A Spicy Blend For Mexican Chorizo

Spicy  Chorizo Blend. A few months back I taught a Mexican cooking class at the local kitchen store. The star and focus of the evening was my version of a Mexican style chorizo. After several trial runs and many bowls and breakfast tacos filled with homemade chorizo, this dry chile and spice blend was my favorite. The first two versions I tried called for straining sauce and pork and it simply put too much strain on my bad arm and wrist. My approach to this recipe was to simply create a spice blend that was similar to all of the flavors you would find in chili, but with the added flavors of Mexican chorizo. What makes this recipe stand out? For one, using dried peppers and whole spices is so different than already ground spices from the store. The second thing is the toasting of the dried chiles and whole spices. You could never find  spices that are this fragant and fresh from a jar. So, my goal was to be able to prepare a chorizo spice blend that I could prepare ahead of time from scratch and have on hand to add to my favorite ground meat for a Mexican chorizo I could feel good about eating.

Toasted Chiles and Spices  For Chorizo Blend
Toasted Chiles and Spices For Chorizo Blend
Toasted Spices....Cumin Seeds, Peppercorns, Oregano, Coriander Seeds, Cinnamon and Anise Seeds
Toasted Spices….Cumin Seeds, Peppercorns, Oregano, Coriander Seeds, Cinnamon and Anise Seeds
Dried Chile Ancho, New Mexico and Arbol Toasted and Ground For Blend
Dried Chile Ancho, New Mexico and Arbol Toasted and Ground For Blend

Ingredients

4 chile ancho
4 chile New Mexico or guajillo
6 to 10 chile de arbol
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
11/2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1/2 tablespoon peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1/2 piece of cinnamon stick
Pinch of anise seeds
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons annatto powder
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 pounds ground pork
* I added another 1/2 tablespoon of crushed oregano once it was all mixed

Chile Ancho
Chile Ancho
New Mexico, Guajillo and Chile California all similar in flavor, slight heat difference
New Mexico, Guajillo and Chile California all similar in flavor, slight heat difference
Chile de Arbol
Chile de Arbol

 

Directions

1. In a pan, on low/medium heat, toast the chile ancho, new mexico or guajiilo and chile de arbol for a few minutes. Don’t let them burn, just until they become aromatic and dry out a little more. Remove from heat and let them cool.

2. In that same pan on low/medium heat, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, oregano, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and anise until they become aromatic. Toast for about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.Remove from heat.

3. Remove the stems and seeds from peppers. Tear the peppers into smaller pieces. In batches, grind all the toasted peppers and toasted spices to a fine powder, mix  all together.

4. In a large bowl, combine the ground spice mix with remaining spices, ground pork and vinegar. Mix well until spices are distributed evenly. Cook a small portion of the chorizo to check for seasoning. Add seasoning to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The flavors will improve imensely the longer the chorizo marinates in the spices. If not using right away, freeze in 1/2 portions using quart size freezer bags. Yields 8 to 10 servings.

Tips~ Not only for preparing chorizo, but this blend would make a great dry rub for beef or pork roast, a whole chicken. It kind of reminds me of a Mexican version of jerk spices. Can’t wait to try it on some shrimp!

Wonderful Chiles and Spices
Wonderful Chiles and Spices
Spicy Mexican Chorizo Prepared with Spice and Chile Blend
Spicy Mexican Chorizo Prepared with Spice and Chile Blend

Rustic Tomato Basil with Sausage and Shells

Rustic Tomato Basil with Sausage and Shells (Slow Cooker Recipe). I love the idea of adding pasta to my favorite  slow cooker soup recipes, but most times I would not add any for fear of overcooked pasta. An easy way to prevent this is to cook your pasta separate, according to the package directions. Once cooked, drain and rinse in cold water and drizzle generously with olive oil. It will keep it shape and texture until you are ready to add it to your recipes. And a little pasta goes a long way. Just one cup of uncooked mini shells was enough for this entire slow cooker recipe. This soup recipe was inspired by my fresh bruschetta that I enjoy all summer long. Fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic spiced up with crushed red pepper flakes. And don’t forget the balsamic vinegar that works well in soups, stews and marinades as well as the popular dressings. I use more canned tomato products during the cold weather months when fresh tomatoes are too expensive. As long as you cook them long enough, the results will be delicious! 

Rustic Tomato Basil with Sausage and Shells
Rustic Tomato Basil with Sausage and Shells

Ingredients

1 pound hot Italian turkey sausage, out of the casings
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced finely
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
3 fresh roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup fire roasted red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, diced
8 oz can tomato sauce
6 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup uncooked mini shells

A Rustic Tomato Basil Soup with sausage and Shells in the Slow Cooker
A Rustic Tomato Basil Soup with sausage and Shells in the Slow Cooker
Could not wait until the next day. I had to taste test the soup soon after it was done.
Could not wait until the next day. I had to taste test the soup soon after it was done.
Garnished the Rustic Tomato Basil Soup with Shaved Parmesan and Red Pepper Flakes...Toasted Crostini didn't hurt either...
Garnished the Rustic Tomato Basil Soup with Shaved Parmesan and Red Pepper Flakes…Toasted Crostini didn’t hurt either…

Directions

1. Add the sausage to crock pot and break into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon. Add all of the remaining ingredients, minus the pasta shells. Turn slow cooker on high and cook for 4 hours or cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

2. While soup is cooking, cookt the pasta according to package. Drain, rinse with cold water and drizzle with olive oil until ready to use.

3. Once soup has cooked for 4 hours, if serving right away, ladle in some of the cooked pasta to the bowl, then add soup on top. If serving later, let soup cool slightly before adding the cooked pasta. Stir gently to mix. Serve with toasted crostini slices, shaved parmesan and red pepper flakes. Yields 6 servings.

