I really can’t leave well enough alone. A little while ago, I made some tasty little cocktail meatballs with chicken and chorizo. They were a raging success, and I blogged about them and set the recipe aside. By rights, that should have been it.
And then I kept thinking about them. I had a theory that meatballs and meatloaf were just the same thing in different guises. Clearly, the only way to prove this was to try the recipe again in meatloaf form. So I did, and I think it’s even better this way.
The quantities here yield a fairly small meatloaf, enough for four hungry eaters or six demure ones. I love just how different it is from a traditional meatloaf’s beefy softness and sugary glaze. The flavor is deeper and more interesting, with the spicy sourness of the chorizo tempered and rounded out by the mild-mannered chicken. I added a poblano pepper to the vegetable mix this time around, which was lovely both for its sharp flavor and the flecks of green it contributed to the loaf itself. The whole thing is vaguely Southwestern in flavor, a sort of Tex-Mex thing, which makes it both special and casual, the kind of homespun main course that impresses without coming off as fussy.
When I made this recipe as meatballs, they turned out loose and soft, threatening to collapse under their own weight. With the meatloaf version, that wasn’t a problem. The mixture shaped easily and held together perfectly, baking up slightly crusty on the outside and incredibly juicy within. Even though it took us close to an hour after the meatloaf was cooked to actually eat it, it was still warm and inviting inside when we sliced it. It yielded obligingly under a bread knife, as easily as cutting warm butter.
There’s also another reason this works better as a meatloaf, I think: the texture. The recipe calls for crushed tortilla chips in place of the usual breadcrumbs. Last time, I wrote that processing the chips in a food processor would break the chips down finer; I was wrong. I tried processing them, which didn’t accomplish much, so I switched to bashing them in a zip-top bag with a rolling pin; after a lot of noise and mess, they were still much coarser than ordinary breadcrumbs. In meatball form, that chunkiness was less than ideal; in meatloaf, it’s wonderful. I find traditional meatloaf texture to be a bit boring, and this is anything but, with soft nuggets of tortilla and slippery bits of onion and pepper. That alone is enough to earn this recipe a spot in my regular dinner rotation.
Chicken Chorizo Meatloaf (serves 4-6)
Adapted from this recipe
1 tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
1 poblano (pasilla) pepper, finely diced
Salt to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 large or 4 small garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 lb (about 9 oz) Mexican (soft) chorizo, removed from casing
1 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted chips, increase to 1 tsp)
In a large skillet, heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add onion, poblano pepper, and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add scallions and garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg thoroughly. Add the cooled onion mixture, ground chicken, chorizo, tortilla chips, smoked paprika, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let the mixture firm up.
Preheat the oven to 325º F, and position a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil. Transfer the meat mixture to the center of the baking sheet, and use slightly damp hands to shape it into a loaf. Bake for 1 hour, or until the meatloaf is cooked through (at least 160º F internal temperature).
Remove the meatloaf from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Leftovers will keep, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.