|Four types of Spanish chorizo, clockwise from upper left, soft, semi-cured; sliced hard-cured; loop of hard-cured chistorra, and sliced, hard-cured ibérico.|
Chorizo is Spain’s most emblematic sausage. It’s made from chopped or minced pork meat and fat, sometimes with beef as well, macerated with sweet and hot pimentón (paprika) or the pulp from choricero peppers, plus pepper, garlic and oregano. The pimentón gives chorizo its distinctive ruddy-red color. The sausage also acquires a subtle smoky flavor from the use of smoked pimentón, pimentón de la Vera. After stuffing in casings, the sausages are air-dried. Lactic fermentation gives chorizo an appetizing tangy flavor.
There are actually two types of chorizo, soft and hard, although, if you are shopping for ingredients outside of Spain, you may find only the hard variety.
|Soft chorizo for cooking.|
Dry-cured, hard chorizo, while it can be used in cooking too, is meant to be served sliced as a cold cut. The mixture of pork and fat is very compacted, giving a texture somewhat like salami. Served with bread, sliced hard chorizo is a delicious tapa or snack.
|Hard chorizo for slicing.|
Mexican chorizo differs totally from Spanish chorizo. Mexican chorizo, usually highly spiced, is a fresh sausage and must be cooked before eating.
|Serve chorizo with bread.|
Jeffrey Weiss is someone who’s doing the graduate degree in chorizo. An American chef from California, he worked as an intern in some of Spain’s top restaurants. His year in Spain included a stint at a traditional matanza, pig slaughtering and chorizo making.
"Chorizo,” says Jeffrey, “is the reason the pig was invented.” Jeffrey, who is writing a book about Spain’s contribution to sausage glory, Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, points out that in the United States, “we have little or no access to the variety of tubular-encased awesomeness that a typical Spaniard does. Our import laws are too stringent to let in the really good stuff (outside of José Andrés's relatively-expensive Fermin line). A few nationally-based producers are making their versions: Fra'Mani makes a great chorizo, as does Armandino Batali at Salumi in Seattle and Olympic Provisions in Portland.
"Until now, the spectrum of deliciously-porky, regionally-unique, cured meat traditions has yet to enter the melting pot of modern American gastronomy. That’s why I’m writing the book on the subject."
|Bean salad with chorizo.|
Bean Salad with Chorizo
Ensalada de Alubias con Taquillos de Chorizo
Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish.
1 pound pinto or red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon oregano, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup Spanish hard chorizo, cut in ¼ -inch dice (4 ounces)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Spanish empeltre olives or other black olives
2 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
Drain the beans and put them in a pot with water to cover, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil, skim, then simmer, covered, until beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours. Drain the beans and place in a bowl.
Add the parsley, oregano, cumin seeds, onion, pepper, chorizo, oil, and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste and combine well. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to 24 hours.
Allow to stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Place the beans on a platter. Garnish with olives, quartered eggs, lettuce leaves, and radishes.