What Is Chorizo?

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Similar to spicy andouille sausage, originally from France, and linguica sausage from Portugal, chorizo appears in dishes from both Mexico and Spain. The Mexican and Spanish versions differ a bit in their ingredients, but the sausages are virtually interchangeable in cooking.

Ingredients

Typically made with pork and occasionally with beef, Mexican chorizo is highly seasoned with garlic, chili powder, ancho chilies and a healthy dose of cider vinegar. It comes in either red or green versions depending on what type of chilies the cook uses. Also made from pork, Spanish chorizo is milder in flavor than its Mexican sibling, and comes in both sweet and spicy varieties. Spanish chorizo typically features smoked paprika as one of its prominent ingredients.

How to Cook Chorizo

Because it's made from fresh pork sausage, you need to cook Mexican chorizo completely. Look for it at Mexican markets either sold loosely when you can buy it by the pound, or enclosed in casings. On the other hand, Spanish chorizo comes already cooked, and always in a casing. Spanish chorizo is dried and cured, either smoked or unsmoked, and is similar to Italian cured sausages like salami and pepperoni.

Uses for Chorizo

Although the two sausages are similar, the Mexican version works better than the Spanish sausage when you want a crumbled meat, such as in enchiladas, nachos, pasta, omelets or chili. You can remove Spanish chorizo from its casing and chop or slice it for those same uses and have larger, more chewy bites. Or, make traditional Spanish dishes with Spanish chorizo, such as potaje de garbanzos, or bean soup.

Tip

  • Portuguese chourico substitutes for either type of chorizo in any recipe. Like Spanish chorizo, chourico is a smoked, ready-to-eat sausage, but with much more garlic than the Spanish version.

Two Quick Dishes

Use either crumbled and cooked Mexican chorizo or sliced Spanish chorizo disks for these traditional Mexican dishes:

Quesadilla -- Mexican Turnover

  1. Place flour or corn tortillas in a skillet, heated to medium, with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  2. Sprinkle on chorizo, grated cheese and other toppings such as sliced green onions or cooked potato chunks. Use either Mexican queso fresco, Monterey Jack or your favorite cheddar cheese.
  3. Fold over the tortilla to enclose the filling and cook until the tortilla is golden brown on both sides.

Huevos con Chorizo -- Scrambled Eggs With Sausage

  1. Cut one tomato into small pieces or use 1/2 cup of tomato salsa.
  2.  Heat the tomatoes and chorizo in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
  3. Beat two eggs in a mixing bowl until they're well blended. Add a few tablespoons of milk or cream if you like, or omit the dairy if you like less creamy eggs.
  4. Cook the eggs, chorizo and tomatoes or salsa, stirring and scrambling them constantly until the eggs are done as you like them, either soft and moist or chunky and dry.
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