Real chorizo from Spain, far more flavorful than versions made in America, used to be a banned substance. Like most cured meats, it was forbidden from being imported to the United States for reasons both obscure and frustrating. Many of us tried to smuggle the sausage in backpacks. Some of us were stopped at baggage inspection, forced to return our contraband.
Luckily the black market days are over. The U.S. government gave its blessing to chorizo—at least the chorizo made by a couple of U.S. approved facilities—and now we can eat it stateside with abandon. And you'll want to because it's very good. This is rich, smoky salami. It's made with natural casing, pure pork and plenty of Spanish paprika and garlic. It's hung from rafters to cure in a room dried by the smoke of a smoldering fire.
I like to keep a link in the fridge as a staple ingredient; it's versatile in the kitchen. Try it as is, with some good cheese. Slice some in a paella. Add chunks to a pan of roasted potatoes. One of my favorite dishes is an omelet made by softly scrambling a few eggs with a handful of diced chorizo sweated in the sauté pan. Happily, I can now make it without looking over my shoulder for the Feds.
Zingerman's Food Tours is visiting Spain in October 2014. Join us for a behind the scenes journey to traditional food makers like this.