I’m posting this from my office, so I’m not leading with a picture. You’ll just have to wait for the update.
The first time I ever ate meatloaf, I was 23 years old. I made it after seeing the meatloaf that my boss made for her daughter. And I mean a few months after I saw my boss’s meatloaf. Because you see…. I didn’t know from meatloaf.
My grandmother (hi Gie!!) is a wonderful cook. An amazing cook. And everything about her food is so filled with love, with care, that it makes things 10 times better.
For all this, my mother never enjoyed Gie’s meatloaf. I don’t know why, having never had it. So when I was growing up, we never ate meatloaf. I guess that’s part of being a parent — you don’t ever have to cook or eat the shit you don’t like again. But seriously. I am 25. I can remember every single time I’ve ever eaten meatloaf. Because it’s 5 times. (For the record, one of those times was a Rachael Ray recipe for Mini Meatloaves with Gorgonzola-Sage Gravy and Garlic Proscuitto Mashed Potatoes. The meatloaves tasted like baked hamburgers. Disgusting. )
My way of approaching meatloaf is different than most people’s, I guess. I figure this, since everybody that I’ve ever given meatloaf to has said “It’s really good, but it’s not meatloaf” — I think I’ve mentioned before that I understand their disbelief — no ketchup. An actual flavor. Not what they’re used to. But I feel like these things make us have a narrower view of food, instead of broader. Why does it have to have ketchup or bbq sauce or orange marmalade or whatever on top? Meat tastes good on its own! Especially when it’s cooked correctly! Why go covering it with sugary, salty, sodium-infused STUFF?
On Thursday night, I made meatloaf. As I’ve mentioned, I approach it differently than most. Back over the winter, I found a recipe for braised short ribs from Anne Burrell. After the ribs are browned, a whole bunch of pureed vegetables are browned, and then tomato paste is added and also browned, and the whole thing is deglazed with wine and set as the base for the sauce for the braise.
Thinking of a meatloaf as a roast with a funny texture, as I do, lead me to thinking that preparing vegetables like in a braise (up till the deglazing part) could give me a way to sneak as much veggie goodness as actual MEAT into the dish!
Since I am susceptible to the power of suggestion, and based on Lyssa’s Leek Week, I pureed 1 leek, 2 ribs of celery, 1 shallot, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 carrots, and one orange bell pepper. You can really go out there with this — use as many veggies as will fit in your food processor, do it in two batches, basically go to town. I loved the extra something that the bell pepper gave – maybe add a cubanelle/fryer pepper. If you’re feeling brave, perhaps a jalapeno! Basically puree a ton of vegetables, and put them in a hot skillet with a tablespoon or two of oil. Season liberally with salt.
Then, just let them sit, until browned gunk forms on the bottom. Scrape the veggies up, flip them around, and let gunk form again. Repeat one more time, and after the third round of gunking, add a teaspoon and a half of tomato paste, stir, and let that all brown for a minute or two.
I was using a non-stick skillet, so I was of course terrified that I would get no browning. I needn’t have feared, although I would recommend a cast-iron or stainless one. Better browning, more even heat.
When the tomato paste has gotten all nice and incorporated and browned, feel free to pour in a little deglazing liquid of your choosing. I used about 2-3 ounces of Jesse’s Sam Adams Blackberry Whitbeer. But whisky, red wine, any kind of beer, stock…. anything would be good. You just don’t want the veggies to get too wet – they’re going IN something, after all.
Scoop the veggies out of the skillet, and spread them on a plate or a cookie sheet to cool in an even single layer.
Once the veggies cool, combine 1 pound of ground beef (we used 85/15, I believe), some salt and pepper to taste, a tablespoon of Bisto (it must be Bisto) sprinkled over the meat, and the veggies. Add some breadcrumbs, until you have the proper consistency, and form into a loaf on a sheet pan. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
There is no glazing. There is no egg, although there could have been. I used plain old seasoned dry breadcrumbs from the cardboard container. I’m out of Worcestershire, and I decided not to add anything else fancy this time.
It was delicious. Delicious. I am going to make this again, seasonal appropriateness be damned. This is good enough that I will gladly turn the oven on in July for it. I urge you to try to make this. It is good. It is healthy. You could seriously add about a pound of vegetables, and use sirloin, and feel really good about yourself. Just get the puree done.
Do not touch this with ketchup. Or BBQ sauce. Not even mine. Just try it first. I promise you, it is worth it. Do not believe my friend Nicki, who once said, “Meatloaf doesn’t taste like anything. It’s not supposed to. It’s all about the sauce, about what you put on top of it.”
Because if that’s true then why not eat a hamburger?