One-Pan Dinner: Chorizo, chickpea, and Red Pepper, Oh My!

Okay what is with this in-between spring thing happening all across New England and PA? If I wanted snowy, rainy crap in April, I would have stayed in Minnesota! Anywho, that got me all off-track on my crisp, springy food plans, so I’ve got an in-between meal for you. Because I have a feeling you’re suffering from the melancholy weather too.

This is the perfect dinner for that weather that’s just kind of gross, but you still want to keep it kind of light (because…April). It’s like 70% comfort food. And easy clean up to-boot! One-pan people! Also, it will give you a chance to make some chorizo in advance of cinco de mayo (for this awesome queso dip, duh). Could it be any better? Considering it’s still not warm and I had to turn my heat back on, begrudgingly, last week, I’d say only a large glass of wine is the single missing ingredient to this amazing equation.

I figured for the science-y fact on this post, I’d comment on goat cheese! An integral part of this meal. I’m going to pass the mic over to my good friend Pat who writes all about cheese science! And guess what? You can read every single article of his and keep up with new ones right this minute. The site—Cheese Science Toolkit—is really incredible. He writes quite a bit about different flavors in cheese and how they form including this info on goat cheese!

Sometimes described as “waxy”, “tangy”, or “animalic”, goat cheese almost always has a prominent flavor that is formally described as “goaty”. This flavor is noticeable across the spectrum of goat cheese, but can sometimes be easier to pick up in fresh cheeses like chèvre.

This flavor is primarily due to the fatty acid composition of goat milk and its subsequent cheese. As we’ve discussed previously, lipolysis is a reaction involving the cleavage of fatty acids from glycerol which both make up triglycerides (fat molecules). Left whole, these triglyceride molecules don’t have any flavor. When enzymes (lipases) break off the fatty acids, they are now volatile and can interact with your aroma receptors. The unique fatty acids in goat milk are what lead to its distinctive goaty flavor. A few important fatty acids that make up goaty flavor include: 4-ethyl octanoic acid, 4-methyl octanoic acid, caproic acid, and caprylic acid to name a few.

If you’re interested in cheese flavor science, you should read the more comprehensive description! With the primary reactions outlined plus some excellent infographics. But he also says:

While we often talk about flavors and aromas being caused be certain compounds, it’s important to remember that the unique taste and aroma of cheese is caused by a whole menagerie of chemicals. Cheese flavor is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Soooo yeah you’re definitely going to want to explore the world of cheese. Like asap. Interested in how brie gets its characteristic texture? Or what creates the variety of colors in cheese? Better check out Cheese Science Toolkit! And without-a-doubt make this dinner to sustain your knowledge exploration.

One-Pan Dinner: Chorizo, Chickpea, and Red Pepper

Adapted from Food52

Serves 4-6

½ teaspoon olive oil

2 cups spinach

Salt

Pepper

¼ teaspoon white wine vinegar

8 ounces Mexican chorizo

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped into 1-inch pieces

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

A pinch smoked paprika

A pinch cayenne pepper

1 14-oz (or 15.5-oz) can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves

4 ounces crumbled chèvre cheese

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the spinach and toss to coat in the oil. Heat until the spinach wilts, about 4 minutes. Add the white wine vinegar, a few pinches of black pepper, and a few pinches of salt. Mix to combine. Move the spinach to a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Add the chorizo to the skillet and cook for a couple minutes, using a wooden spoon to break up the chorizo. Add the onion, red pepper, and garlic to the pan. Mix to combine and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions begin to brown and the red pepper is softened.
  3. Add the can of chickpeas, ¼ teaspoon salt, a few pinches black pepper, the paprika, and the cayenne pepper to the skillet. Stir to combine, and taste the mixture. Add more salt, pepper, or cayenne if needed.
  4. Squeeze any excess water out of the cooked spinach by pressing it against the side of the bowl. Add the spinach, chives, and parsley to the skillet and mix to combine.
  5. Sprinkle the top with the crumbled chèvre, and serve!

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