My first task was to get the chilies to steam. Dad had me put a few cups of apple cider vinegar in the steamer before I filled it with a mixture of guajillo and ancho chili. Her distinctive, warm, spicy scent began to evoke childhood memories within minutes, enveloping me in warmth and comfort. I lifted the lid off the steamer, their rich deep red color inviting me to photograph them.
Dad was standing at the chopping block in the kitchen, continuing to feed the pork chunks through the meat grinder on his KitchenAid stand mixer. I should have paid more attention to what he was doing, but the chilies had me spellbound.
Eventually I pulled away from the stove as the last bits of meat came through the grinder and I had seconds to photograph it before that step was over and we moved on to the next.
Growing up, I took Dad’s homemade chorizo for granted. I remember the first time I ordered it in a restaurant. It was an overly greasy affair, suffering from an aggressive amount of chili that killed off the taste buds for all other ingredients in the dish. I’ve taken a chance and ordered it a few more times from different places but the experience is always disappointing. Dad’s homemade chorizo totally spoiled me.
It was years before I worked up the courage to ask Dad to teach me his recipe. Finally, in the summer of 2013, I asked him if he would teach me so I could blog it. I wasn’t sure what he would think of me sharing his recipe with the world. To my great surprise – and delight – he agreed without hesitation.
There’s something extraordinary happening when you share the kitchen with someone who takes pride in passing on a family recipe to the next generation. Even with my almost 20-minute delay (Dad hates being late) due to an ingredient mix-up (I forgot one and bought the wrong one) and my interruption to take a picture or ask a question, Dad remained cheerful throughout the cooking class. Aside from learning a precious family recipe, my favorite part was spending the morning with Dad, learning a few things about him that I didn’t know before.
“Is that Nana’s recipe you’re teaching me?” I asked.
“No, your Tata.”
“Yes. I never asked your nana for recipes and I never paid attention when she cooked. I took her cooking for granted.” From the suddenly serious tone of his voice it was clear that he regretted not paying more attention to his mother’s kitchen I was all the happier that I asked him to show me this recipe.
“Did Tata cook as much as you?”
“No, not really. Your Tata would only cook something special when he felt like making something special that only he would cook himself.”
I found out that my paternal grandfather’s specialty was black pudding and my father never had the opportunity to learn it. I have no recollection of my grandfather in the kitchen other than flashing us around the kitchen table, him entertaining me and sipping his lime and salted-hand cerveza while Nana cooks.
Luckily, I have many memories of my father in the kitchen, chopping and standing over the stove with the giant handcrafted wooden stirrer, stirring the giant soup pot of slow-simmering carnitas and chicharrones. There were countless Christmas tamaladas (tamal making sessions) with each of us girls being assigned a task. And sometimes, in the early hours of the morning, when he’d just gotten home from work and in the mood for breakfast, Dad would wake us up and surprise us with fresh almond pancakes to share with him.
Beautiful memories. Many of them. And they keep piling up when I get a call or text from Dad casually mentioning that he has ribs on the grill or roast pork for pulled pork sandwiches, just in case I want to stop by for dinner.
What a question! Of course I can stop by for dinner!
I think the passion I saw coming from him when he was in the kitchen, cooking or serving us something he had just finished making or describing a recipe – and the time he spent helping Mom prepare it Helping out the family dinner – is why I’ve learned to love cooking as much as I do. I am familiar with the satisfaction they found in preparing meals for the family. I feel it every time I prepare meals for family and friends.
And sometimes when I’m cooking and tasting in the kitchen, I’m back in my parents’ kitchen. In my head, I see a younger version of Dad reaching for a spoon, tasting something he’s making, closing his eyes for a second, shaking his head slightly as he says:
“Damn! That’s good!”
Papa’s Mexican-style pork chorizo
Mexican-style chorizo differs from the hard, cured Spanish-style sausage. Mexican chorizo, a soft, raw sausage, is often cooked with stir-fry potatoes, added to bean puree and soups, or simply browned and eaten in a taco, to name a few to name ideas. This chorizo recipe is very flavorful, using mild to medium heat. If you want it spicier, add a handful of Chilis de árbol (stem removed). Let the chorizo sit in the fridge for at least 48 hours before using to give the seasoning time to infuse the meat. Portion the chorizo into quart-size resealable freezer bags and freeze what you can’t use within a week. For best results, place the meat grinder attachment and blade in the freezer for an hour before beginning the grinding process.
6 ounces whole dried guajillo chiles
2 ounces whole dried ancho chilies
6 to 12 chiles de árbol, optional for more spiciness
Apple Cider Vinegar
6 to 7 pounds pork (do not remove fat)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon of salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Rinse the chillies in cold water. Fill the bottom of a 5 or 6 liter steamer with apple cider vinegar to just below the steamer basket. Place the dried chilies in the steamer basket, cover and steam until soft and pliable, about 40 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, stir and rotate the chiles to bring the bottom chiles to the top and the top ones to the bottom—then cover and steam for another 20 minutes. Take the steamer basket out of the pot and set it aside to let the chilies cool down a bit.
Meanwhile, cut the meat into pieces of about 2 cm (do not cut away the fat). Pass the diced meat through a meat grinder. Place in an extra large mixing bowl and set aside.
Remove the stems and seeds from the guajillo and ancho chilies and only the stems from the chiles de árbol, if using. Pour 1 ¾ cups of the steaming vinegar into a blender. Add the garlic cloves, spices and a third of the soaked, seeded chilies. Pulse until smooth. Add the next third of the chilies and two scoops of the steaming vinegar. Pulse until smooth. Add the remaining chilies and enough steaming liquid to achieve a thick tomato sauce consistency. If you run out of vinegar from the steamer, use extra apple cider vinegar. (If necessary, puree the chilies in batches.)
Mix the chili mixture with the minced meat and work it in well with your hands.
Heat a small skillet over medium-high and pour in the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, carefully pour in 3 tablespoons of the chorizo and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage until lightly browned and slightly crispy. Place on a plate lined with kitchen paper; Allow to cool for 2 minutes, then taste and season remaining raw chorizos if needed.
Cover the chorizo bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for at least 48 hours (preferably up to 7 days) before packing in smaller ziplock bags for freezing. Meat can be stored indefinitely in the freezer, well wrapped, and in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
How to use your homemade chorizo
To make a hash: Heat a skillet over medium-high heat to cook the chorizo. Add desired amount of sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned and crispy to your preference. Remove the chorizo from the pan, leaving as much of the chorizo-flavored fat as possible, then cook the veggies in the flavorful fat (add additional oil if needed). Add back the chorizo to incorporate and heat through.
To season a burger or make a meatloaf: Use a 50/50 ground beef to chorizo mix.
Prepare chorizo beans: Brown 1 cup chorizo. Remove from the pan, leaving as much fat as possible. Drain two 15.5-ounce cans of pinto beans, add to skillet and puree. Add water or stock to achieve desired creaminess, then stir in the chorizo and simmer for 5 minutes.
Here’s how to use this pork chorizo in a queso fundido.
Recipe is copyright of Anita L. Arambula and is reprinted with permission from Confessions of a Foodie.
Arambula is the art director and designer of the food department. She blogs at confessionsofafoodie.me, where the original version of this article was published. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.