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The Skinny on Chorizo

Spanish chorizo

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Two recipes in this issue feature chorizo, a spicy pork sausage that’s an essential ingredient in many Spanish and Mexican dishes.

There are different kinds of chorizo, but they are all made with similar ingredients: a combination of pork, pork fat, salt, and smoked paprika. The paprika is what gives chorizo its distinctive red color and sweet, smoky flavor. Spanish chorizo, which comes in thin or thick links, may be hard or somewhat soft (often labeled semicured). Both are fully cooked and can be eaten as is, but can be cooked further. This is the style you want for the Steamed Mussels with Crisp Chorizo and Potatoes. Mexican chorizo is made from fresh ground pork, often seasoned with vinegar. It’s raw and must be cooked before eating. This is the style you want for the Cornmeal-Cheddar-Chipotle Waffles.

A well-stocked grocery store will carry both kinds, but you’ll find them in different places. Look for Spanish chorizo near other cured meats like salami and Mexican chorizo near other fresh sausages. (You may also find chouriço, a popular Portuguese sausage similar to chorizo.)

Most packages will be labeled as either Mexican or Spanish, but if not, you can tell one from the other by looking to see if there are cooking instructions on the label; if so, don’t eat it raw. Also, if it’s in the cheese or deli case, it’s probably ready to eat. If it’s in the meat case, it’s probably meant to be cooked.

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