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Don't confuse Spanish chorizo with its Mexican cousin.

Both include ground or coarsely chopped pork with chile peppers and other spices. But the Mexican variety is a fresh pork product, often sold in bulk, that must be cooked before eating.

Spanish chorizo is cured, dried and sold in links that range in spiciness from mild to hot. It's ready to eat, sliced and served with Manchego cheese, or used in a variety of dishes.

Its characteristic flavoring is ground chile pepper, usually sweet or spicy varieties made from smoked, dried chile pods. The sausage's powerful chile flavor makes it a valuable ingredient for flavoring soups and stews.

Spanish chorizo contributes flavor and color to paella, the classic Spanish seafood rice dish, and clams quickly steamed with chorizo. Potatoes simmered in chorizo-enriched broth appears on tapas menus as well.

Spicy signals: There are more than a hundred distinct regional varieties of chorizo available in Spain. Usually the shorter, fatter links are spicier, and the longer, thinner links are milder. Some producers also signal spiciness by using red twine for the bit of string the sausages are hung by for curing.

Just in case: Spanish chorizo is cured in casings that can be removed by careful peeling. Spanish cooks don't always bother, especially when it's being simmered.

Here, in a tapas offering recommended by SeriousEats.com, Spanish chorizo is fried, then simmered with canned chickpeas in their juice, extracting flavor and color from the sausage. The starchy bean juice helps quickly thicken the stew, but you can add more liquid if you desire more sauce for bread dunking.

> Garbanzos con Chorizo (Chickpea and chorizo stew)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces dry-cured Spanish style chorizo, cut into 1/4 -inch slices

1 medium onion, finely sliced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 (14.4 ounce) can cooked chickpeas, undrained

1/4 to 1/2 cup roasted red or piquillo peppers, chopped (optional)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat olive oil in 10-inch, heavy-bottomed stainless steel skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook, stirring frequently until some fat renders and sausage is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is fully softened but not browning, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until paste begins to fry, about 2 minutes. Add chickpeas, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer over low heat to thicken, until a stewlike consistency is reached, about 10 minutes. (Add 1/2 cup of water if you want more sauce.)

Stir in peppers, if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately with toasted or grilled rustic bread.

Source: SeriousEats.com

ON THE WEB: Watch Andrew make a simple Spanish stew at blogs.buffalonews.com/hungryformore