I <3 Chourico

And yes, that's how you spell it

This newsletter is slightly different than my last few. Instead of waxing poetic about the drab plod of daily life (sorry, guys), it’s about one thing and one thing alone: Chourico (notice the wonky spelling? All will be revealed later).

A few weeks ago, Cook’s Country posted about chorizo on Instagram. The post, which featured a snapshot of two sausage links, was called “A Tale of Two Chorizos” and focused on breaking down the differences between Spanish and Mexican-style chorizos. Noticeably missing was a version that is ubiquitous in Portuguese enclaves across New England: Portuguese chourico.

While Spanish chorizo is dry and smoky from a hefty dose of paprika, Portuguese chourico is made with less paprika and is heavy on the garlic and black pepper. Mexican chorizo is completely different and is made with cumin and chili, laced with gobs of fat, and always in need of cooking.

A QUICK INTRO TO PORTUGUESE CHOURICO

Pronounced “shor-eeshz” by every good, Catholic, Portuguese New Englander, chourico comes in a surprisingly vast array of shapes, flavors and textures. There are the mass-produced, fresh versions that tend to have a more finely ground ‘crumb’ if you will, and the wrinkled, cured versions found in more artisan shops. I grew up eating Gaspar’s turkey chourico, which is one of my favorite fresh versions (call me a sausage charlatan, but I prefer a smoother, less fatty link).

The cured versions have their own merits and come in an astounding array: Some are stained red with a hefty splash of wine and others are near-black with blood. For a deluxe Portuguese charcuterie board, pick up a few different cured links, some soft and mild Sao Jorge cheese, a loaf of broa de milho (a corn-based bread), and a jar of passion fruit jam (Rhode Island and MA folks, head on over to Portugalia Marketplace for your haul). Grab a bottle of Portuguese wine while you’re at it (you can get a great quality bottle for half the price of other vinos) and give a toast—Saude!—to your spread.

“The cured versions have their own merits and come in an astounding array: Some are stained red with a hefty splash of wine and others are near-black with blood.”

A note on the chourico used in the recipes in this newsletter: I use Gaspar’s turkey chourico, but feel free to substitute whichever fresh kind you prefer. I would avoid the cured versions for both recipes—it’s too hard and won’t crumble nicely.

WHAT I’M EATING

Chourico Turkey Smashburgers with Mozambique Mayonnaise

This is a smashburger to beat all smashburgers; A crispy chourico and cheddar-spiked turkey patty is slathered with an umami-rich, Portuguese mayo and served up on a warm potato bun. Serve with a cold bottle of Sagres.

Before I get into how damn good this burger is, let’s talk Mozambique1. Go to any Portuguese restaurant in New England and you will probably see chicken or shrimp Mozambique in the entree section of the menu.

Chicken/shrimp Mozambique, in its simplest form, is protein cooked in Mozambique sauce, which is a beer or wine-based sauce flavored with garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander, lemon, and Portuguese pepper puree. Think shrimp scampi, but with a kick. I wanted to add this most Portuguese-American of sauces to my chourico turkey burger in some form, and mayo proved to be the perfect vehicle to do so. The result is garlicky, bright with lemon, and intensely flavorful. On the burger side of things, chourico adds spice and texture to a ground turkey patty, and cheddar cheese brings sharpness and umami. Some of the cheddar is shredded and included in the burger mixture, which helps keep it moist and contributes to its chewy, crispy edges. Don’t be afraid to really smash the burgers; the flatter they are, the crispier and crustier they get. Cap it off with a piece of butter lettuce for color if you want, but it’s wholly optional.

I have to note here that the Mozambique sauce recipe I used was adapted from a recipe handed down for generations in a local Portuguese-American family (Thanks Justin!).

Ingredients

For the Mozambique Mayo:

  • 1 egg

  • ½ tsp annatto (sub in paprika if you can’t find)

  • ½ tsp ground coriander

  • ½ tsp ground cumin

  • ½ tsp dried oregano

  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

  • 1 Tbsp Portuguese pepper puree (if using the hot Italian kind, reduce to 1 tsp)

  • 1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped

  • 1 Tbsp Dijon

  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp lemon juice

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • ½ tsp black pepper

  • 1 cup canola oil

For the burgers:

  • 1 link (turkey) chourico, casing removed, chopped into rough chunks

  • ½ cup cheddar, shredded, plus thin slices for topping 

  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

  • 1 small shallot, minced

  • 1 Tbsp Mozambique mayo

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • ½ tsp pepper

  • 1 lb ground turkey

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil

  • 4 potato buns

Instructions

  1. First, make the mayonnaise. Use a hand-blender to blend ingredients —from egg through black pepper— in a tall, narrow container.

  2. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream, blending as you go. The mayonnaise should thicken up but still be slightly runny. Taste for seasoning and set aside. 

  3. To make the burgers, briefly pulse chourico in a food processor until course crumbs form, about 10 pulses. 

  4. Mix chourico, ground turkey, shredded cheddar, cilantro, shallot, mayo, salt, and pepper together with a wooden spoon, making sure to integrate ingredients fully. 

  5. Divide into nine 3 oz balls and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

  6. When there’s a few minutes left of refrigeration time, heat cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add oil. 

  7. Coat a spatula with nonstick spray and carefully place 2 balls on hot skillet, with room for flattening. Using spatula, press down on balls to form patties about ½ inch thick. Cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. 

  8. After 4 minutes, flip and cook for 3 more minutes, then place sliced cheddar on top of patties. Cover and cook for 1 minute. Continue with remaining patties, or freeze and save for later.

  9. To serve, spread Mozambique mayo on a warmed potato bun, top with one or two patties, and cap it off with a piece of butter lettuce if desired. Serve with french fries and more mayo for dipping.  

