By David White, Director, Culinary Applications
Where did it start? My infatuation with pork, fat, pimenton, garlic, acid, and natural casing has been with me for as long as I can remember. Specifically, for as long as I have been working in professional kitchens. My first encounter? I can’t quite remember as the memory is lost in the fog of much travel, so many meals and the desire to continually seek out gustatory delights. I do seem to remember that it may have involved a combination of chorizo, seafood, rice, and some quantity of wine. I’ll come back to this.
It was the taste of my first chorizo that initially captivated and compelled me, to seek out more and more of, what I consider, a magical sausage. The alchemy of this sausage bringing never ending wonder and happiness. What is it that happens when a handful of ingredients are manipulated, seasoned, and stuffed into a casing? Whether the sausage is then prepared in its fresh state or settled into a long curing rest, the end result is always delicious, varied and, never fails to satisfy.
In my early experiences with chorizo, I only knew of and consumed either a hard, cured, Spanish style sausage or the Mexican version that is fresh with a soft texture. I could have spent the remainder of my days knowing only these 2 varieties and would have been blissfully ignorant of other versions that exist around the globe. As culinary fortune would have it, ignorance of other chorizo varieties is no longer the case.
Chorizo, chaurice, chourico; Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Central America, South America, Caribbean; cured, fermented, fresh, semi-cut. The preceding descriptors are an illustration of the wide ranging geographies, formats, flavors that can be found withing the family of chorizo. More simply put, when the question of, “What is chorizo” is asked, the answer can be found in a recent article – “Mexican and Spanish chorizos are beautifully symbiotic foods that could not exist without the lands on either side of the Atlantic. The west provided the pimentón, paprika that turns an otherwise pink sausage blood red. The east provided the pigs.” (Mexican chorizo: What it is and how to make it the right way at home (azcentral.com))
Recently, as I was walking the waterfront in Portland, ME, I stepped into Browne Trading Market to peruse the aisles. On one end of the room was a cold case display of pristine seafood and ocean creatures, on the other end a variety of cheeses, charcuterie, and nibbles. I spied a Chorizo Rioja from Olympia Provisions and a vision of “suppah” as we say in Maine, quickly started to form. Next into my basket went marinated octopus, fresh Deepwater scallops, Bomba rice and saffron. I think you know where this is headed! Following this visit, I picked up a chunk of sous vide pork belly and a few assorted veggies from the local farmer’s market. Though I did have access to a well sized paella pan, the desired access to an outdoor, open flame was unavailable. It would have been a scene right from the movies or from a Jose Andres cooking episode.
Alluding to my initial remembrance of first encountering chorizo, in combination with seafood, I remember it being a “surf and turf” moment. No, not that surf and turf moment when beef filet is served with lobster tail….so pedestrian (I know, I know, this combo can be elevated to a high culinary level). However, my favorite combo of this ilk, the marriage between land and sea, can be so many things when pork and shellfish come together in a well-executed dish. This combination has the flexibility to be presented in the simplest of ways and the most refined of ways depending on your choice of dining venue. I most enjoy it when a minimal number of ingredients are employed, and the cooking technique is simple. For that’s what pork and let’s pick clams, represent. Simple creatures from land and sea that come together to provide a most enjoyable eating experience. I’ll leave you with the following recipe. I will also encourage you to read this recently published article by Rachel Wharton and featured in the online newsletter, “TASTE” - The World Spins Around Chorizo | TASTE (tastecooking.com)
I encourage you to search out the many varieties of chorizo that exist in the world today. Chorizo is a great way to introduce you to different cultures and a variety of regions around the globe.