Tell me about Mexican chorizo, por favor
After almost two years, I finally decided to check out the Mexican markets near my home.
It turns out that not only do most of them make their own queso fresco, they also make their own chorizo ... two kinds.
The first is plump fresh chorizo found in the meat counter usually coiled like a thick fat snake or tied of with corn husks in little links. Sort of like this picture
The second usually hang from the walls ... unending lengths of sausage looped around a rack. It looks closer to dry Spanish chorizo and is almost plasma red. These have deep flavors of chile pepper and cinnamon. It sort of looks like this
How are these two differnt styles used? Does the unrefrigerated chorizo need to be cooked.
I am so excited about these finds. Little artisans on ever corner without the PR hype ... turning out sausages and cheese on the cheap. I bought a pound of two types of chorizo and a hunk of fresh cheese for $3.19. I passed on the house-made salsa and the mole as deep and dark brown as soil Those were $2 for a pint.
I've already tried a few other markets, and pretty much been frying the chorizo up and scrambling with eggs ... and the flavor has been deeply satifying and better than anything I've had in Mexican restaurants to date.
However what is the diffference betweent the two chorizos and how should they be used.
Educate me please, so I can get my degree ...
My mother got a chance to make chorizo a few years ago with a local butcher at a Mexican market. She went through the whole process - grinding--seasoning--casing.
Based on what she saw, they only used good cuts of beef. Nothing with a gland or one of the five senses :)
But that was a local guy who made his own stuff. I know that the chorizo manufactured in bulk has all the same things that regular sausage has...stuff I don't think about while I'm enjoying my chorizo con huevos.
Last November ('05) I had the opportunity to tour and observe chorizo being made in Toluca, Mexico, at the Alianza carneceria. This was then followed by a meal, feast really, at Hacienda Parian at which the Alianza chorizo was the star player. Alianza is alledged to be the prime producer of chorizo in Toluca (which is famous for it) still making their chorizo from scratch the old fashioned way. The process was remarkably simple and required little in the way of fancy equipment.
A large stainless steel vat was filled with a mixture of pork, some pork fat, onions, a proprietary spice blend, pine nuts and raisins. We were observing the run of their premium product, hence the pine nuts and raisins. There are special mixing machines that will combine the meat, but at Alianza they use what is really the bowl of a commercial bread mixer (NOT a 60 qt. Hobart floor mixer). It has one curved paddle that turns the ingredients to combine rather than beat them. It took less than 10 mintues for the mixture to come to the right texture and consistency. They do employee a master butcher who supervises the entire process and stops the mixing product when he's satisfied it's perfectly done. He is one of the few master chorizo makers still doing things the old-fashioned way.
The chorizo mixture was then dumped into the hopper of the casing machine and deposited into natural casings. Imported from the U.S. of all places, NAFTA at work I'd guess ;-). The coil then went through a slot that made indents where the links would eventually be cut when sold.
From the premium chorizo we moved on to the chorizo verde. That's right green chorizo. This is very common in and around Toluca and you can see it hanging in nearly every meat market, butcher shop and taqueria, as well as in season 2 or 3 of Rick Bayless' One Plate at a Time. Some of it, most of it, is vibrant, almost neon green. A smaller percentage has a much less vivid, more drab green color, but believe it or not, this is the more desirable green chorizo. The bright green stuff acquires it's color through the use of commerical grade green food coloring. The less colorful chorizo is produced by combining the pork, pork fat, proprietary spice blend with parsley, chard and spinach and no artificial coloring.
Our meal started off with queso fundido that had been topped with crumbled chorizo of both colors. Plates of dense and meaty red and green chorizo that had been grilled and sliced were also passed. Both of these paired extremely well with the Don Julio that was being liberally poured around the table. We then moved on to a richly earthy mushroom soup chock full of the thinly sliced shrooms; some of the chorizo slices could be added in if we wanted. We wanted, and it was a heavenly combination.
Soup was followed by ensalada de nopales - cactus paddle salad - in which the tender strips of nopales had been combined with tangy, raw white onion rings, crumbled queso fresco and more crumbled chorizo, all tossed in a light oil and vinegar style dressing simply seasoned with salt, pepper, lime and oregano.
The food kept coming. The entree finally arrive and it was fork tender grilled carne asada that completely covered the 10" dinner plates. I am sure there must have been something else on the plate, but what I can't remember because I was so engrossed in working my way throught that tasty steak.
In between the entree and dessert a balloon like object was placed on the table. We were told it's called "Obispo", which is also what a Cardinal's hat is called in the catholic church. The best way to describe obispo is that it's kind of, sort of, distantly related to Scottish haggis. It's a chorizo sausage of sorts stuffed into hog gut and cooked. It's better than haggis, actually tastes kinda good, but probably an acquired taste. It includes a lot of offal as well as the chorizo. It is also a disappearing food item as it is not made as frequently these days as it was in the past.
