Tendria Chorizo!

Apologies. About all I can do in Spanish is order dinner. Beyond that, it’s hit or miss.

Pastor sliced from the spit at La Hacienda

The Wife and I went to Las Vegas in Summer 2009. As you’ll see in my favorite restaurant links, we did a lot of eating. This is how I travel, really. I’m less interested in the sights. Weeks in advance, I start getting myself ginned up for the restaurants. It could very well be the reason I topped out at 330 pounds that winter. I digress…

Traveling from The Strip to my cousin’s house in Northeast Las Vegas meant driving East Lake Mead Boulevard, an interesting collective of commercial development, local casinos, poverty and the upper middle class development that came with the housing bubble. Along the way between, Mike’s gated community and the excess of Las Vegas Boulevard, were an assortment of meat stores, bakeries and restaurants that catered to the Mexican population in that area. One of those stops was La Hacienda.

***

Mike said he had always wanted to try the little taco stand on the corner of Christy and Lake Mead, but he didn’t want to go in alone. Frankly, I couldn’t blame him. The outside has all the charm of a crack house. Earlier that week, Mexican gangs had committed a series of armed robberies along this stretch of road, I couldn’t really fault him if he was leery about stopping.

The menu was all in Spanish, but wildly diverse. Mike had a lengua torta and a couple of tacos. I had pastor tacos and my first taste of chorizo. The torta, which was less than $4, came wrapped in grease-soaked wax paper. Inside was about eight ounces of heaven. A half-pound of sausage was grilled with onions and served with queso fresco and an avocado slice. It was…beautiful.

***

The weekend we returned to Syracuse, I hit the road looking for chorizo. My first stop was the gateway of Syracuse’s Southwest side–Price Chopper in Western Lights. No luck. The closest was something that claimed to be chorizo but looked more like dried Hilshire Farms kielbasa. Next stop, Wegmas Dewitt, figuring that this had the largest ethnic food selection in town. Wrong. Their chorizo was authentic enough, but $9.99 a pound. No thanks. I realized what I had to do.

My trip to Nojaim Brothers on Gifford and West Streets was not my first. I had been a regular visitor while interning in Armory Square. The store had a KeyBank branch, where I could cash paychecks. Today, I was actually looking for food. Paul Nojaim should be applauded for serving a community where no one else will go. His store sits perched in one of Syracuse’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods. And, beside the chicken feet and pigs feet, they stock chorizo.

This story leads me to dinner from last week. I had some chorizo in the freezer itching to be cooked, as well as some potatoes on the precipice of growing eyes. Together, they made this marvel, adapted from one at Blue Kitchen:

Patatas Riojanas

1/4 cup olive oil (I like Trader Joe’s house brand and Goya)
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into bite-sized chunks (don’t peel these)
1/2 red bell pepper, cleaned and diced
4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced into pinky-finger width pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Vendange Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a solid mass market California wine that provides nice flavor. If the SB isn’t available, go with pinot grigio)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
salt and pepper (this dish needs a lot of salt)

Add oil to a saute pan or dutch oven on medium heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion and cook until it softens (3 min). Add potatoes and stir well. Cook until lightly browned (7 min). Be sure to stir periodically.

Add red bell pepper and chorizo. Stir occasionally and cook for three minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (45 sec.). Add paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaf, wine, stock and water. The liquid should top the potatoes.

Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover the pan and cook until potatoes are tender (10 min.).

This will serve two people. A nice crusty bread goes well with this for mopping the liquid.

**

The Wife dislikes bell peppers, but found that she was missing the sweetness they bring to the dish. I cook with sea salt, which was probably a mistake. The next time, I’ll use kosher salt so I don’t find myself dumping tons of salt (and getting the accompanying dirty looks from The Wife) on the dish.

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