Shopping for Chorizo at Despana Market in Soho
Editor's note: It's time for another dispatch from Serious Eats community member BaHa, aka Barbara Hanson, who checks in now and again about the various one-of-a-kind food stores and markets in New York.
Given all the hoopla surrounding the creations of mad genius Ferran Adria, credited as the inventor of molecular gastronomy, one might think that traditional cuisine of Spain had been supplanted by foam, asparagus bread, and liquid ravioli. Step into Despaña, a Spanish market nestled on a tiny Broome Street block, and you will discover that the traditional food of Spain continues to survive and thrive.
This is no old-school market; it opened only two years ago, and the vibe is definitely more Balducci's than bodega. The L-shaped interior is sleek yet inviting, and packed with more samples--including olives, olive oil, cheese, and several varieties of chorizo--than I have seen since the opening week of the Houston Street Whole Foods.
Don't fill up on samples; the counter in the back of the store is packed with bocadillos and flautas (large and medium sandwiches, respectively) encasing such fillings as Iberico ham, piquillo peppers with bonito (tuna), and Serrano ham with cheese
Pintxos, appealing little open-faced sandwiches, are topped with, among other things, bacalao (cod) croquettes, chorizo, Manchego cheese, and a slice of Spanish omelet filled with shrimp mousse. Needless to say, there is also a wide range of tapas including chorizo, the spicy Spanish sausage with a smoky edge; octopus in olive oil; and tortillas made with potato, onion, and a choice of meats or cheeses. A Spanish tortilla is close to what we think of as an omelet, but rounder, higher, and more toothsome.
I was there, however, on a specific mission: to buy fresh chorizo to make chorizo a la sidra (also known as chorizo al cidra or en cidra) as a tapa for a friend's surprise party that evening. When I told the handsome young Spaniard behind the counter what I was looking for, he pulled out a package of cocktail chorizo. They were bright reddish-orange, plump, and utterly irresistible. Just how irresistible they were I was soon to find out.
I knew that there was going to be a ton of food at the party, so I decided to cook fifty chorizo. When the chorizo and I arrived, I could barely find room on the table for them, but managed to squeeze the bowl in between a plate of hummus and a towering platter of cupcakes. Spearing a couple of the sausages on toothpicks to pass to a friend, I sauntered off in search of liquid refreshment. Within minutes, I was informed that if I planned on having even a smell of chorizo left for the guest of honor and her boyfriend, I had better hide the bowl.
I tried behind the cupcakes, then on the sideboard. No use.
Finally, I had to slide the bowl under the table. I felt as though I were dealing in something illegal, sneaking through the crowd and passing the spicy goods on to the chosen few.
Next time, I'll try to make enough for everyone, but I'm not sure that I can carry a bowl that big! That's how good Despaña's cocktail chorizo are, not to mention how they shine even more after being plumped and glazed in cider in the simple recipe that follows here.