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~ Tex-Mex Chipotle Beef and Chorizo Meatball Subs ~

IMG_3522 2Who doesn't love a meatball sandwich -- I know I do.  Besides a high-quality roll, a well-constructed meatball sub only requires three components:  tender meatballs, a great melting cheese and a savory sauce.  Culinarily, the meatball sandwich is, understandably and correctly, associated with Italian-American fare, with meatballs being a spinoff of meatloaf, which is an all-American invention.  In turn, my Southwestern-Style meatballs, are a spinoff of my Mexican-style beef and chorizo meatloaf (but should not be confused with Mexican albóndigas (albóndiga is the word for meatball in Spanish), which contain rice, not a bread product, as a binder.          

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4996f17200dIt's worth mention that aside from the bright-to-tawny red color, Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo are not the same, so, purchase with precision.  Mexican chorizo is a fresh, ground-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold loose or in a casing, it is raw and must be cooked before eating it. Spanish chorizo is a dried and fully-cured or semi-cured chopped-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold in a casing, fully-cured is fully-cooked and can be eaten as is, while semi-cured requires cooking prior to eating.

Ground beef + chorizo = Mexican-Style meatball perfection.

IMG_2628For 6-61/2 dozen meatballs*:

2-2 1/2  pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)

1  pound ground Mexican chorizo sausage

2  extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

4  ounces saltine crackers (1 sleeve of crackers from a 1-pound box), crumbled by hand into small bits and pieces, not processed to crumbs.

1  cup milk

3  tablespoons salted butter

3/4-1 cup whole corn kernels, shaved from cooked or grilled corn on the cob, or, well-drained canned corn kernels

3/4-1  cup thin-sliced green onion, white and light green parts only

3/4-1 cup small-diced green bell pepper

3/4-1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

1/2-3/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some tender stems

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans

IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637~Step 1.  Place ground beef in a large bowl.  If the sausage is in casings, remove the casings then place the sausage in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the meat.  Using your hands (it's the most efficient), thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648~Step 2.  Using your fingertips, crush the crackers into small bits and pieces, letting them fall into a medium mixing bowl as you work. Add the milk and stir to combine. Set aside about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the crackers to absorb all of the milk.  The mixture will be thick, chunky and pasty -- just perfect.  Add the cracker mixture to the meat/egg mixture, and once again, using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631~Step 3.  In a 10" skillet melt butter over low heat. Add the corn kernels along with the bell peppers and green onion.  Season with the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until peppers are softened but still crunch-tender, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro, remove from heat and cool 30 minutes.

IMG_2672 IMG_2672 IMG_2672~Step 4.  Add the cool but still-warm vegetable mix to the meat mixture.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine -- thoroughly!

IMG_3331 2 IMG_3331 2 IMG_3331 2~Step 5.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment, then place a wire rack atop the parchment.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure to portion the meat mixture, roll each portion between the palms of your hands, placing the meatballs atop the wire rack as you work.  Bake meatballs on center rack of 350° oven 25-28 minutes.  Remove from oven, and assemble sandwiches as directed below.

*Note:  This recipe is written to make a lot of meatballs (6-6 1/2 dozen).  Feel free to cut the recipe in half, but, know they freeze great.  At this point, I always use what I need (1/3-1/2) and freeze the rest to have on-hand for one or two additional weeknight meatball-sandwich meals. 

For my easy spicy-tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce:

IMG_1452For the sauce:

2  tablespoons corn oil

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  teaspoon ancho chile pepper

3/4  teaspoon Mexican-style oregano

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

2  whole chipotle chile peppers in adobo, plus 1-2 tablespoons sauce from can, to taste

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stems are ok

IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat the corn oil over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion, pressed garlic, ancho chile pepper, Mexican-style oregano, ground cumin, sugar and salt.  Give the ingredients a thorough stir.  Adjust the heat to sauté gently, until onion is softened, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_1465 IMG_1465 IMG_1465 IMG_1465~Step 2.  Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, two whole chipotle chiles and 1 tablespoon sauce from can of peppers.  Stir to combine and adjust heat to simmer gently and steadily, 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then taste.  For more heat, add another tablespoon sauce from chipotles.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 3.  Stir in the minced cilantro, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Turn the heat off or remove from heat completely.  With the aid of a stick blender (also called an immersion blender), process the sauce to semi-chunky texture.  If you do not have a stick blender and are using a conventional blender, cool the sauce 1 hour prior to processing.  Transfer sauce to food storage container(s) and keep stored in refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave.  Sauce freezes well.

To assemble & bake the Mexican-style meatball sandwiches:

IMG_3359For the sandwiches:

6  6"-6 1/2" submarine/hoagie rolls, the best available, your favorite brand

18-24  slices jalapeño pepper-Jack cheese

2 1/2  dozen meatballs, from above recipe

1 1/2  cups chipotle-chile chili sauce, from above recipe

minced cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_3360 IMG_3360 IMG_3515 IMG_3515 IMG_3515~Step 1.  To assemble the sandwiches, use a serrated bread knife to slice the rolls, placing each one on an aluminum foil sheet as you work  Place 3-4 slices of cheese in each roll, to generously cover and protect the soft bread on both sides -- from the sauce that will come later.  Slice 2 meatballs into thirds and place them flat in the bottom of each roll.  Place 4 meatballs atop the meatball slices on each sandwich.  Gather the foil up and around each sandwich and form a tight seal.

IMG_3375 IMG_3375~ Step 2. To bake and serve the sandwiches, place sandwiches, side-by-side on center rack 350º oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove the foil and drizzle chipotle-chile chili sauce over the meatballs, to taste, without drenching the sandwich in sauce -- be aware, this sauce is quite spicy.  Garnish each sandwich with minced cilantro leaves and serve immediately (with additional sauce to the side if desired).

A crispy roll, gooey cheese, tender meatballs & spicy sauce: 

IMG_3525There's no right or wrong way to eat a meatball sandwich:

IMG_3537Tex-Mex Chipotle Beef and Chorizo Meatball Subs:  Recipe yields approximately 6-6 1/2 dozen meatballs/3 cups sauce/enough for 18 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: fork; 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 10" nonstick skillet; nonstick spoon or spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; wire cooling rack; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; serrated bread knife; aluminum foil sheets

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c926d116970bCook's Note:  In my food world, there is  no right or wrong way to make a meatball sandwich -- they are pretty straightforward.  In my recipe for  ~ The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub ~ my ground chicken meatballs are infused with lots of onion, garlic, basil, egg and fresh Italian-bread crumbs.  What do they do?  They add the requisite moisture and full-throttle flavor to an otherwise dry, rather tasteless, lackluster protein.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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