Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Mid Week Musings About Meatloaf
I stopped in Publix after work to pick up a few basics - orange juice, bread, pickled herring, Yukon gold potato chips for my very particular son - and also to scope out the price on a half pound tub of jumbo lump crabmeat. Never mind. We won't even go there. We also won't discuss the green tomatoes in the produce section. Why yes, they are turning red. Wonder why that is, hmmm?
I always check out the BOGO tables. Can't miss them anyway, because they are cunningly arranged between the front door and the deli department. Mueller's pasta on sale, so I picked up two boxes of their corkscrews. I like this pasta shape best for macaroni salad, and also for macaroni and cheese. Besides the corkscrew, there are ridges like you find on rigatoni, and that lets the pasta hold the sauce ever so much better. Hey, I have a wheel of brie just hanging out in my outside fridge ... but alas, no duck sausage.
I'm getting way off track from the meatloaf, but I really do want to try this recipe in the near future. Macaroni and cheese from Nadia G over at Bitchin' Kitchen. Check it out.
No whole fried okra this week. Unfortunately, they are too big to leave whole. Tough okra, y'all. Maybe next time.
Talk about getting off track ... I'm watching the Magic play against the Knicks. What a game ... Magic won! Booyah!!
I wasn't planning on buying any meat, but I always check for sales. Nothing special, although I lingered briefly over a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters at 69 cents a pound. If it had been the weekend, I would have bought it, but I had neither the time nor the energy to clean all that chicken. I kept walking and saw the market ground beef was there, and that gave me an idea. Market ground beef is, to my mind, a real treat and a bargain to boot (relatively speaking, of course. Paying $3.19 a pound for ground beef is hardly a bargain, but you don't want to know what they were charging for the ground sirloin.) It is priced cheaper than even ground chuck, and tastes better. Beefier. Because it is made up of the cuttings from all the different meats back there, including steak trimmings.
So I didn't want chili, or Argentinian beef saute, or shepherd's pie, or even tacos ... I wanted meatloaf. A nice big, tasty, juicy meatloaf. But which meatloaf recipe to use? I'm sure you've faced the very same conundrum, right? Right?
If you've never strayed from your mother's meatloaf recipe, let me let you in on a little secret: everybody's mother makes meatloaf just a little bit different. That's like over 80 million meatloaf recipes in the US alone. My mother always made her meatloaf on top of the stove, freeform shape. No loaf pan for her. Her meatloaf mixture was pretty basic - ground round, grated onion, an egg, some ketchup, a lot of kosher salt, and matzo meal. Matzo meal is the secret to a great meatloaf, by the way, but what made hers special was the cooking method. I guess you could call it braising. Somehow with onions and a little more ketchup and the natural juices from the meat, she created a rich cooking liquid for the bottom of the Dutch oven. Keeping the pot covered, she "baked" the meatloaf, in this miraculous gravy, on top of the stove. Remember, when she first started keeping house and cooking for a family, there were no home air conditioners, and she was adamant about not adding to the brutal summer heat by turning on the oven. Her meatloaf was always juicy, always tasty. It was the best meatloaf I've ever eaten, and since she never wrote anything down, and I cannot find anything similar in any cookbook, it is one of the few dishes I cannot replicate.
She was a good grandma and a great cook. Further deponent sayeth naught.
Still, I must admit I make some really fine meatloafs in my own right, even if I do use a loaf pan and turn on the oven. Sometimes I follow a recipe like this one from a chef like Emeril; other times I am inspired by the contents of my refrigerator. Carnie Wilson has a fabulous recipe called "Don't Let Your Meat Loaf" in her cookbook To Serve with Love that includes ingredients I would have never thought of tossing in to my meatloaf mixture - quick oats, grated carrots, horseradish, applesauce, and allspice.
Most of the time, I play around substituting chili sauce or leftover marinara sauce for the ketchup, panko or Italian bread crumbs for the matzo meal, sauteed onions instead of the raw ... you get the idea. You can stuff a meatloaf with a cooked sausage like chorizo or kielbasa, or with hardboiled eggs. You can roll it around a filling of mashed potatoes or a bread stuffing.
As I shopped for ingredients tonight, I realized I did not want to peel, chop, or grate. I did want to make it easy on myself, without sacrificing flavor or paying ridiculously high prices for prechopped vegetables. I had this in the oven in record time with no preparation and minimum mess. The recipe can be found over on the Inspiration Nation recipe page. Meatloaf is a natural served with mashed potatoes, but really, any starch will do. Except grits. No grits, please.
Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.