Thursday, March 7, 2013
Meatloaf: the perfect way to satisfy your Meat Tooth.
Growing up, I was never much of a meatloaf fan.
Meatloaf! The very word used to give me the Shit-Willies. That’s likely because I associate it with cold meatloaf sandwiches on white bread, one of the more horrifying lunches that would appear in my brown paper bag at school. Not even ketchup could save those nasty-wiches.
(Of course, I’m the weird kid who ate cream cheese and green olive sandwiches. Even better: cream cheese and sardines. So the usual kid favorites were not on my radar screen.)
No, I was not much of a meatloaf fan back then, with one notable exception: my grandmother’s meatloaf. Ahhh, that was an ambrosial concoction... beefy, oniony, garlicky. I can still reach down into the deepest recesses of my Sense-Memory and taste it.
Most restaurant meatloaf dishes are way too herbal for both me and She Who Must Be Obeyed. For some reason, liberal amounts of either rosemary or thyme (both of which SWMBO loathes) end up in the recipes, and even I, who can tolerate most herbs, do not care for them in the context of the Beefy Loaf. Feh, sez I.
Having said all this, you could legitimately wonder whether I actually eat the stuff today. And the answer, of course is yes. On occasion... and mostly when I’m the one making the loaf. That way I can control what goes into it.
Cook’s Illustrated published a recipe for meatloaf several months ago, and I’ve used it several times with good results. Rather than using a lot of bready filler, it adds a hefty load of umami via the use of mushrooms (sorry, Erica), tomato paste, onions, garlic, and soy sauce, with a bit of gelatin to provide a nice, beefy mouthfeel. It works well in both the original beef version and with ground turkey, despite the latter normally packing all the flavor of wet shredded newspaper.
Beyond the recipe proper, the real revelation is in how the loaf is baked. Many people simple cram the meat mixture into a loaf pan and shove it into the oven, but this leaves all the grease with no place to go; it ends up being reabsorbed into the meat. Yecch. (This is less of a problem with bison or turkey, but still.)
Instead, what you do is take a rack, wrap it in heavy-duty foil, and poke holes in the foil to provide drainage. You then schpritz a little non-stick spray on that perforated foil and set the rack in a sheet pan to catch the drippings. Pack the meat into a greased loaf pan and unmold it onto the rack and you’re good to go. (I have found that chilling the loaf once it’s in the pan helps it hold its shape better once unmolded... your choice.)
Ain’t she a beauty? (Meatloaf generally tastes better than it looks.)
Thanks to the pan-less baking technique, the resulting Loaf o’ Meat is not a greasy mess... and it’s plenty flavorful even if you make it with ground turkey. The glaze, a combination of ketchup, cider vinegar, ground coriander, and hot sauce, provides a sharp counterpoint. (Mom never glazed her meatloaves. I wonder if I would have liked them better if she had.)
Now, what to drink with your meatloaf? Pretty much anything will work. Ice water. Beer. Prune juice. The carbonated beverage of your choice. Or this:
Jasper’s Rum Punch. Recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh, AKA Dr. Cocktail. What, you don’t have a copy yet?
Jasper’s Rum Punch is easy enough to make. First you run up a batch of Jasper’s Secret Mix: the juice of a dozen limes, 1½ cups granulated sugar, ½ whole nutmeg (grated), and 1¼ ounces Angostura bitters (yes, 1¼ ounces), all stirred together and set in the fridge to mellow for a couple of hours. (You’ll have enough to make rum punch for a party - save the excess in the fridge.) For the punch itself, combine 1½ ounces Jasper’s Secret Mix with 1½ ounces Wray and Nephew White Overproof Rum in a glass with cracked ice. Stir well and garnish with a cherry. Yum.
Say, EATAPETA (Eat A Tasty Animal for PETA) Day is a week from tomorrow. Next time you feel the need to satisfy your Meat Tooth, you know what to do!