Chorizo: A tale of two sausages
Why is this a pet peeve? It’s because there are at least two types of sausage that go by the name “chorizo,” and they’re very different from each other. One, Spanish chorizo, is flavoured with smoked paprika, cured and dried. The other, Mexican chorizo, is seasoned primarily with ancho chilli and is a fresh sausage (i.e., you have to cook it before eating it). Too often, I’ve been faced with menus identifying chorizo as an element in a dish, with no hint as to which style is involved. And too often, a polite inquiry is met with a puzzled reply of, “How many types are there?”
No matter: both are delicious.
A recent craving for queso fundido led to me making a batch of Mexican chorizo. The recipe I used (different from the one linked to above) was from the only Rick Bayless book I own, Mexico One Plate at a Time, which also includes a recipe for the relevant chorizo. For comparison purposes, I also checked the Mexican chorizo recipe in my go-to sausage book, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie (which has recipes for both the Mexican and Spanish varieties).
What a difference in the recipes! Charcuterie calls for 16 grams of ancho chilli powder for five pounds of meat, while Bayless calls for 6 ounces (that’s about 170 grams, or more than 10 times as much) of whole anchos for only two pounds of meat. Even allowing for the weight of the stems and seeds, that’s a big difference.
I went with the Bayless recipe, partly out of a desire for some nebulous “authenticity” and partly because it was in the same book as the queso fundido recipe (not to mention the tortilla recipe…) The only material change I made was to skip the chilli-toasting step, because my anchos were too brittle to break into large, flat pieces.
The resulting sausage is blood-red, and with such a high proportion of chillis, it burns very easily. But cooked gently, it’s delicious, and made a great addition to the queso fundido. I’m looking forward to finding other ways to use it.