May's Challenge is Chorizo, one of our favorites. I've made it at least once, and elected to follow the same recipe I had before: Rick Bayless's "Tolucan Chorizo," as described in his first book. The recipe is interesting, a little sweeter than the standard, commercial chorizos I've had. The ingredients, depicted here,
include both Anchos and Pasilla peppers, oregano, garlic, black pepper, coriander seeds, lots of paprika, and ginger and cinnamon, which, together with the Ancho, make for a mild, sweet sausage.
It also needs some vinegar, and of course, salt
First thing I did was to toast the seeded chiles, until they're smoking: like this
Next, I ground them - in a blender, which worked fine, even with the dried chile - and added all of the spices together. Then, on to the meat
Here's a lovely two pound hunk of shoulder, Boston Butt, from Cane Creek (of course). Ready to be boned out and ground.
And the meat chopped for grinding. I didn't add any extra fat, as the shoulder itself is plenty fatty - though, in the end, it wouldn't be a bad idea to add a few ounces of fat back per pound, if you've got it.
I'm not ashamed to admit that even a carnivorous advocate like myself does not own a meat grinder. No problem, for all but large batches, a cuisinart does the trick just fine. Also not ashamed to admit that I followed the guidelines for cuisinart grinding provided by Alton Brown. First, I put the meat and the cuisinart bowl and blade in the freezer for about half an hour. The main issue you want to avoid when making sausage is the dreaded SMEAR. That is, you want the meat and fat chopped into fine pieces that blend together like fine grains in a mosaic. You DON'T want them to cream together like a batter, unless you're making an emulsified sausage - like a hot dog or mortadella. Chilling the meat and your tools prevents the fat from melting into the meat, just what you want in a good sausage.
Grind the meat in small batches- the few ounces I've shown above is probably the max you want in any cuisinart batch. Then, PULSE the meat, maybe ten times, until it look like this:
Pulsing 2 pounds of pork took maybe two and a half batches, and less than two minutes to grind. Looks pretty good to me - though, upon final tasting, I decided it could be pulsed once of twice more for a smaller, finer mince.
Once the meat is ground, mix it with all of the spices. Try to use a spoon or spatula, if you can, as the heat from your hand can melt some of that fat into the meat creating that smearing you want to avoid. Once the mix is blended, Bayless says to cure the sausage in the fridge for 2 days. So I've set the meat in a colander over a bowl to catch the moisture that seeps out. Given the minimal moisture I lost, I decided I needed more salt- which I added after the cure (that's ok, I'm not eating two pounds of chorizo in one sitting, so - in effect - the cure will continue). Also think I'm going to regrind some of this before I cook it again - it needs a more uniform texture.
Before I cured the sausage, I cooked a small sample to check for seasoning - should have added the salt then, but thought the cure would make the salt more pronounced. No matter, it's still GOOD.
After 48 hours of curing, I fried some up, and put in some excellent new asparagus, from Lyon's Farm, sold by my pal, Rose Lyon, at the Carrboro Farmers Market. Then I added one Cane Creek egg (the blue ones weren't dyed for Easter, just delivered from an Araucana chicken)
And served the whole mess over some rigatoni
Once you've made the sausage, the dinner can be made in less time than it takes the pasta to boil. Can't complain!
I've been itching to add a post on more anthropologically meaty matters, and will do so soon. In the mean time, get out there and grind some sausage!