Monday, May 16, 2011


Last Friday, when I dropped Sonny off at his classroom door, he excitedly told his teacher, "I'm going to help my mom make chorizo after school!"

"The sausage? You mean you're going to eat it after school? Are you having Mexican food for dinner?" His teacher gave me a questioning look.

"We're going to actually make it," I said, doing hand motions to signify sausage making.  What? Didn't you know there are hand motions for sausage making? No? Neither did Sonny's teacher, judging from the look on her face.

Sonny helped me make scrambled eggs with chorizo for Saturday brunch. 
My neighbor, who has 3 boys ranging in age from 18 to 8, asked me how I get Sonny to help with preparing meals. She complained that her older boys just can't be bothered and the youngest will only help if it's baking cookies and brownies.

How do I get Sonny to help out without all the whining and complaining? I'll tell you my secret, just as I told her. Ready for it? Here it is: I make him do it! I was expected to help my mom with the cooking, no ifs, ands or buts. Mom was preparing me to cook for my future family, and although I never prescribed to those old-school beliefs about gender roles, I am thankful she taught me to cook and be self-sufficient.

I know my neighbor doesn't understand my philosophy on kids and cooking. Here's the way I look at it: We make our kids do stuff all the time— go to school, homework, brush their teeth two times daily. Why? Because we know it's good for them and it will pay off later in life. Helping out in the kitchen, like any of the other things we "force" them to do, is also good for them and will pay off later. Besides the obvious benefits of knowing how to cook and being self-sufficient, they'll hopefully be better equipped to make good food choices and develop an appreciation for the food they eat. Indirectly they will be developing their math skills (like working with fractions and percents), fine motor skills, and patience. Then there's the whole creating-warm-and-fuzzy-memories bit.

Just because I expect Sonny to help in the kitchen doesn't mean I don't try to make it fun. I let him choose a lot of the stuff we make and I let him work with the gadgets. That's what makes it fun for him and makes him a willing participant. I don't think he feels like he's being forced to do something against his will. On the contrary, he was quite excited about our sausage-making project. I gave him the choice of sausage to make and he said without any hesitation CHORIZO!  I let him help with the meat grinding and he was more than willing to be the taste tester. Afterwards, I let him choose how we should use it for dinner. He wanted chorizo with pasta in a cream sauce. When Hubby proclaimed it was the best pasta with chorizo he'd ever had, the kid was so proud.

Right. Enough of my parenting philosophy. I should probably just get to the chorizo, huh?

For this sausage, I decided to use chicken instead of the customary pork or pork/beef mix. Since I used skinless thighs, I threw in pork back fat to ensure the sausages weren't too lean. I generally shoot for 25 to 30% fat when I make sausages. Taking advice from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen,  in place of chili powder, I used dried ancho and chipotle chilies, which I reconstituted in water. Another alternative would be to use chipotles in adobo in place of the dried chipotles.

This was an excellent sausage and we all loved it. The only thing I'd change for next time is to leave some of the chipotle seeds in to give it heat. I'd also like to make a mole sausage by using Mexican chocolate and changing up the spices a little.

Rehydrated ancho and chipotle chilies chopped to a paste. 

Chicken Chorizo
Makes almost 4 pounds

3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
3/4 pounds pork back fat, diced into 1-inch chunks
0.7 oz (21 grams) kosher salt, more to taste
3 dried Ancho chillies
2 dried chipotle chillies
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
fresh oregano or thyme leaves from a handful of sprigs, chopped fine
1/2 to 1 tbs freshly toasted and ground cumin seed (optional)
1/2 cup cold water or chicken stock
hog casings, soaked and thoroughly rinsed (optional)

Mix the meat and fat together. Before grinding, make sure they are very cold, almost frozen. Grind using the coarse plate. Keep the ground meat under refrigeration until the other ingredients are ready to use.

Soak the dried chilies in warm water for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until they've softened. Discard the soaking liquid. Remove the seeds and discard. (If you want a spicier sausage, then leave the seeds in the chipotles.) Grind in a mortar or chop the chili pulp until you have a uniform paste. Add in the garlic, oregano, cumin (if using), salt and cold liquid.  Chill the paste until cold, about 30 minutes.

Once the paste is chilled, add it to the ground meat and mix. I find doing this by hand gives a better texture.  Take a small bit and cook it to check the flavorings. Adjust if necessary. Chorizo is normally left loose, but I like to stuff it into hog casings. Up to you. Store whatever you won't immediately use properly wrapped in the freezer.

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