The smell of the chiles simmering on the stove stirs childhood memories, enveloping me in warmth and comfort. I lift the lid of the steamer, their sweet spicy scent fill my head while their rich deep red color invite me to photograph them.
Dad is at the kitchen chopping block, continuing to feed the pork butt chunks through the meat grinder of his KitchenAid stand mixer. I should be paying closer attention to what he's doing but the chiles have me transfixed.
Finally, I pull myself away from the stove as the last bits of meat come through the grinder and I have mere seconds to photograph it before this step is over and we're onto the next…
… I've shared before that one of my earliest culinary memories is me standing on a chair, bellied up to the counter "helping" my mother roll out tortillas. Those are happy memories, me and mom and my mis-shapened tortillas. There are a lot of culinary memories involving both my parents. Mom made the bulk of the family's meals and it was Dad, a cook at one point in his life, who taught her the basics early on in their marriage (which she eventually adapted to her own tastes and methods, striking out and coming up with her own creations).
While I was growing up, Dad would often cook his "specialities" for family gatherings, birthdays, holidays, and often on Sundays. Italian food was a go-to: homemade marinara with meatballs, multiple pans of lasagna with sausage and of course the ever kid-friendly homemade pizza. There was a lot of standard American fare as well like the yummiest beef stew you've ever had, roast beef, BBQ sauce better than anything you can buy in a bottle, over-sized onions rings golden on the outside and tender on the inside, the tenderest turkey slow roasted in his Weber, apple pie and buttermilk biscuits to rival any Southern granny's family recipe, to name just a few. Then, naturally, there was the Mexican food: tamales, carnitas and chicharones, carne asada, pollo asada, salsas to knock your socks off, huevos ranchero after mass, lingua tortas – slices of tender beef tongue simmered in a red chile sauce and served on a birote (a Mexican roll similar to a French baguette) – and his homemade chorizo.
That homemade chorizo spoiled me. I remember the first time I ordered it at a restaurant. It was overly greasy and the amount of chile deadened the tastebuds to any other ingredients in the dish. I have ordered it a few more times at various locations and always, there is disappointment in the experience.
Earlier this summer, I asked dad if he would teach me his recipe so I could blog it. I really was not sure how he'd feel about my sharing his recipe with the world. Much to my surprise – and delight – he agreed without any hesitation.
There is something truly special that happens when you share the kitchen with someone who is proud to hand down a family recipe for the next generation to enjoy. My father, even with my nearly 20 minute tardiness, the mix up in ingredients (my fault! I was tasked with bringing the ingredients over and I forgot one and bought the wrong kind of something else!) and my constantly slowing him down so I could snap a photo or ask a question, his spirits remained high and positive and I learned a few things about him that I didn't know before. …
…"Is this Nana's recipe you're teaching me?" I ask.
"No, your Tata's."
"Yes. I never asked your Nana for recipes, never paid attention when she was cooking. I took her cooking for granted." And I got the feeling from the solemn timber of his voice that he regretted not paying more attention to his own mother's cooking, making me feel all the more glad that I asked him to show me this recipe.
"Did Tata cook a lot, like you do?"
"No, not really. Your Tata would only cook something special if he was in the mood for it."
His speciality, I found out, was blood sausage and it's one my father never got the opportunity to learn. I personally have no recollection of my grandfather in the kitchen other than flashes of us at the kitchen table, him entertaining me, drinking his cerveza complete with lime and salted hand while my Nana cooked. But I do have a lot of memories of my own dad in the kitchen, chopping, standing over the stove with his ginormous handmade wooden paddle that he would use to stir the huge stock pot of slowly simmering carnitas and chicharones. There were countless Christmas' of tamales making, each of us girls with a task. And sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning when he'd just gotten home from work and was in the mood for breakfast, he would wake us and surprise us with from scratch almond pancakes to share with him.
Fond memories. Lots of them. And they continue to accumulate when I get a call or text from Dad casually mentioning that he has ribs on the BBQ or pork slow roasting for pulled pork sandwiches just in case I wanted to stop by for dinner.
What a question! All this made with such love. Of course I can stop by for dinner!
The passion I saw come out of him when he was in the kitchen or when he was describing a recipe and the days spent helping mom prepare the family meal I think is why I learned to love to cook as much as I do. The satisfaction they got from preparing meals for the family is one I'm familiar with when I have prepared meals for friends and loved ones.
And sometimes, when I'm in the kitchen cooking and tasting, I can hear my dad's favorite expression run through my head and I see his face as he says it …
"Damn! That's good!"
Dad's Mexican-Style Pork Chorizo
Mexican-style chorizo is not the same as the hard Spanish style sausage that is dried. Mexican chorizo is a soft, raw sausage that is not in a casing. It is often cooked with skillet potatoes, added to refried beans, soups, simply browned and eaten in a taco to name just a few ideas. Be sure to allow this to "cure" in the refrigerator before using as the longer the chiles and spices have a time to meld, the tastier the chorizo will be. Wait at least 48 hours and up to a week.
6 ounces whole dried guajillo chiles
2 ounces whole dried pasilla chiles
enough apple cider vinegar to fill the bottom of a steamer
without it touching the steam basket, plus more as needed
6 - 7 pounds pork butt (do not remove fat)
5 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fill the bottom of a steaming pot with apple cider vinegar to just below the steam basket. Layer in the dried chiles, cover and steam until soft and pliable, about 30-40 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, use a large spoon to stir the chiles, turning them so as to bring the bottom chiles to the top and top to the bottom. Cover and continue to steam. Once steamed, remove pot from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, cut the meat into 1 inch chunks (leave the fat on), feeding them through a meat grinder until all the meat is ground. Place in an extra large mixing bowl and set aside.
Pour 1¾ cups of the steaming vinegar into a blender. Toss in the garlic cloves, spices and ⅓ of the softened chiles, stems and seeds removed first. Pulse until smooth. Add the next ⅓ of the chiles, stems and seeds removed plus two ladles of the steaming vinegar. Pulse until smooth. Add remaining chiles, again, stems and seeds removed plus more steaming liquid as needed to achieve a thick tomato sauce consistency. If you run out of the steaming vinegar, use additional apple cider vinegar.
Combine the chile mixture with the meat and use your hands to incorporate well.
Heat a small frying pan on medium and pour in the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, carefully drop in 3 tablespoons of the chorizo, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage until it's lightly browned and slightly crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate; allow to cool for two minutes then taste and adjust seasoning on remaining raw chorizo if needed.
Cover chorizo bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours (preferably up to 7 days) before packaging up into smaller zip top baggies for freezing. Meat can be kept in the freezer, well wrapped, indefinitely and can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
I made some soyrizo tacos a few months ago. Check out this post for a suggestion on how to use your homemade chorizo. Just substitute this Mexican pork chorizo for the soyrizo in the recipe.
|Starbuck lounging on my parent's |
doggy-proofed sofa while I'm in
the kitchen with dad.
I hope you all have a wonderful week! Until next time…