick on top of each sandwich, gently pushing down to press. Cover grill and cook until sandwich has flattened and bread has crisped, 5–10 minutes.

On griddle or skillet: place prepared sandwiches on preheated griddle sprayed with cooking oil. Use foil-covered bricks, cast-iron pan or other heavy, heatproof object to press down sandwich, cooking at medium-high heat until cheese melts and bread crisps, 5–10 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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