Chorizo sausage can be many things, but I did not realize that one of them was green.
The chorizos I'd come across before had been red, whether they were the firm, cured kind from Spain rust-tinted with paprika or the floppy fresh Mexican kind flavored and colored with ancho chilies.
Then I encountered the green chorizo at Empellon al Pastor in New York. A specialty of the Toluca region of
Mexico, the pungent sausage was spiked with roasted serrano and poblano chilies, plenty of herbs and a shot of vinegar for tang. Though it lacked the smoky earthiness of the chorizos I was used to, it more than compensated with its herbal brightness and razor-sharp chili bite.
Like most Mexican chorizos, this green chorizo is a fresh sausage that's meant to be cooked before eating.
At Empellon al Pastor, the chef Alex Stupak sautes it with kale to serve as a side dish, or with both kale and potatoes for a taco filling. In Mexico, it's usually fried and cradled in warm tortillas with avocado, flecked with cheese.
Stupak makes his green chorizo in-house with ground pork (the fattier the cut, the better), and it's easy to replicate at home. It isn't stuffed in casing, so you don't need the usual sausage-making gear - just knead all the ingredients together, and it's ready for crumbling and browning in the skillet. Or let it rest in the refrigerator for a day or two before browning it, which allows the flavors to meld.
The only time-consuming part is roasting the chilies and garlic on the stovetop before mixing them into the pork. If you have an exhaust fan, this is a good time to use it; roasted chilies can give off clouds of acrid smoke if you don't manage to catch them at the precise moment between perfectly charred and slightly burned. But even if they do get slightly blacker than you had hoped, you can still use the chilies for the chorizo, and it will still taste fantastic. (I can personally attest to this.)
When you have your green chorizo ready to go, saute it until golden at the edges, then use it as you would any spicy fresh sausage: in tacos, with pasta, with vegetables or as a base for a chili like bean stew. It's as versatile as the red, and just as appealing.
Fresh Green Chorizo
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 1/4 pounds sausage
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1/8 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 dried bay leaf
4 whole cloves
8 garlic cloves (do not peel)
2 serrano chilies
1 poblano chili
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup parsley leaves
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1. Place the ground pork in a large bowl. Set a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, oregano, bay leaf and cloves and toast briefly until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Remove from the heat, transfer to a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add to the bowl with the ground pork.
2. Return the skillet to a high flame and heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic cloves, serrano and poblano chilies and roast, turning them from time to time until softened slightly and blackened in spots, about 6 to 12 minutes, removing the pieces as they finish cooking. Set aside to cool at room temperature. Once garlic cloves are cool enough to handle, peel them and discard the skin. Wearing gloves if possible, remove stems and seeds from serrano chilies. Remove stems and seeds from the poblano chili, and peel away the charred skin.
3. In a blender, puree roasted garlic cloves, serrano and poblano chilies along with the sherry vinegar, parsley and salt until smooth. Transfer to the bowl with the pork and spices.
4. Mix the chorizo with your (preferably gloved) hands until thoroughly combined. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use, or for up to 3 days. The chorizo can also be frozen in an airtight bag for up to 1 month.
(Adapted from Alex Stupak, Empellon al Pastor, New York)
Black Bean-Chorizo Stew
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
1/2 batch (12 ounces) homemade green chorizo (see recipe), or use another spicy fresh sausage
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems, leaves reserved for serving
7 cups cooked black beans (from 4 cans or 1 pound dried beans), drained
1 (28-ounce) can diced plum tomatoes with their juices
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
Diced avocado, for serving
Sliced scallion, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottom pot. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in chorizo and cilantro stems and cook 5 minutes over high heat, or until much of the liquid has evaporated.
2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and their liquid, and 1 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat; reduce to medium.
3. Partly cover pot and simmer until tomatoes have fallen apart, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Season with salt. Serve with avocado, scallion, cilantro leaves and lime wedges.
© 2015 New York Times News Service