You should eat morcela because it's good. You should eat it because I worry I'm the only one buying it and, if so, Price Chopper might stop stocking it. It's only available sporadically and it recently reappeared in the packaged sausages cooler, on the shelf above the kielbasa.
"What is morcela?" many of you are no doubt wondering. I'm going to say something a little scary, so brace yourself. Morcela is ... (ready?) ... blood sausage.
Calm down, calm down. Didn't your mother ever tell you to try something before hysterically proclaiming that you don't like it? You people are happy enough eating bloody hunks of steak, so why is that blood suddenly "gross" because it's mixed with pork fat, spices and bread crumbs and then stuffed into a sausage casing?
It isn't gross. It's freaking delicious. As it is the Portuguese version of blood sausage, morcela is generally spiced with paprika. My wife says she smells cinnamon and star anise whenever I'm cooking the particular brand stocked locally.
Now, I must confess, my first experience with blood sausage is not among my more positive food memories. I did not actually know, at the time, what "black pudding" was. I do not, in the present day, know whether the check-out girl at the Dublin convenience store, who told me "black pudding" did not need to be cooked and could be eaten raw, was ignorant or cruel. In any case, raw blood sausage was the one black mark in an otherwise lovely picnic lunch on St. Stephen's Green.
It was many years later before I had an occasion to try it again. The Jet Blue terminal in JFK feels not so much like an airport as the most upscale mall you've ever seen, with a ridiculously good food court. Among the restaurants is a small Spanish place that offered, when I first spent a layover there, chickpeas braised with blood sausage.
In contrast to my Irish picnic, this was a "where have you been all my life"-type moment. When I noticed Price Chopper carrying morcela last year, I was overjoyed and set out to recreate the chickpea dish.
It took a couple tries. Morcela is fickle and needs to be handled gently, lest it spill out of its casing in a gloppy black mess. It still tastes good, but doesn't look so good.
I've found when using morcela in a stew, like the above-mentioned chickpeas (which I usually do with onions and tomatoes) it is best to simmer (not boil) the sausages whole with the other ingredients for about an hour, remove them, break them up and return them to the pot for a final cooking-down period.
I've also taken to having them for breakfast. About half a link, sliced about the thickness of my pinky and fried in some butter, goes well with toast. The slices must be handled daintily lest they come apart, but cook quickly.
They also make great little snacks. A small slice of morcela on a piece of bread, covered with grated manchego and toasted until the cheese is melty, is a revelation.
While we're on the subject of shopping-day finds, I'll mention that Hannaford has started carrying pig's feet. Now if only their fancy sausage selection would catch up to Price Chopper's.
A note to the local food police: I know, I know, you people want me to promote local products from local vendors so we can all eat local food in our local homes and be really local, and here I am talking about stuff to get at the supermarket. Look, I'll champion local foods, like, say, J&S Davis' chorizo, when they deserve it, and the second I walk into the farmer's market and somebody goes "Hey, Gordon, I've got blood sausage!" I'll try it. Until then, I'm going with Gaspar's