Sunday, January 18, 2015


Chorizo to feed a crowd.
It’s pig-out week! A pre-Lenten time of pig butchering and celebration of all foods porcine. Last week I was eating high-off-the-hog with marinated pork loin. This week I’m making chorizo, Spain’s most distinctive sausage.

Back when I was developing recipes for the cookbook, MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN (HarperCollins 2002), Spanish chorizo was still very difficult to find in the United States. Intending to include a recipe for making chorizo in the book, I experimented with sausage-making in my kitchen.

Seasoning for chorizo.
I got natural sausage casings from my butcher, who also ground up the pork belly for me. To season it, I used three kinds of pimentón (paprika)—regular sweet pimentón, smoked pimentón and hot pimentón picante, along with garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. (More about pimentón here.)

To stuff the sausages I used a simple plastic pastry bag with a ½-inch nozzle. Having tied off the bottom of the casing with cotton string, I eased the casing onto the nozzle, filled the funnel with the sausage mixture and pressed the plunger to force it into the casing. It worked just fine. I tied-off the sausage in 4-inch links.

I hung the chorizos from a rod in a well-ventilated, unheated shower room for a  week, then cooked them on the grill and in cocidos and potajes (soups and stews).

By the time the cookbook was edited, chorizo had become widely available, so my recipe was left out of the book.

This week, I’m not making real sausages in casings. I’m making the spiced chorizo meat mix, then using it as sausages, patties, and picadillo, ground meat for stuffing.

For how to make “real” Spanish chorizo, both semi-cured and dry-cured, for both professional cooks and dedicated amateurs, see CHARCUTERÍA--THE SOUL OF SPAIN by Jeffrey Weiss (Surrey Books-Agate; 2014). Here you'll find detailed instructions about equipment and the “secrets and science of charcutería “ (precise measurements and exact temperatures make a difference), with the curing salts needed for safe processing and where to get them.

But, back to my home kitchen.

Chorizo Casero
Home-Made Chorizo Sausage

Panceta--pork belly.
Fat is what makes sausage juicy. The greater the proportion of fat to lean, the juicier will be the sausage. My local butcher suggested using all panceta, which is pork belly, fresh uncured bacon, a cut which is almost equally fat and lean. (Yes, in Spanish it's panceta, not pancetta.) You could also combine equal parts lean pork with pork fat.

Have the butcher grind the pork belly or use a meat grinder (food processor doesn’t work well).

La prueba del chorizo--taste-testing for seasoning.
After mixing the meat with the spices, refrigerate it for 24 hours to allow flavors to develop. Then, make a small patty of meat and fry it in a small skillet, about  2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. This is the prueba de chorizo, the taste-test. Does the mix need more salt? If you have used the lesser amount given (½ tablespoon), it probably does! Adjust the seasoning, then fry another prueba to taste.

Instead of sausage casings, this chorizo is wrapped in cheesecloth.
At this point the sausage is ready to cook. I wrapped some of it in cheesecloth and tied-off links resembling sausages. I made meatballs with some to drop into lentil soup. I used some to stuff onions (recipe below). The chorizo keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week.

The recipe makes about 16 (2-ounce) sausages.

2 pounds pork belly (panceta), coarsely ground
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
½-1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoons sweet pimentón (paprika)
1 tablespoon sweet pimentón de la Vera (smoked)
1 tablespoon (hot) pimentón picante
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of ground cloves
¼ cup water

Ground pork belly mixed with spices and salt.
Place the meat in a large non-reactive bowl (glass or earthenware). In a blender combine the garlic, wine, salt, pimentón, oregano, pepper, cloves and water. Add this mixture to the meat. Use a mixer with a paddle attachment, a wooden spoon or hands (sterile surgical gloves can be used) to thoroughly mix the spice mixture into the ground meat.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Test the mix for seasoning. Fry a small patty of it until thoroughly cooked and taste it. Adjust salt and other seasoning as needed.

At this point the chorizo can be stuffed into sausage casings or made into patties or meatballs. If not to be cooked immediately, store refrigerated. Use within 1 week.

Onions stuffed with chorizo and baked with cheese on top.
Stuffed Onions
Cebollas Rellenas

Onions are a main ingredient in the making of morcilla, blood sausage. With rice or other fillers such as potatoes or even pumpkin, they are combined with fat and pigs’ blood to provide the substance of the sausage.

In Extremadura, where folks gather for the traditional pig butchering, this stuffed onion dish is traditional. The inner parts of the onion are ground up for the morcilla. Sausage mixture is used to stuff the onion shells, which are roasted until tender.

The stuffed onions make a nice starter, served with salad with a citrusy dressing.

Serves 6 as a starter or side dish.
6-8 medium onions (2 ½ inches diameter)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil or pork lard
1 tablespoon pine nuts
¼ teaspoon cumin seed
½  pound fresh chorizo (recipe above)
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon aguardiente (anisette liqueur), optional
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup (1 ounce) grated cheese (such as Manchego)

Wash the onions. Place them, unpeeled, in a pan with water to cover plus salt. Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain, saving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins. Trim the bottom root ends. Cut a thin slice off the tops. Use a spoon to hollow out the center of the onion, leaving about three outer layers intact. (Save the centers for another use.)

Picadillo--chorizo mix fried.
Heat the oil in a skillet. Fry the pine nuts and cumin seed until lightly toasted and skim them out. Add the chorizo to the pan and brown it, using a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces. Stir in the pine nuts, cumin, wine and aguardiente, if using. Cook for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Use a spoon to stuff the onion cavities with the chorizo mixture. Place the onions in a cazuela. Combine the flour with 1 cup of the reserved onion liquid and pour over the stuffed onions. Cover the cazuela with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Top the onions with grated cheese, cover with foil and return to the oven for 25 minutes.

Remove foil and place under broiler for 4 minutes, until tops are browned.

Serve hot or room temperature.

Today was Día de San Antón, the festival of St. Anthony Abbot, celebrated in my village with a romería, an outing to the saint's shrine in the countryside and potaje de San Antón, a stew with chickpeas, pig tripe, trotters, ears, meat, chorizo and morcilla sausages. That big pot in the picture was one of two prepared by the women for the festival. (The recipe for potaje de San Antón is here.)

Note the glorious January sunshine.

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