Buffalo-wing seasonings perk up ground chicken

Ground chicken got a bad rap in my latest podcast, chronicling the trials and successes of cooking from a “mystery bag” of ingredients.

My cooking compatriot, Tod Davies, likened her ground chicken mixture, despite sautéing with garlic, shallots and carrots, to Styrofoam. Of course, she was employing a bit of hyperbole, but we all knew what she was getting at.

The problem with ground chicken, particularly ground chicken breast, is that it lacks flavor and quickly becomes dry and tough. That’s because, as I’m always fond of reiterating, all of a chicken’s flavor is in the bones and skin.

Now, pasture-raised, heritage-breed birds have more deeply flavored meat. But that’s exactly the flavor that the modern-day, mainstream American public doesn’t want. So commercially produced chickens have bland, lean meat that even more closely resembles protein pellets in the absence of their skin and bones.

One way to make ground chicken more palatable, of course, is to add lots of seasonings and prepare it in a way that preserves moisture. Accomplishing both is this recipe for meatloaf, courtesy of foodnetwork.com, that plays up the flavors of Buffalo wings.

I’m not usually a fan of recipe gimmicks. But I will concede that the trifecta of hot sauce, blue cheese and celery has a lot going for it. And I think I can confidently recommend this recipe after my family enjoyed “Buffalo chicken burgers” last month. We did use ground turkey, which we almost always substitute for chicken, with a bit juicier, more savory results.

We didn’t need a recipe to baste our burger patties with hot-wings sauce, then top them with blue cheese crumbles between a brioche bun. Celery leaves fresh from our garden stood in for the lettuce, along with a sweet slab of garden tomato.

The piece de resistance was a layer of french-fried onions (yes, the kind from a canister!) that my husband shook out right onto the griddle, figuring that, greasy as they are, they’d crisp up beautifully. And so they did! I don’t think we’ll ever eat french-fried onions any other way.

In fact, I think I’d substitute them for the crunchy topping on this meatloaf. You also could use a favorite hot-wings sauce instead of the ketchup-hot sauce mixture called for in the recipe. And feel free to substitute ground turkey. For its additional fat, the reward is richer flavor.

I explain a technique in my debut podcast for mixing meatloaf to keep the finished dish light and tender.

Tribune News Service photo

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

4 tablespoons hot sauce, divided

3 tablespoons ketchup

Nonstick spray, for preparing loaf pan

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 stalks celery, small diced (about 1 cup)

1/2 medium onion, small diced (about 1 cup)

1 1/2 pounds ground chicken

1 cup blue cheese crumbles

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

2 large eggs

2 cups panko breadcrumbs, divided

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the hot sauce with the ketchup; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a standard (9-by-5-by-3-inch) loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Saute the celery and onion in melted butter until softened, for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer mixture, with drippings, to a large bowl. Add remaining 3 tablespoons hot sauce to bowl and stir to combine. Add the chicken, blue cheese, salt, pepper, eggs and 1 1/2 cups of the panko and mix until well-combined.

Press mixture into prepared loaf pan, pressing more in center of loaf to create a divot. This will allow meatloaf to bake evenly and not create a mound after it is baked. Spread sauce over top of meatloaf. Mix the Parmesan with remaining 1/2 cup panko and sprinkle mixture on top of sauce.

Bake in preheated oven until center is set and top is golden-brown, for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Or use a meat thermometer and let meatloaf reach 165 F. Let rest for about 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Makes 8 slices.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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