Chorizo is most frequently found in Spain, where it originated; Mexico, where it's often eaten for breakfast; and Portugal, where's called chouriço. The sausage originated in Spain, and it's most often made from chopped or ground pork. We have seen other varieties, though; sometimes we buy chicken chorizo at Trader Joe's, and we recently had an excellent duck chorizo at the Los Angeles restaurant Lucques.
The thing that makes chorizo distinctive - that smoked, spicy flavor from the spices - is what also makes it a great candidate for spicing up dishes without using too much meat. Just a little chorizo goes a long way.
We find that just one or two slices of smoked chorizo are very satisfying with a big plate of beans and some greens. We also like to use the uncooked version of chorizo (you can find it smoked and ready to eat, and also raw and uncooked) in everything from pasta to beans to eggs. The red, oily flavorings leak out and change the color and taste of everything! We think it's delicious.
If you can find good local chorizo or other kinds of sausage made locally, do it! This is from our local butcher, who mixes and smokes the chorizo with pork raised on his own farm. We know that animals are treated well and slaughtered humanely, and the sausage itself tastes like it was cooked over a campfire in the autumn woods. So smoky and so good! Even though it's $10/pound, we don't mind, since a package of four links usually lasts us a week.
Recipes making good use of chorizo:
• Orecchiette with Chorizo and Sage
• Chickpea and Chorizo Soup
• Mezzi Rigatoni with Chorizo, Cockles, and Black Forest Ham
• Fish Soup with Mussels and Chorizo
But our favorite ways to use chorizo need no recipe at all. We crumble a little cooked or smoked chorizo into an omelet in the mornings, paired with Swiss or Parmesan cheese. And we love to just eat smoked chorizo sliced in half and pan-grilled. Delicious - and a little goes a long way.
What are other kinds of sausage that you enjoy using to flavor your frugal dishes?
(Image: Faith Durand)