Cooking Like A Mexican

BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

Chorizo originated in Spain and means, pork sausages. Chorizo can be a fresh sausage, in which case it must be cooked before eating or, as in Europe, a cured, or smoked sausage, in which case it is often sliced and eaten without cooking. It can also be added as an ingredient to flavor other dishes. Traditionally, chorizo is encased in natural casings made from intestines, a method used since Roman times. That means animal guts, campers.

Looks like weenies? No! Looks like bratwurst? Oh please! This is chorizo wrapped up in animal guts. “Casing” to the squeamishChorizo gets its distinctive smokiness and deep red color from dried smoked red peppers. Due to culinary tradition and the high cost of imported Spanish smoked paprika, Mexican chorizo is usually made with native chili peppers. In Latin America, vinegar also tends to be used instead of the white wine usually used in Spain. Chorizo can be eaten sliced in a sandwich, grilled, fried, or simmered in apple cider or other strong alcoholic beverages such as tequila or mezcal. It can also be used instead of ground beef or pork, loose, not in a casing.

In recent years, Spanish-style tapas bars that serve traditional Spanish-style chorizo have gained in popularity and now appear in many large cities throughout North America and in parts of Europe. Mexican versions of chorizo are generally made from fatty pork. However, they can also be made from beef, venison, chicken, turkey, and even tofu. The meat is usually ground rather than chopped and different seasonings are used. This type is better known in Mexico and in the border areas of the United States, and is not frequently found in Europe.

Besides Spain, the area of Toluca, Mexico, is known as the capital of chorizo. It specializes in green chorizo, which is made with tomatillo, cilantro, chili peppers, and garlic. The green chorizo recipe is native to Toluca. Most Mexican chorizo is a deep reddish color, and is largely available in two varieties: fresh (the most common) and dried. Quality chorizo is made from good cuts of pork stuffed in natural casings, while some of the cheapest commercial styles use variety meats stuffed in inedible plastic casing made to resemble sausage links. Before eating, the casing is usually cut open and the sausage is fried in a pan and mashed with a fork until it resembles finely minced ground beef.

A common alternative recipe does not involve casings; ground pork and beef are cured overnight with a little vinegar and a lot of chili powder. Served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it has the finely minced texture mentioned above, and is quite intense in flavor. In Mexico, restaurants and food stands make tacos, queso fundido (melted cheese) or, burritos and tortas with cooked chorizo. It is also a popular pizza topping. Chorizo with huevos is a popular breakfast dish in Mexico and border towns. It is made by mixing fried chorizo with eggs. Chorizo con huevos is often used in breakfast burritos, tacos, and taquitosa (a popular Mexican recipe in which chorizo is used as an ingredient combined with pinto or black refried beans). This combination is often used in tortas as a spread, or as a side dish where plain refried beans would normally be served.

In Mexico, chorizo is also used to make the popular appetizer chorizo con queso (or choriqueso), which is small pieces of chorizo served in or on melted cheese, and eaten with corn tortillas. Mexicans in the United States make a popular filling for breakfast tacos called chorizo con papas, or diced potatoes sautéed until soft with chorizo.

The main ingredients of sausage are meat, pork bacon, paprika, garlic and salt. But there are as many recipes as sausages. It is the sum of all the ingredients, such as, garlic, pepper, cumin, bay leaf, thyme , onion, paprika, and oregano, that give each sausage its unique smell and taste. Some have a little more of this and a little less of that.

Chorizo recipes are quite varied. Each home has its own recipe often passed from generation to generation. However, creating the taste and aroma of chorizo is about creating balance and harmony. The sausages must be cured for 50 days in a cool, dry place. Sometimes they are smoked with oak wood and then left to air.

Mexico has its own version of Spanish chorizo dishes. Scrambled eggs with chorizo is a good choice, but you can also have it in quesadillas or even as a side dish with your steak especially if you are having a BBQ. And it is very simple, just cut the chorizo in half long-wise and put it on top of the grill. Do this when your steak is half done so it will be cooked and ready at the same time.

Ingredients for Chorizo Quesadillas (No specific amounts required for this one. It all depends on your preference.)

Corn or flour tortillas

Grated Gouda, or Monterey jack cheese

Avocado slices

Cooked chorizo

Remove the coating and fry the chorizo in a pan with a little bit of oil.

Break it until it looks like ground beef; don’t let it brown because it will go bitter.

Heat the tortilla just a little bit. Add the grated cheese and the chorizo. Then fold the tortilla and put it on the flat grill. Turn it two or three times until the cheese is melted. Open your quesadilla, add an avocado slice, and that is it. Bite into you Mexican version of an old Spanish dish and savor the flavors! Buen provecho.