Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 24 - It's Meat, in Loaf Form

Comfort food. We all have a different definition; but for most people, it's the food that their mother or grandmother (or aunts, or uncles, or grandpa) made for them when they were kids.

Unfortunately, my mother and grandmother were both horrible cooks. They could both bake like nobodies business, but the cooking was not so hot. I primarily learned to cook out of defense of my tastebuds.

My PERSONAL version of comfort food, is what I made to erase the memory of how bad what they fed me was. Over time I've gradually perfected the RIGHT way to cook the foods that should have been good when I was growing up.

Hell, half of my recipes are just that in fact. Certainly my macaroni and cheese, my ribs, my steak, my pot roast, my beef stew, my fried chicken... hmm, OK, maybe more than half...

Well, of all the bad dishes my mom used to make, her meatloaf was the absolute worst. Now here's a puzzler for you. Could somebody tell me, how is it you can make a dish that is both dry and greasy at the same time? (actually, I know how, and how not to; and I'll tell you later on)

What's worse though, is that I can't get any satisfaction from restaurant meatloaf either; because they almost all have onions, which I happen to be allergic to.

Now it comes to pass I find out that my darling wife has never had good meatloaf. Oh she's had SOME meatloaf, but it's all been moms meatloaf; and if anything, her mother is a worse cook than mine. As a result she has an irrational prejudice against the stuff. When I announced that I was craving meatloaf, she made a funny face, and started making excuses about why we shouldn't make it.

Today, I decided it was time to eliminate that prejudice once and for all.

Now personally, I like my meatloaf to be essentially a really big, juicy, crusty, glazed meatball; so that's just what I did....

And THIS, is the result:

Yes, it tastes as good as it looks; but with all that grease drained out of it, it's surprisingly healthy as well, at somewhere around 55 calories per ounce of cooked drained loaf.

3 pounds, 85% lean ground beef
1 pound extra lean ground pork
1 pound ground lamb
4 eggs
1 cup glaze mix (see below)

Fresh2 tblsp fresh sage, chiffonaded
2 tblsp fresh basil, chiffonaded
2 tblsp fresh oregano, minced
2 tblsp fresh parsley, chiffonaded
2 tblsp fresh thyme, minced

Fresh (optional)
4 large chili peppers (choose heat to taste), fine chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 extra large sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped

Dry4-1/2 cups breadcrumbs or cracker meal (make your own, or buy decent, not tubed)
1 cup by volume aged ground parmagiana cheese
1 cup by volume aged ground Pecorino Romano cheese
2-4 tblsp black pepper to taste
1 tblsp salt
1 tblsp cayenne pepper
1 tblsp ground cumin
1 tblsp crushed fennel seed
1 tblsp ground mustard (hot or mild, to taste)
1 tblsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1-1/2 cups of your favorite sweet BBQ sauce,
or substitute 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey, and 1 additional cup ketchup
1-1/2 cup thick ketchup (I prefer Heinz)
1/4 cup franks red hot, or texas pete (or similar) hot sauce.
1/4 cup dijon, or spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup A1 sauce, or similar brown sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Next, make your glaze, and assemble your other"wet" ingredients.

The most important part of your meatloaf is obviously the meat. Now most people think of meatloaf as just a sliced up hunk of ground beef; but for a good loaf, nothing could be further from the truth.

Personally, I like the three meat loaf; lamb, pork, and beef. Turkey just doesn't have the right texture, and the loaf ends up dry with it; and I personally don't like veal that much (the traditional 4th meat for making Italian meatballs).

The ground beef, pork, and lamb, have a balance of flavors, textures, and fat; that can't be beat with beef alone.

Now, as to the beef itself; don't go too lean, or you'll end up with a dry, grainy loaf that won't stick together properly. On the other hand, don't go too fatty, or you'll end up with a greasy, shrunken loaf, that is alternately loose, and bricklike, depending on what part of the loaf you taste. 85% lean is just about right for meatloaf.

The hardest part of doing this whole thing, is mixing the rather large amount of meat, thoroughly, with the wet and dry ingredients.

There's really only one way to do it. Combine all the wet ingredients together, and then mix them all up VERY THOROUGHLY with your hands; squeezing it out through your fingers to get the mix as fine as you can.

You CAN try and use a mixer if you have a large kitchen aid style stand mixer; but it generally does a poorer job, for a lot of wear and tear on your mixer. Whatever you do, don't try and use a food processor, or you'll either end up with a burned out food processor; or if you've got a really good heavy duty model, you'll have a lot of meat paste, not a loaf.

Now, once it's all wet and sloppy, take the fresh and the dry ingredients (reserving 1/2 cup or so of breadcrumbs) , mix them together; then mix them thoroughly with your wet side.

If you're going to add the onions, peppers, and celery; personally I recommend you do so raw, and with the wet ingredients not the fresh. Most sweat their veggies before putting them in meat loaf, but I find if you do that, you lose some of the character.

