What is chorizo? Depending on where you come from in the world, depends on what you think about when you hear the word ‘chorizo’. In Europe people tend to think of chorizo as a dry cured smoked sausage from Spain or other parts of the Iberian Peninsula. In North American, people tend to associate chorizo as a Mexican sausage, which is uncooked and used for breakfasts, tacos, burritos, etc. The two sausages may have the same name, but they are used in very different ways and have quite different flavours.
Spanish chorizo is made from pork fat and chopped pork meat, seasoned with smoked paprika and salt. Depending on the type of paprika that is used to make the chorizo, means that it is either spicy (picante) or sweet (dulce). There are also regional variations that can contain things such as garlic or herbs. One thing to note is that before using Spanish chorizo it is best to remove the papery skin, as it can be a bit chewy. I always have a length of Spanish chorizo in my fridge at all times. I find that it is a great ingredient to be able to rustle up last minute dishes to give them a shot of pure flavour. For instance some quickly cooked prawns, garlic and chorizo makes a great appetizer, and I have on occasion, just sliced it for a quick snack along with some pickles. Spanish chorizo is a very versatile ingredient and can be used for dishes such tapas, or even as a pasta or a risotto ingredient.
Mexican chorizo is more like the Spanish chorizo fresco, which is an uncooked sausage, however it tends not to be stuffed into sausage casings or skins, and it uses different seasoning such as ancho chillies, ground coriander, cloves, black pepper, oregano, cumin and garlic. Before cooking, the package that the chorizo comes in, is usually opened. Mexican chorizo is also a very versatile ingredient and can be used for everything from tacos, burritos, frijoles charros, chiles rellenos, tostadas and the breakfast dish ‘Huevos Rancheros’, which is chorizo, eggs and salsa.
There is a third way, but I’m not sure if it that well known or used. Bill and I made some Mexican style chorizo meat, stuffed it into natural sausage casings and cooked them like normal sausages on the barbeque.