The first time I remember seeing Chorizo was back
in my little hometown of Diamond Lake, Illinois. It
was around this time that many Mexican families began
to immigrate to the area. They worked very hard founding
close knit neighborhoods, which eventually became
part of the broader patchwork quilt that epitomizes
so much of North America now.
The Chorizo came from a little groceria called "El
Barrio". My mother bought it and explained how wonderful
it would be when her Mexican friend Linda cooked us
scrambled eggs in tortillas with it. She was right.
Chorizo is a sausage of Spanish origination. The best
known is from Jabugo in Andalusia. When the Spanish
invaded Mexico they brought pigs and eventually Chorizo
became emblematic of Mexican foods as well, which
led to my experience with Linda's eggs.
The Spanish version of Chorizo is different from Mexico's
primarily due to the aging process, which is much
longer in Spain. Spanish Chorizo is more like salami;
harder and smokier, while the Mexican sausage that
is generally enjoyed is akin to a fresh Italian sausage;
juicier and spicier.
I incorporate a Mexican adobo paste in my recipe for
chorizo. I work it into dishes like my "Caldo Gallego
Soup" and "No Roux Black Bean Gumbo".
One time I flew to Boston to cook a charity dinner.
Five other chefs from all over the country joined
me on a six-course dinner, which the guests paid $600.00
per plate. We donated everything, naturally.
One of the chefs was French born Jean-Louis Palladin,
which many of you will know as the brilliant chef
of the Washington DC Watergate Hotel restaurant.
Jean-Louis cooked a course of cod with white beans;
a white bean consomme and he topped the fish with
a dried crust of cooked chorizo. You may be have been
surprised to see such a famous French master cook
with this lusty sausage of Spanish and Mexican heritage.
I think Linda would have loved it.
Those among you who speak French or are very culinary
know that Beurre blanc means "white butter". Beurre
blanc is one of the mainstay tools in any chefs repertoire.
It is a classic sauce and one cannot know haute cuisine
I had no idea what it was for the first 7 years or
so I was cooking. The kind of places I started cooking
at would look at you crooked if you spoke a word of
French unless you said something like, "Got any cables?
My Chevrolet needs a jump." I think of Beurre blanc
and almost get nostalgic for how green I was. My young
chefs at NORMAN'S know so much more about cuisine
at their age than I did when I was theirs. It doesn't
mean they've learned how to move the tickets perfectly,
not get cut and keep the costs in line yet, but they'll
learn that too.
I was working at a restaurant called the Port of Call
in Key West the first time we made Beurre blanc. The
classic way is to reduce wine with some vinegar, chopped
shallots, some herbs and a twist of peppercorn until
the liquid is almost all gone and then strategically
incorporate small pieces of cold butter, whisking
steadily. You strain this and then spoon some on your
poached or sauteed fish, (generally). During the late
70's and all through the 80's chefs created all manner
of Beurre blanc. Raspberry was in vogue for a mercifully
short period of time.
I was like a Beurre blanc myself back then. A culinary
sort of tabla rasa. But from that solid foundation
and some others like it I grew.
Butter is the soul of French Cuisine. Well, it was
until recently. Now it shares the stage with warm
vinaigrettes, essences, reductions, emulsions, jus,
coulis, salsas and more.
But a good butter sauce. Well sometimes, it's just
the right thing to do.