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Cultural Influences

I have always enjoyed spicy food, particularly Mexican and Mediterranean. There is so much variety that it’s impossible to be bored. Many recipes use chorizo as a flavorful ingredient; but did you know that Mexican and Spanish chorizo are distinctly different from each other?

SPANISH CHORIZO:

Spanish chorizo is a cured or firm, sausage made from coarsely chopped pork, and is heavily seasoned, with a characteristically red color due to the heavy amounts of paprika in the spice mix. Depending on the type of paprika used, Spanish chorizo can be either spicy or sweet. The paprika used in Spanish chorizo is almost always smoked, which gives the sausage a deep smoky flavor. Other ingredients may include garlic, white wine and herbs, with the links varying in length.

Because Spanish chorizo is cured, meaning it has been aged for several weeks, it can be eaten without cooking and is often served sliced as part of a tapas tray or charcuterie board.

MEXICAN CHORIZO:

Mexican chorizo is quite different from Spanish chorizo. The meat is usually ground, rather than chopped, and the sausage is fresh rather than cured. It is sold in both bulk and links. The red color of Mexican chorizo usually comes from spicy red pepper rather than the smoked paprika you find in Spanish chorizo. Pork fat is often added to the meat mixture, along with other spices and vinegar. The links are short and air dried for one day to a week.

Mexican chorizo is sold raw and must be cooked prior to eating. It can be cooked either in its casing or removed from its casing and cooked like ground meat (most people purchase it as bulk sausage for this purpose). Mexican chorizo is used in place of ground beef in tacos, burritos, chili, soups, burgers and egg dishes.

I use bulk Mexican chorizo regularly, but last week I made an incredible Shrimp and Spanish chorizo dish that was simple to make, and big in flavor. It may be my favorite way to eat shrimp!

SPANISH CHORIZO AND SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined (leave the tails on)

  2. 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt

  4. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil

  6. 9 ounces Spanish chorizo, casing removed and sliced 1/4 inch, then each slice in quarters

  7. 1 white onion, finely diced

  8. 3 cloves garlic, grated

  9. 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  10. 2/3 cup chicken stock (homemade if you have it)

  11. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

  12. 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika

  13. 1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes

  14. 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

  15. 1 lemon cut into wedges for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place the shelled shrimp in a bowl, season with salt, pepper and paprika and toss to ensure they are all evenly coated. Set aside for 15 minutes.

  2. Heat olive oil in a stick-free pan on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and sear for two minutes per side (you may need to do this in two batches). Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan and set aside on a plate.

  3. Add the chorizo pieces to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes until the chorizo is golden and slightly crisp. Add the diced onion and garlic to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add tomato paste and stir to incorporate.

  4. Add the chicken stock, cherry tomatoes, canned tomatoes and paprika to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften and the sauce has thickened.

  5. Return the cooked shrimp and any juices to the pan and reheat for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and plate, garnishing with fresh chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

Serves 2-4

“You have to live life to its full chorizo!” –Mario Batali
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