Monday, January 22, 2007

The Meat Bracket - Chorizo

Welcome to my entry to the Meat Bracket. In this post, I will attempt to explain, using only pictures and words, the wonder of chorizo.

In this post, I will not use arguments of politics, history, or quote famous culinary figures - instead, I will hopefully show that the taste, texture, and beauty of this meat makes it worthy of winning the Meat Bracket.

To further illustrate the versatiliy of chorizo, I have used the grease from two beautiful chorizo that I grilled for dinner today to colour my illustrations.

1. Noble Heritage

The word 'chorizo' refers to a pork sausage. Chorizo comes from Spain (or, The Land of Chorizo). Although popular throughout the Iberian peninsula, chorizo can be traced back to Cataluña, where there are 17 different varieties of xoriço, as it is known in Catalan. For Pete's sake, just LOOK at some of these.

2. Simplicity of Ingredients

The main ingredients in chorizo are pork meat, paprika and garlic. It is the paprika which gives chorizo its trademark red colouring. In the spicy 'chorizo picante' version, chili is also added. Chorizo can be a dried, cured salami-like sausage, or made from fresh meat, which must be delicatley cooked to perfection before eating.

3. The Complex Manufacturing Process

The ingredients are ground together to make the chorizo. Although - as my illustration shows - this can seem deceptively simple, the precise speed of grinding and the grade of the grinding teeth impart the trademark coarse-yet-suave texture that make eating chorizo such a pleasure.

4. The Finished Chorizo

Once ground, the ingredients are inserted into sausage casings, to give strings of plump, red sausages. With the best examples, the sausages are then oak-smoked for several hours to give a beautiful smokiness which offsets the succulent pork, savoury garlic, and fragrant paprika... If you are lucky enough, you will know the joy of holding a string of meat like the one pictured above, wrapped in paper, ready to unwrap and throw on the grill. Grilling slowly will brown your sausages perfectly, for a crunchy, chewy exterior, whilst giving the rest of the sausage time to cook gently in its own juices.

5. Immense Versatility

A fresh chorizo sausage is ready to be used in a variety of ways. It can be simply grilled, and eaten on its own, or with bread - or maybe you'd like to chop the chorizo and make a stew with chick peas and tomatoes. How about adding chorizo to a chicken soup, or frying a couple alongside your eggs for a hearty breakfast? For the best experience, travel to the Pamplona festival, and eat one hot from a street-side barbecue. Viva San Fermin!

6. Chorizo Seco

The dried variety of chorizo has been cured, and keeps for far longer than the fresh variety. It lends itself to sandwiches, aperitif, or as flavouring in cooking.

7. Sandwiches Time

My favourite sandwich in the world is to be the chorizo sandwich from Smith's catering in Farringdon, London. I do not not know of anyone who has tried this sandwich of hot grilled chorizo, ciabatta, rocket and tomato, and not then gone on to eat at least ten more in the coming weeks. If you live in London, and want to become a fanatical convert, go here. Smith's (like all good chorizo outlets in London) source their chorizo from Brindisa, the Spanish food importers. The exact source of Brindisa's supply is a closely guarded secret.

8. A Great Encounter

Perhaps the finest chorizo I've ever encountered was served as a canape at a friend's wedding. It was a miniature chorizo, grilled, and topped with a seared scallop and a small amount of Membrillo (quince jam). This one canape elevated the whole day, and will be long remebered by all who were lucky enough to eat it.

9. In Closing:


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Thanks for reading.