After posting my very cheesy lasagna with meat sauce recipe, I received an e-mail from a reader who called the inclusion of chopped chorizo in my meat sauce “divinely inspired.” Well, I don’t know about divine but, yes, I have to admit that adding chorizo to meat sauce is a great trick to make it burst with flavor. She lamented that imported chorizo is quite expensive and ended with the wish that “if only we have locally made chorizos. which I could almost imagine her uttering with a sigh.
Chorizo is a sausage. And we have a lot of local sausages. A LOT. We just know them by another name. Longganisa. And longganisa is flavored with indigenous spices just as the Spanish chorizos are. It just so happens that indigenous spices differ from one continent to another.
In regions of the Philippines where Chavacano is spoken, it is not unusual to hear sausages referred to as “torso.” Hop from one region to another, from north to south, and you’ll find that each region has a distinct way of flavoring its longganisa. Vigan longganisa is garlicky; so is the Lucban longganisa which is smaller and more reddish. There is the sweet longganisa popularly called hamonado and there is the batotoy which entered the Filipino pop culture dictionary after the success of the Judy Ann Santos-Ryan Agoncillo movies about newlyweds with meddling in-laws from both sides.
The thing about longganisa is how we look at it as something that can only be fried and served with eggs and rice. And we sigh a little hopelessly when we come across a recipe that requires chorizo which, undoubtedly, is something a bit pricey for everyday cooking. But you know what? You can substitute the garlicky varieties of longganisa for Spanish chorizo in some recipes. Not all because you can’t slice longganisa without crumbling, unlike the cured and dried Spanish chorizos which, after slicing and stewing, still retain their shape.
But for recipes that simply require sausage meat, think longganisa. For instance, about two years ago, I made meatballs using longganisa meat (I discarded the casings) and served them on top of spaghetti. They were delicious! And, just recently, I baked longganisa meat with spinach, bread, and eggs. Grease the bottom and sides of four ramekins (one cup capacity). Divide the bread (or rice) among them, pressing down to make the bread (or rice) compact.
Crumble the longganisa meat and cook, with no added oil, in a non-stick pan. When the meat changes color, add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the sliced onion and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the sliced spinach. Cook over high heat until the mixture is almost dry, about five minutes. Adding salt and pepper is optional since the longganisa meat is already very highly seasoned. Divide the mixture among the four ramekins. Crack an egg over each and top with cheese slices (I used Monterey Jack but I bet that local kesong puti would be even better). Bake in a 425oF oven for seven to ten minutes or just until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft. The cheese would be melted by that time.