Carcamusa – Spanish ‘Chili’

CarcamusaLabor Day has come and gone and just like it’s time to put away the whites, it’s also time to start thinking about fall recipes. To say I’ve been waiting all summer to make Carcamusa is a small understatement. Charctueria calls it ‘Spanish Chili’ and I thought this would be a great way to unofficially start my fall cooking.

First things first. I wouldn’t quite call it chili. At least not as you’d recognize one here in America. Tex-Mex and even Cincinnati chili are drastically different in seasonings and taste. Those are seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and in the case of Cincinnati, cinnamon. Carcamusa has none of those. Its flavor is mainly provided by the spices from chorizo and confited peppers. More of a stew than a chili, it’s a pretty tasty pot of simmered pork bits.

One thing which intrigued me most about this dish is the construction. As I’ve said before there are little things about techniques in Charcuteria which give me a great appreciation of Spanish cooking. The more I try and test recipes from the book, the more I discover how preparation gives the food that ‘authentic’ Spanish flavor. My conclusion: it’s all about concentrating a few flavors to make a very bold taste.

Now this may not surprise everyone but there’s a lot of reducing going on. For example, in the carcamusa recipe there are two ingredients which need to be prepared ahead of time: piquillo confit and tomato frito. During the prep, both become super concentrated and sweet. Here’s where I think things get really interesting. Initially you think, do I really want a sweet ‘chili’? But, when combined with the pork and salty cured meats like chorizo and jamon everything balances out almost perfectly. Honestly, I didn’t even need to adjust seasonings when the carcamusa was finished. That’s balance!

Carcamusa isn’t that difficult to cook but the prep takes a little bit. Confiting the piquillo peppers takes a couple of hours, but during that time you can make the tomato frito and prep the rest of the ingredients. If you’re quick, you can have enough time to catch your breath and have a glass of wine before taking the piquillo confit out of the oven. While I think you can take short cuts and change to more ready-to-use ingredients I implore you to go the extra mile. At least the first time you make them. Pretty sure you’ll come to the same conclusion I did, it wouldn’t be the same if you cheated.

Ok enough of all that, you want to know how it tastes right? Let’s just say this is definitely going to be made a lot over the fall and winter. It’s a really excellent stew. I really love when I get a piece of the chorizo mixed in with a bite. The fat has been rendered out so it’s quite a burst of chorizo-y flavor. See what I mean about concentrating flavors? This was one of those nights when Cheryl came home from work, walked in and immediately said ‘something smells good.’ It’s not chili but a hot bowl of carcamusa, some good bread, and a beer really hits the comfort food button.

Carcamusa (from Charcuteria, The Soul of Spain by Jeffery Weiss)

  • 1lb pork loin, small dice (see Notes below)
  • 1 lb pork collar, small dice (see Notes below)
  • 4 chorizo sausages (dried and cured kind), small dice (see Notes below)
  • 5 oz jamon, small dice (see Notes below)
  • ¼ C olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 Piquillo confit peppers, minced (see Notes below)
  • 4 C tomato frito
  • 11 oz frozen peas

Notes: While I earlier said don’t make substitutions, I mean only on the tomato frito and piquillo confit. In lieu of using pork loin and collar I used 2 lbs of pork shoulder. Also, the recipe calls for 4 chorizo sausages, but gives no weight. Looking at one of the chorizo recipes in the book and calculating the cured weight of smaller links it appears the 4 sausages should be about 9 oz. Pretty much about what one large loop of dried chorizo dulce will be in your grocery store. For the jamon I used a chunk of coppa I had stashed away.

Regarding the piquillo peppers, the recipe in the book is for a large amount, and since you only need 4 of the peppers I purchased two small jars of the peppers which were 6 oz each so not quite a pound. The confit recipe will reflect my amounts. Also, I put in 4 more of the peppers since they are so delicious and colorful!

Regarding the tomato frito, the original recipe says you can get a quart out of it. I think it’s really about 2-3 C, and I even just pureed the cooked tomato mixture instead of running them through a food mill. I think you need to add a few more tomatoes in order to get the quart. I ended up adding most of the reserved pork juice back into the carcamusa to make up for the shortage. It worked.

In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.

Season the diced pork with salt and pepper. Add to the pot and sear. You may want to do this in batches so as not to crowd the pan. When browned, remove pork and set aside.

Add the chorizo and jamon to the pan. Saute for about 10 minutes, until the fat has rendered from the chorizo. Remove from the pan, set aside with the pork.

Turn down the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Cook until the onions soften and begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the piquillo confit, mash them around in the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring around.

Stir in the tomato frito and add the cooked meats back in. Crank up the heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer (I covered it to keep some moisture in since my tomato frito wasn’t as liquidy as it could have been). Simmer for 15 minutes until the meat is soft and cooked through.

Add the peas, cook for a couple minutes.

Serve with some good bread and be amazed.

Piquillo Pepper Confit

  • 2 small jars of piquillo peppers (around 6 oz each)
  • ¼ C olive oil
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • Three finger pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of sugar (not necessary, I didn’t add)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 250°F.

In a blender or food processor take ¼ of the peppers and combine with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Blend or process into a puree.

Drain the remaining peppers and layer them in a single layer in a baking dish. Spread the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf on top of the peppers.

Pour the puree over the top of the dressed peppers, smooth out with a spoon or spatula.

Cover with foil and slow bake for 2 hours. Can be added to the carcamusa right from the baking dish.

Tomato Frito

  • ½ C olive oil
  • 2 lbs tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 20-25 minutes. (This seems rather long. At this rate your garlic could start to burn, so maybe start off with the onions and add the garlic later.)

Turn up the heat to high and add the tomatoes. Fry them with the onions and garlic for 5-10 minutes.

Reduce to medium and cook for 30-40 minutes, frequently stirring, until the water has cooked off.

Remove from stove and run through a food mill, fine sieve, or if you’re like me and see these kinds of instructions just puree in a food processor. Ready for the carcamusa.

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One comment

  1. This sounds incredible. I understand your appreciation of Spanish cuisines. The cuisines of Mexico, as you may know, are also very involved and specify, and I’m sure they’re related to inherent foods and cultures but also from the influx of Spanish missionaries. Everyone thinks it’s all about burritos and enchiladas, but have you ever made a mole? Incredible!!! I will definitely be making this dish.

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