It’s pretty well established here that I’m a compulsive recipe-tinkerer. I’m also a big fan of returning to recipes I’ve already played with, and tweaking them to make something new. Usually, when I do that, I tend to keep the bones of the recipe the same. But every so often, I’ll come back to a recipe I riffed on months or even years before, and decide to make something entirely different from it.
For example. About four years ago now, my friend Mel tipped me off to an online cooking show her friends were doing, called Economy Bites. The show is sadly now defunct, but I loved it for its goofy spirit, its no-bullshit realness and its creativity. One of the recipes on the show was a chicken and chorizo meatloaf, which inspired me to start mixing ground meat and sausage, which eventually morphed into my turkey andouille chili recipe–still one of my signature and most-requested dishes. But even with the triumph of the chili, I still thought about that meatloaf, and wondered what other directions I might take it in.
My friends were throwing a finger-food potluck, so I decided to make a batch of Southwestern-ish cocktail meatballs. This time, I stayed a bit more literal to the inspiration: chicken and chorizo. The original recipe called for the hard-cured Spanish chorizo, but I swapped in the squishy Mexican stuff. It blended in with the ground chicken, giving the meatballs a smooth and succulent texture. It also made the meat mix fairly delicate and loose, compared to the meatballs I usually make. They were a bit challenging to shape, but the payoff was juicy, tender, almost airy meatballs. The chorizo rounded out the chicken’s blandness with richness, sourness, and a tiny touch of heat; I could easily see these as game-day party fare, alongside a plate of nachos or chips and salsa.
Speaking of chips: there’s another twist in here, which I’m pretty proud of. Because we had a gluten-free partygoer (and I’d forgotten to buy breadcrumbs), I decided to crush up tortilla chips to use as a binder. The crumbs worked beautifully to soak up fat and juices, while adding a hint of cornmeal sweetness to the mix. I crushed my chips in a bag with a rolling pin, but I think pulsing them in a food processor would have worked even better. The finer the crumbs, the smoother the meatball texture–and with these, smoothness is absolutely a virtue.