Friday, April 23, 2010

Meatloaf 101

The teacher in me is screaming to get out today. This will seem pretty over the top, but towards the end it all comes together with just 4 steps to make the meatloaf of your dreams.

Who doesn’t like meatloaf? Who needs a recipe for meatloaf? Nobody. There are several basic ingredients (or choices of same) that are the way to start up your loaf. There are choices of meats and vegetation. There are no bad choices (ok, maybe anchovies would not be such a good idea…or?). It suddenly occurs to me to wonder if one could make a faux meatloaf, a meatless vegetarian loaf. That’s for another day.

Start with:
*½ medium onion, chopped
*1-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper
½ green bell pepper, diced (or any color pepper)
*1 lightly beaten large egg
*1/3 cup breadcrumbs (preferably unflavored), moistened with 1/3 cup cream or milk
*salt and pepper to taste
*Cheese

Of the above the garlic, hot pepper, bell pepper are all optional according to your preferences. The breadcrumbs are essential as is the cream or milk you will moisten them with. If you start with the above, then the only other thing you need is 2 lbs. of meat.

I like to add some grated parmesan or romano into the meat mix and top the loaf with some pepper jack (only because it’s what I had).

I wanted bell pepper and a chile pepper but didn’t have any. Also did not want to go to the store. So…skipped those ingredients. The asterisks denote what I had and, therefore, what I used.

Meat choices:
*Ground beef (grind your own if you can)
Ground lamb
Ground veal
Ground pork
Ground chicken or turkey
*Italian sausage
*Mexican chorizo
Bacon

I guess you could make a meatloaf using only one meat, but it would be pretty one-dimensional – although a turkey loaf is perfectly viable. The proportions are up to you as long as it’s a total of 2 lbs. (I’m basing this on my loaf pan which is 9” x 5” x 3 1/2”.)

Yesterday I threw together a meatloaf after foraging through the fridge and freezer. (An aside: I put the loaf together using salt and pepper only as I sautéed the onions and garlic, but the highly flavored chorizo and sausage precluded the need for any more seasoning.)

I often like to put bacon strips on top before the loaf goes into the oven. This time, however, there was quite a bit of fat in my meats. So I used cheese as a topping.

Seasonings:
If all your meat choices are starting out unseasoned add your favorite flavors, any of the following.
Tarragon for poultry
Oregano, thyme for anything
Paprika, especially with the inclusion of pork
Of course salt and pepper to taste

How do you know if your seasoning profile is a good one? Put a teaspoon of the meatloaf mixture into a small bowl and nuke it for 20 seconds. Then simply taste it and adjust to your liking.

Meatloaf 101

1) You should start by choosing your meats – use anything you have on hand and need to use up. Get them ground and into a large bowl.

2) Decide on the vegetation and get it all prepped, as in chopped.

3) Saute the onions, garlic, peppers (if using) until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

4) Add everything to the meat and mix well (I like to use my hands). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease up a loaf pan, press the whole mess into it, top with your bacon or cheese and bake until it reaches 160 degrees. It takes about an hour if uncovered and with bacon on top – closer to 1 ¼ hrs., covered for the first 40 minutes if you’re using cheese as a topping.


So, in the end, it’s easy as pie (actually I find pie to be hard). And I feel so liberated in that I no longer need to consult “Joy of Cooking” for guidance. Make the meatloaf a day ahead if it helps and just pop it into the oven the next day (allow it to come close to room temp if you have the time). Voila!

2 comments:

Andrea said...

I love meatloaf, its always been one of my favorites. I'll have to add some spicy peppers to mine next time, I think the husband would like it a lot. Great tips, Stephen!

Jenn said...

That's cheese on top of your meatloaf isn't it? OMG that looks so good. I mean bacon is always a good topper, but I never actually thought of cheese, how sad is that? I love the tips...very informative!

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