One of my favorite meals growing up was meatloaf. I can't place it, just elegance in homecooked simplicity, and a fun meal that won't break the bank. Whatever it was, my dad, being the primary cook in our houehold during my childhood, took pride in his meatloaf.
The problem was, he never once had any form of a set method or recipe for it, and so sometimes his would be incredible, but other times it would be dry. Sometimes he'd use oatmeal as the starch, sometimes no starch, one time a cupful of dry rice (it was a bad idea, trust me).
Anyway, as time passed, I began to try and pin down a "golden formula" for a consistently good "meatroaf" as I grew to call it, and I think that this time around, I nailed it, and I'd like to share the system.
In no way do I calim that this is the secret to the "ultimate" or "greatest ever" roaf that's ever been made of meat, but I do know that I will never use any other method again.
In my studies, one thing became apparent: balance.
The best meatloaves I've had were an amalgam of various things, generally two different meats, aromatic veggies, spices, egg, and starch. Neglect the meat, and it will bland, neglect the aromatics, and it will be dry, and simply taste like a big, overcooked hamburger (yuck!), neglect the starch and egg, and find yourself lacking the essential "food glue" to bind it all together, and keep it tender, and finally, since all of us are Q-ers, we all know that unspiced food is simply disinteresting, even if the only spice we use is black pepper.
The cool thing about meatroaf, is that it's simply meat, not "beefloaf" or "porkloaf" or "lambloaf" but you can use any aimal you desire, and since all of them being grinds, everything has to cook up to 165* anyway, so there's really no distinction on the paperwork side of things, however: I've found that ground pork must consistently backup whatever meat you have loafing around (dumb joke, sorry!) otherwise, I've cranked out a few lame all-beef or all-turkey loaves. (I have not cranked out any disinteresting lamb loaves, however, they make great gyros)
So, today's experiment begins with 2.75 pounds of delicious meat:
L-R: 1lb Ground Chuck, 0.5 lb Ground Sirloin 0.5lb Ground Lamb and 0.75 lb bulk Hot Italian Sausage.
I like the beefier flavor of the sirloin, but it seems to yield a drier product. The chuck, with its fats and collagen makes for a better texture overall, but it's a weaker tea than the gamier sirloin, so it got some lamb for reinforcement. finally, I tossed in my favorite kind of bulk sausage for added flavor, and texture.
1 container button mushrooms, chosen for the meaty richness only Fungi can offer.
5 cloves of garlic, peeled, 1 white onion, quartered, 2 rubs celery, 1 carrot, and 1 red bell pepper.
I've found that merging the mirpioux and trinity together seems to cover nearly ever aspect of background flavor necessary.
The wet works:
2 eggs, and a couple shakes of worcestersire sauce, whipped (not yet shown)
and the starch:
one packet of sourdough croutons, made in the kitchen of my local market.
With your food processor, grind up the fungi:
then the veggies:
and the croutons.
From there, add the meat to a mixing bowl, and add the mushrroms, veggies, and 2/3 of the crumbs on top:
Now's a good time to add seasoning, too:
A little salt, a good handful of crushed black pepper, and about two tablespoons of my southwestern rub.
From there, I like to lightly toss the mixture together by hand (yes, meatloaf is a hands-on thing in my book). You're not looking to thoroughly mix things here, just to get some of the stuff moved around, and the clumps of meat and veggies broken up.
Add the Egg mixture:
And combine the ingredients lightly.
One thing that I dread is uber-dense, tough meatloaf. It's something that happens when the meat gets overworked, all the air between the meat fibers, and all the loose, post-grinder textures in the meat are compacted into a brick. I'm not a fan of meat-bricks, now who's with me?
From there, I moved it into a metal loafpan with a sheet of plastic inside it. This is not my cooking vessel (my smoker is) I'm just gonna let it set up in this pan overnight for shape. I've found it's important to let your meatloaf mix set up overnight in the fridge, so the veggie and meat juices can mingle with the starch, and the spices can better permeate the meat.
Panned up, wrapped up, and in the fridge for the night:
Of course, who would I be to leave off without a fry test?
It's definitely too tender for a patty, it crubled pretty bad comig out of the pan, but with a solid rest time, and being cooked whole, I think it'll be fine
Of course, having onion buns, I couldn't resist making myself a meatroaf sammich, yum!
To be continued...
Thanks for reading.