Saturday, June 2, 2007
Chorizo with Sherry & Crispy Capers
It’s tapas time. Not that I don’t like tapas all year round. But when the sun gets hot, that’s when I really crave those little nibbles of pungent flavor, all washed down with glasses of ice cold sherry or rosé. I’ve lost whole days in tapas bars from Barcelona to Seville. They are simply the only place to be when the light gets too bright and the heat too intense.
Tapa literally means "lid" in Spanish. Traditionally, as Spaniards bar-hopped to fill the long hours between the end of the work day and the customarily late evening meal, they would be given a piece of bread to protect their glass from flies. Topping this bread with a little cured ham or marinated fish surely seemed the natural thing to do, and the tapas bar was born.
Perched at a tapas bar, you can ogle all the food, most of which is precooked and kept under glass, as well as the people ordering it. The dishes are usually too strong to eat a whole plate of, just like the weather’s too stifling to endure a whole day of, but small helpings of whatever’s offered will rouse the senses like nothing else. Tapas is made to be shared, and that’s the nicest food of all in my book.
Chorizo is a Spanish pork sausage flavored with smoked paprika and garlic. It can be bought picante (hot) or dulce (mild), and either fresh or fermented and dried. If it’s fresh, you must cook it, but if you have dried chorizo, you can usually serve it like any other salumi.
Here’s the fresh version, crisp and caramelized on the outside but juicy and savory within. The sherry goes slightly syrupy, and the sizzled capers taste sharply exotic. It’s a wonderful contrast in texture and flavor, and something I come back to again and again.
And when I’ve got my wits about me, I cook extra. The cold sausages make a fantastic sandwich on a hunk of baguette the next day.
Serves 4 - 6 as tapas
2 tbsp capers, preferably preserved in salt, but brined is fine
extra virgin olive oil
2 lb fresh chorizo or other spicy sausages
½ cup dry sherry
Rinse the capers under running water. If you’re using salted capers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and rinse again. Squeeze out the excess water and drain the capers on paper towels.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a glug of olive oil and then the capers. Sauté until crisp and drain on more paper towels.
Using a very sharp knife, slice the sausages into inch-thick disks. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add another glug of olive oil and arrange the sausage slices in the pan. You may have to work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Sauté 4 - 5 minutes a side and then pour off the fat.
Remove from the heat and add the sherry. Turn the heat to high, and reduce the sherry by two-thirds. Toss with the capers and serve with crusty bread and cold wine.