Tacos de Chorizo are some of my favorite street tacos in Mexico. The chorizo is cooked on a hot comal and usually not very greasy/fatty at all. That comal cooked chorizo on a soft, hot corn tortilla, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro and diced white onion, a squeeze of lime and I'm in heaven. Sometimes if I like the salsa verde being offered by the vendor I'll put that on the chorizo taco too. How well I like the chorizo in the taco often depends upon the spices used in making it.
Mama Testa Taqueria in San Diego makes their own chorizo because the quality of the chorizo available locally is so poor. Their chorizo tacos are exceptionally good, and the closest I've come to finding authentic Mexican style chorizo tacos in the U.S.
I love sausage, and will almost always order a charcuterie plate as an appetizer if it's on the menu. I love chorizo but eat it almost exclusively only when I'm in Mexico because it is way, way better than anything I've tried here in the U.S. The chorizo I've experience in Mexico is NOT a greasy, crumbly mess. It's meaty, toothesome, hearty and far less fatty than it's U.S. cousin.
The real stuff is versatile, capable of being used in almost any course except dessert. As Alton Brown says, it's just "good eats"
Thanks for the wonderful and informative post. Oddly enough, I was just reading the label on some chorizo (Marquez brand, I believe) and the main ingredient was pork saliva glands. In the beef chorizo, it was beef saliva glands. There are some things one is better off not knowing.
re: Phoo D
Now you know why I won't eat it NOB ;-) and why Cesar at Mama Testa's Taqueria makes his own. I'm pretty sure there were no odd offal cuts in the chorizo I saw made in Toluca.
I also watched chorizo being made in Teotitlan del Valle just outside of Oaxaca. Funny, this chorizo was made mostly with muscle meat, some fat and a proprietary spice blend, nary an offal ingredient in sight.
Since they are famous in Mexico for using all the pig except the oink, I'm sure there must be some chorizos that contain it; I just haven't observed it.........yet
re: Phoo D
I live in Mexico, about half way down the Pacific coast. The first type of chorizo is the fresh uncooked kind. It is used cooked and taken out of the casing. Often at taco stands in tacos or in restaurants mixed w/ eggs. It is very fatty and has a very destinctive odor while cooking. The second type is not seen often in Mexican cooking, but in "special occasion" cooking, like in Paella. Mexican cooking is very much a blend of native American, Spanish, French and Germanic influences, with more base influence from the native or pre-hispanic.
No. These markets really do make their own. There is enough English/Spanish for that. Also there was a local article about it which wised me up to the business about the markets making their own cheese.
So my question is who makes your cheese ... chorizo ... salsas ... rather than do you make your own which might be misunderstood. Sometimes I'll get into a little more conversation with them about it.
One place I do know without a doubt makes their own is the place that hand ties the chorizo with corn husks. They have types I have never seen anywhere before and I've talked to the guy who is the sausage maker about what he is doing.
Each shop is a little different. I don't see why a little corner carniceria can't make there own sausage while, in the Bay Area we have tons of fancy-dancy people making susages and cheese with their only outlet a stand at a farmers market.
The sausage doesn't surprise me as much as the cheese ... and the queso freso I bought today is just equisite.
Well, some of them. This is an odd coincidence. This week was the first time I saw that Central American type. There's a little carneceria near me that hand-ties all his sausages, except the all-beef chorizo ... is that great or what ... all beef chorizo.
At another market today I learned that the two types are simply called fresh and dried. Not sure if the dried is just the fresh, hung up, but I don't think so. The flavors are too different. Here's the beginning of my chorizo crawl and a little about those El Salvadoran chorizo which you described perfectly.
Here in SW FL, the stores sell both kinds you speak of...one is fresh chorizo that requires cooking and can be a little oily (but is delicious)...the second kind is similar to pepperoni and is already cooked. I tend to prefer the dried, cooked chorizo, even for scrambled eggs, probably because it is less oily than the fresh. Many of the recipes I've used that call for chorizo do not say which kind to use!
I've really never seen much of the second type you describe. I ran a manufacturing facility in Dallas for many years with probably 80% Hispanic. Huevos con chorizo were a standard in the morning. Sometimes it was huevos con chorizo y papas (potatos).
The "Spanish" style chorizo is dried and usually used in paella or dishes of that nature. Sometimes you'll find it on a tapas plate.
So, was the second type "hard" like it was dried or cured? If you've fried up the first type you have surely noticed that it's VERY greasy and needs to be drained before continuing with the "huevos."
Bottome line, it has a wonderful taste.
Yeah, what Val said below about the second type. You know, it is somewhere in-between. To me, it doesn't quite seem like you could eat it as is ... it is not as hard as the Spanish style. Yet it hangs unrefrigerated like a salami.
Not having good luck so far with the guys at the meat counter as their English is as limited as my Spanish.