Chourico, Pea and Potato Pierogi

As a kid, I grew up in a household where pierogi were a treat and where chourico was served on a semi-regular basis. These pierogi combine both elements of my childhood: Creamy mashed potatoes are swirled with cheddar and feta and spiked with spicy Portuguese chourico and sweet green peas.

After my Bon Appetit article blew up and Lithuanian-Americans everywhere reached out asking for more Lithuanian recipes, I felt a lot of pressure to deliver. I pored through my great grandmother’s cookbooks and ordered Simon Bajada’s Baltic cookbook from the library. I wrote down ‘galumpkis’, koldunai, and Lithuanian chilled beet soup in my notebook under “recipes to work on”, closed it, and went on my merry way. Except, that merry way wound up taking a detour to Little Portugal, far west of Lithuania. Sometimes cravings hit and you just have to follow that calling. That calling led me to one of my favorite childhood meals—chourico with mashed potatoes and peas—and, in a nod to my great grandmother, to stuff it into a pierogi2. It makes sense: Mashed potatoes swirled with feta and cheddar and spiked with spicy chourico and sweet peas are made to be pierogi filling. So here you go, a discrete nod to both my Lithuanian heritage and the Portuguese culture of southeastern New England.

Ingredients

Filling:

1 lb golden or Yukon potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1 cup cheddar, shredded

½ cup block feta, crumbled

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp Kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 fresh Portuguese chourico link, casing removed and crumbled, or chopped into small pieces if using turkey chourico

½ c frozen peas

Dough (adapted from Bonnie Frumpkin’s Kachka):

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 large egg

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp water

For Serving:

2 Tbsp butter

Sour cream

Caramelized onions

Instructions

  1. First, make the dough by mixing together the flour and salt in a stand mixer with a dough hook. With the mixer on low, add the egg and slowly pour in the water until the dough comes together. Increase mixer speed to medium and knead for 8 minutes. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

  2. While the dough is resting, make the filling. Boil sliced potatoes in salted water until very tender. Drain, then place hot potatoes into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low, add the cheddar, feta, butter, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Remove bowl and stir in peas and chourico. Refrigerate until your dough is ready to use.

  3. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. To assemble classic-shaped pierogi, cut dough into two pieces, cover one with a damp towel and roll the other out on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Use a 3-inch circle cookie cutter or large cup to cut out rounds in dough. Fill each round with 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp of filling. Fold one side over and pinch to seal (you can wet the edge with a little water if you’d like, but I usually find the dough sticky enough to do without). Place finished pierogi on the prepared sheet pan and cover with a damp towel as you continue. Once done, use immediately or freeze on the sheet pans.

  4. To serve, heat water in a pot until boiling. Add fresh pierogi about 6 at a time and cook until they float to the surface (about 4 minutes), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Use a slotted spoon to remove and place in a bowl with butter. Toss, and serve with sour cream and caramelized onions.

WHAT I’M DRINKING

I’ve been cutting back on the drinks, tbh, so this section won’t be as exciting as in months past (don’t worry, summer is on its way, and with it yummy spritzers and New England-inspired cocktails. Concord grape shrub anyone?).

Beyond the usual glass of wine, I have been enjoying a simple aperitif-driven drink that’s as easy as finding some interesting vermouth and pairing it with club soda, seltzer or your favorite sparkling water. My vermouth of choice is one I’ve probably mentioned before: Otto’s Athen’s Vermouth.

Infused with rose petals, wormwood, citrus fruit, and earthy olive leaves, Otto’s vermouth is summery and fresh, and it begs to be served oceanside whilst reading Circe by Madeline Miller and grazing on bites of marinated octopus and feta-stuffed olives.

Alas, it’s a sludgy February day, but an Otto’s spritzer (Otto’s Athen’s vermouth + sparkling water + ice) paired with some Alvvays over the speakers somewhat scratches that itch.

WHAT I’M READING

I Can Cook Vegan by Isa Chandra Moskowitz; Near and Far by Heidi Swanson; Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden: In an effort to cut back on our meat intake and eat healthier in general, I’ve been poring through a medley of vegetable-forward cookbooks. These are three that have proved to be fruitful. Moskowitz’ book is a bastion of vegan cookery, replete with the requisite calls for cashew cream and nutritional yeast. While I probably won’t dropping $$$ on raw cashews any time soon, I am eyeing a recipe for a delicate tangle of angel hair with olive tapenade, tofu, and arugula, and a rich lemon yuba (tofu skin) and rice bake. Swanson’s and McFadden’s approach is less vegan/vegetarian than it is vegetable-forward, with recipes like sugar snap pea and new potato salad with egg and sardine (McFadden) and Quinoa blini (Swanson) which, I think, would be superb paired with smoked fish, avocado, and lemon.

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about Portuguese-American food, check out my article in Taste Magazine on the topic. Then order a flaming chourico (if you know, you know) and a plate of bife a casa from Madeira in East Providence to experience it for yourself.

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1

The sauce has its roots in Portuguese colonial expansion and from Arab traders who brought ingredients and cooking methods to the southeast African country of Mozambique. The people of Mozambique already had a history of eating seafood and combined this tradition with foreign produce and spices like peppers, paprika, garlic, and wine. No one know for sure who “invented” Mozambique sauce, but it’s safe to say that it arose from a confluence of cultures. On paper, it looks similar to Peri Peri sauce, which is made from the scorching African Bird’s Eye chili, but is mellowed out by beer or wine and a less intense Portuguese pepper puree.

2

You’ll notice the shape of the pierogi in this photo is more like little hexagons, and that’s because I used a pelmenitsa, which has a honeycomb pattern and makes mass pierogi making a cinch. But the OG method of cutting out 3-inch circles and folding them over to create little pockets is acceptable as well.