Phone Camera shot of the Rustic Tomato Basil Soup
Phone Camera shot of the Rustic Tomato Basil Soup

Mexican Style Tamales~ Breaking With Tradition

Mexican Style Tamales~ “On the Lighter Side”. I am as traditional as they come. When it comes to the foods I grew up with, I don’t like to skimp on ingredients. But, being the cook that I am, curiosity did get the best of me for this “On the Lighter Side” version of Mexican Tamales. In my collection of Mexican cookbooks, I came across a recipe that caught my attention. “Fat Free Masa”. I was like no way!  How many times do you hear the celebrity chefs preach that fat equals flavor? Too many times, lol! I agree to a certain degree. In my own journey of weight loss over the years, I learned that  just because recipes are lighter this does not mean they should taste bland. 

My concept is, if you take out most of the fat, add more flavor using spices, chiles and acid –   like Aloha’s salsa verde and chimichurri recipes on their healthy recipe page!  I confess, I am one of those people who garnishes my savory dishes with a little hot sauce and fresh lime most of the time.  I just think that it brings out the flavors in the savory foods. For this recipe, the fat, which is traditionally pork manteca/lard, you will add whipped potatoes instead. Potatoes? I know, that’s what I thought as well.  

  To add more  of a traditional flavor, I bumped up the amount of chile sauce than I normally would add to the masa. I was skeptical, until I tasted them. I have to say, it is the best fake out for a traditional tamal that I have tried. The texture is pretty much the same with just a subtle flavor of potatoes in the backround. I have prepared these several times since and switch out the fillings depending on what I am in the mood for.

Chile Infused Tamales "On the Lighter Side"

Chile Infused Tamales “On the Lighter Side”. These were filled with queso fresco and chile verde chunky salsa

Ingredients

For Chile Sauce

12 dried New Mexico or guajillo peppers, stems and seeds removed
2 dried chipotle peppers,optional if you like it more spicy
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tablespoon crushed cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon crushed Mexican oregano
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Salt to taste

Any of these varieties of dried chiles would work wel for this recipe.
Any of these varieties of dried chiles would work wel for this recipe.

For Masa
5 cups masa harina
All of the chile sauce from recipe above
3 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large russet potato or 4 new potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 to 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

*For Traditional Masa, eliminate the potatoes and add 1 1/2 cups of melted  pork manteca or vegetable shortening

You will also need
36 or more large dried cornhusk
a large steamer pot

The first time I prepared this masa recipe, I did not strain the chile sauce. You can see the specs of chile pepper throught out. I do suggest you strain the sauce because the chile skins that remain can be hard to chew and swallow. This is the masa before adding the whipped potatoes and broth.
The first time I prepared this masa recipe, I did not strain the chile sauce. You can see the specs of chile pepper throught out. I do suggest you strain the sauce because the chile skins that remain can be hard to chew and swallow. This is the masa before adding the whipped potatoes and broth.
As you can see, my bowl was way to small for the amount of masa. But a mess in the kitchen can lead to the most tasty dish!
As you can see, my bowl was way to small for the amount of masa. But a mess in the kitchen can lead to the most tasty dish!
For this recipe, I prepared both a pork tamal and a chile and cheese tamal.
For this recipe, I prepared both a pork tamal and a chile and cheese tamal.
Filled with a chunky Green Chile Salsa and Crumbled Queso Fresco.
Filled with a chunky Green Chile Salsa and Crumbled Queso Fresco.

Directions

1. Before anything else, cover the corn husk with extra hot water. Use a heavy weight to keep them immersed in the water. Let them soak for a good hour or longer.  In a medium saucepan, add  all the dried chiles, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain all of the water, transfer to the blender. Add all the remaining ingredients listed for chile sauce to the blender. Blend on high until smooth. Strain, using a wire mesh strainer, set sauce aside.

2. In a separate medium pot, add potatoes, fill with just enough water to cover. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender.

3. While potatoes are cooking, in a bowl combine the masa harina,salt and baking powder. Gradually add in the water and chile sauce until the dough forms. If you do not have a KitchenAid, lol, it’s best to get right in there and use your hands to mix the dough. The dough is ready when it stops sticking to your hands. If it seems too dry add a little more water. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

4. When potatoes are ready, drain all the water, reserving 2 tablespoons it. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, water from potatoes and with a hand mixer whip the potatoes until fluffy. Alternate adding the masa and the chicken broth a little at a time until the dough is smooth like frosting. If using right away, let masa rest for at least 30 minutes. You can cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days until ready to use.

5.  When ready to assemble, you are looking for one that is no more than 4 inches across. Spread with about 4 tablespoons of masa, fill with 2 tablespoons of your favorite meat or veggie filling, fols in the sides until they overlap slightly. Fold top down.  Fill steamer pot with water and arrange the tamales with open side up. You want the tamales to fit in there pretty snug. This will help them hold their shape better while they steam. Cover tamales with any extra cornhusk or with a wet, clean kitchen towel. Steam at medium heat for 1 hour, adding more hot water after 30 minutes.Pull one tamal out and let cool. If tamal pull away from husk then they are ready. Remove from heat and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes covered. Serve with your favorite salsa. Yields 40 large tamales or 50 medium, more or less.

"On the Lighter Side" Red Chile Tamales
“On the Lighter Side” Red Chile Tamales with all the fixings!
I have learned over the years that if I add more flavor and spices to my lighter versions of recipes that I enjoy them much more!
I have learned over the years that if I add more flavor and spices to my lighter versions of recipes that I enjoy them much more! The potato flavor is very subtle in this recipe. Tamales without all the guilt, lol! Next batch is traditional for sure!!