Now here's one of the funny paradoxes of meatloaf. The wetter you mix it, the dryer the loaf will be when cooked; and the dryer you mix it, the juicier. This is why you include the breadcrumbs and cheese. While cooking, the breadcrumbs will capture moisture and flavor, before they run out into the pan; and the cheese will melt a bit and spread it's fat, moisture, and flavor, where some of the meats fat and juices ran out.

What kills this though, is mixing the loaf too wet. If it's too wet, you end up losing most of your juices to runoff, and your meatloaf is both dry, and greasy; because all the breadcrumbs are saturated with water within the first few minutes of baking, if not before, rather than with the juices from cooking.

By the time you're done hand mixing, the meat mixture should resemble a slightly wet dough; with a very fine structure and texture. If it's too wet, you need to add more bread crumbs and remix, until it achieves the right consistency. If it's too dry, I wouldn't worry about it much, unless the mix won't mold properly, in which case you should add another egg to the mix, and maybe some ketchup or glaze mix.

Next step, molding.

The easy way to do this, is to take a loaf pan large enough for your meat mass (for a recipe this size, a 2lb deep loaf pan is about right), or split the recipe into two smaller pans (two 1 lbers work well as well, and of course you end up with twice the yummy yummy end pieces); and grease them both up with Pam, shortening, lard, margarine, butter etc... You aren't looking to add flavor here, just put a thin coating of oils on the loaf pan so the meat will release and unmold properly.

It's important to note, you are only going to use the loaf pan as a mold. The loaf itself will actually be cooked on a deep sheet pan, or baking pan. If you try and cook a meatloaf in a loaf pan, you'll end up with a top that is simultaneously crusty, and greasy; and the rest of the loaf will be loose, wet, greasy, and poorly textured.

Press the meat into the loaf pan thoroughly, being sure to fill any air pockets or gaps; then sprinkle the top (what will be the bottom in a moment) of the molded meatloaf, with the 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs you reserved out earlier, covering evenly.

Flip the molding loaf pan onto a sheet pan, and tap gently but firmly, to release the loaf. You may have to lift up a corner and shake.

Once the loaf is unmolded, you're probably going to want to flatten it down, and round it out a bit; until it resembles the picture above. Most loaf pans mold a higher, narrower, loaf; but if you use that shape, there's a good chance you'll end up with a dry exterior, and an undercooked middle. What you want to do, is flatten the whole loaf out to no more than about 4" thick.

Now, switch your oven over to broil temporarily, and stick the loaf into it on the second rack from the bottom, for about 15-20 minutes. You're trying to set the shape of the loaf here with high direct heat; so it starts to get some browing on it.

Next, flip the oven back over to bake; and then glaze your loaf thoroughly, using a brush to apply your glaze mixture. Be sure to get 100%, thick, even coverage.

Bake until the glaze is set up, which should take about 15 minutes; then reglaze. Keep reglzing every15 minutes or so, or when the glaze is set again; until the internal temperature hits between 135 and 140.

Finally, reglaze one more time, this time with just straight ketchup, over what should now be the slightly browned barbecue sauce based glaze. Turn the oven back to broil, and let the glaze start to brown again, as shown in the picture above.

Once the glaze browns over slightly, take the loaf out of the oven, and let it carryover for 5 minutes or so before serving.

The five pound recipe here should feed 8 full grown adults, with a little left over. I personally find it best served with mashed potatoes; and I never needed any ketchup, though a little home made hot sauced based BBQ sauce was tasty with a bite or two (I ate most of it au naturel as it were).

And now Mel likes meatloaf.

Next up, show her how to turn that recipe into the worlds best polpette.
And be sure to check out:

Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 24 - It's Meat, in Loaf Form
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 23 - Some Like it Hot
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 22 - Full Fat, Full Dairy, All Killer, No Filler
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 21 - Forget About the Dough Boy
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 20 - QDCBS (Quick and Dirty Chili Bean Stew)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 19 - Chicken Salmonella
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 18 - I'll give YOU a good stuffing turkey (1)
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 17 - REAL Coffee
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 16 - DTG (Damn That's Good) dip
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 15 - More Chocolate Than Cookie
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 14 - Millions of Peaches
Recipes for REAL Women, Volume 13 - Mels 10,000 Calorie Butter Cookies
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 12 - Lard Ass Wings
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 11 - Bacon Double Macaroni and Cheese
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 10 - It's the meat stupid
Recipes for REAL Men, Volume 9 - Labor Day Potatos
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 8 - It's a pork fat thing
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 7 - It may not be Kosher...
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 6 - Andouille Guiness Chili
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 5 - Eazza the Ultimate Pizza
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 4 - Two Pound Meat Sauce
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 3 - Highbrow Hash
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 2 - MuscleCarbonara
Recipes for REAL men, Volume 1 - More Beef than Stew