Dear Barbara: I watch the Food Network, which has brought up a confusing issue. Is chorizo the same in Mexico as it is in Portugal? Emeril Lagasse talks about putting it in soup, but I always thought chorizo was a totally spicy hot sausage from Mexico. — Liz from Lodi
Dear Liz: You are not the only one confused by this! These two sausages are not even close to the same thing, but they are pronounced almost identically. Mexican sausage is “chorizo,” whereas Portuguese sausage is “chourico.” They are both pronounced chor-EE-soh.
The Portuguese sausage is in a casing and is cooked in the same way that you would cook German or Polish sausage. After it is boiled, grilled or broiled, it is sliced up into rounds and added to a dish. Mexican chorizo, which is normally all pork, is removed from the casing, crumbled into a skillet and cooked almost as a seasoning for the dish it is going into. It normally has chili powder, I believe paprika, and many other spices. It is very spicy by itself, but added to a dish, it can give a great depth of flavor.
Dear Barbara: Question — what is a fennel bulb? I have a recipe that calls for a thinly sliced fennel bulb. Ya’ got me! Have you ever cooked with one? Where do you find it? — Bev from Lodi
Dear Bev: Big question, simple answer! Go to any major supermarket produce section. It will probably be marked “anise.” It looks a bit like oval, overgrown celery. You want it to be very white, with no brown areas, and it will have feathery fronds on top. You only want to use the white part, but the greens on top make a nice garnish. Fennel gets very mellow in taste when it is cooked. It has a wonderfully soft texture and when cooked with chicken, takes on some of the fragrance of the basting juices. I also use it a lot in Mediterranean dishes.
Dear Barbara: How can you tell when bread pudding is done? — Emily from Lodi
Dear Emily: Using a table knife, insert the knife close to the center, but not into the center. If it comes out clean, the pudding is done.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at email@example.com. Please include your first name and city.