Spanish mission

Chorizo Soup with Parsnips and Thyme 4

I like almost everything about a good chorizo soup. I like how spicy, smoky chorizo turns the broth an almost bloody shade. I like how the broth stays thin, like a tonic that happens to house bites to fill the belly. But mostly, I like how the first taste plonks me right back into the creaky wooden chair at that truck stop somewhere between Rioja and Madrid, when my husband and I were traveling with a five-month-old in Spain in 2009. Graham was cranky after hours in the car, but when the soup landed, glorious fat bubbles bobbing at the edges of chipped ceramic bowls, pork and chickpeas swimming frantically, he silenced long enough for us to eat with both hands. When we finished, only a thin orange rim of spice clung to the inside edge of each bowl.

I’ve been trying to remake that soup ever since. Sometimes I add different types of pork, or kale, or tomatoes. I’ve nailed the way the paprika smokes itself up into my nose. I think I’ve figured out how to add just a hint of sherry vinegar, for the right tang. But that elusive broth–I never did quite get the broth right. It was never pure enough. It was never red enough.

Last weekend, inspired by a novel that talks about Hemingway’s time in Spain, I bought some chorizo from Sea Breeze Farm at my local farmers’ market. I thought it would be the same soup I’d made before, but as soon as the meat hit the pan, I could smell a different kind of success. I smelled the spice I’d been missing in the broth. All along, I’d simply been using the wrong chorizo.

As the soup simmered, I smelled warmth and winter. I smelled Christmas. The ingredients on Sea Breeze’s sausage list the usual suspects–pork, garlic, paprika, etc.–but they don’t list cloves or allspice or cinnamon, which were what I thought I tasted in my bowl when we finally sat.

I changed a few things. I skipped the pimenton de la vera I typically add, because the sausage had enough already. I added water instead of broth, because I wanted to taste chorizo, not chicken. The soup was perfect–right color, right texture, right fat bubbles, everything.

The lingering question, of course, is how I’ll make the chorizo on my own, if I want to doctor my own ground pork to the same perfection. They must have used a high ratio of pork fat, or perhaps ground pork belly, because both the meat and the broth had a silkiness only attributable to fat. I have a sneaking suspicion that those sausages may have depended on the pig’s blood for those Christmassy flavors.

So I need your help. Have you made chorizo before? What recipe have you used? I’d love to know more. I have a mission, and it tastes like a truck stop in Spain.

Chorizo Soup with Parsnips and Thyme 1

Pan-Roasted Chorizo and Parsnip Soup (PDF)
Serves 2 to 4

Made by first searing bulk chorizo in big chunks in a pan, then combining it with browned vegetables, this rich wintry stew has the appeal of a roadside soup stop I once visited in Spain. The secret to this soup is the chorizo; find one with lots of spicy, smoky flavor—or add a bit of spicy smoked Spanish paprika with the thyme, if you doubt your chorizo.

Note: I used a wide cast-iron pan for this recipe, to allow as much room as possible for the vegetables to brown without steaming, but you could also use your favorite Dutch oven or soup pot.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound bulk chorizo
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 medium parsnips, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
4 small celery ribs, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Heat a large (at least 12-inch), deep, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, then the chorizo, breaking it up into roughly 1-inch chunks as you add it. (Think meatballs.) Cook the chorizo for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once or twice, leaving the chorizo as intact as possible as it cooks. Transfer the chorizo to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion, parsnips, carrots, and celery to the pan, and cook, stirring every once in a while, until the vegetables are soft and browned in spots. Stir in the garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and add the wine. Cook, stirring, occasionally, until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Return the chorizo (and any collected juices) to the pan, add the water and vinegar (you may need to transfer it to a bigger pan, if you didn’t start with a 12-incher), and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the soup has a rich red color. Adjust seasonings and serve warm.


Filed under gluten-free, pork, recipe, soup

12 responses to “Spanish mission

  1. dlmasterson

    Talk about “Yum” in a bowl. You are right: you nailed it. I cannot wait to try this at home. I will start with the same chorizo. There is quite a variance among different sausages you can get. I love the fat, short chorizo from the freezer at the Spanish Table, and have had good clean tasting chorizo from Wholly Foods–but they are not consistent. I have made my own with toasted ancho chilies, smoked paprika, and negro modelo–it was good. I look forward to this sopa. Ole!

  2. Mary Jo

    I am Spanish and I love chorizo…can buy it at La…the spicy kind is great for soup. I add it to my kale and garbanzo bean soup–my stab at the great soup of Northern Spain, Caldo Gallego.

  3. Just clarifying re: bulk chorizo. This sounds like the ‘link’ variety vs. ground chorizo, correct?

  4. I have been wanting to expand my cultural cooking boundaries with Spanish chorizo, so after I read your latest hogwash entry, and your request at the end, I went poking around for information.

    While I knew that Spanish chorizo was different from the Mexican chorizo I can easily find around Chicago, and harder to source, I didn’t know that, according to Wikipedia, “It is generally classed as either picante (spicy) or dulce (sweet), depending upon the type of smoked paprika used. There are hundreds of regional varieties of Spanish chorizo, both smoked and unsmoked, which may contain garlic, herbs and other ingredients….”

    So, it seems like that unless the farm where your tasty morsels came from will tell you at least the bare bones of their recipe (unlikely, I would imagine), tinkering might have to be the way you go until you find the right percentages and ratios of meat to fat, spicy vs. smoked paprika, etc.

    But it’s not like you’re not an expert with tinkering, right? 🙂

    I am also looking through a food forum I frequent to see if anyone has posted their own recipe, because there are lots of folks there who make sausages of various types. Will post here again if I find something that sounds useful!

    Best regards and thanks for all the enjoyment hogwash brings!

    • Thanks, keep us posted, Sharon!

      • A link from the food forum led me to a recipe on a website called sausagemania (makes sense!). Anyway, their recipe is for an unsmoked chorizo; I think that might be what you are after, something that could used pretty much right after it was made?

        (The recipe does say to refrigerate the mixed-together ingredients for 24 hours before stuffing, but I guess that wouldn’t be necessary for your recipe above.)

        Below is the link; they also have a spreadsheet you can download that lets you play with ingredient variables, which I thought was pretty neat.

        If you do come up with a recipe you like, could you provide us with an update on how things turned out?


      • Of course I’ll update you! Thanks for the spreadsheet….

  5. One of the farms near us makes an amazing chorizo. I’ll have to buy some the next time I’m at the farmers’ market to try this!

  6. chornerdevine

    Yum. You are one reason we are looking forward to being in Seattle again!

  7. Pingback: Chorizo Soup with Parsnips and Thyme | Recipes Home

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