Pork and Porcini Meatloaf
We just completed our move to Portland and got my kitchen set up and now I'm learning to cook on an electric stove top (a situation that I expect to be temporary, but still, cooking has to happen every day)...so with all the changes and days full of activity related to the move and getting set up, my menu-planning has been running the gamut of comfort foods lately. Meatloaf, of course, is in the Comfort Food Pantheon, so when fortune brought a bag of ground pork into my kitchen a couple of days ago meatloaf was all but foreordained.
Friday night I helped my friend Joe take his first run at making sausage with his new food grinder attachment to his KitchenAid stand mixer. We bought more meat than we could handle in the time we'd allotted (the attachment worked well but it's slow going) so I ended up with a couple of pounds of ground Boston butt at the end of the session. This naturally led me to thinking of meatloaf, although with some seasoning the meat would also make nice sausage patties for breakfast.
Of course, the food police don't like what I have to say here, but the truth is that without adequate fat the most carefully seasoned and prepared meatloaf is dry and unsatisfying - hence the use of 75% lean ground beef and the addition of pancetta and bacon in this version. Also, though I don't think many would disagree, I should mention that cereal fillers, while lightening meatloaf if used in moderation, should be kept in control if you want a satisfying meatloaf. Panko is preferred to breadcrumbs or oatmeal since it gives a lighter, springier feel to the loaf without signalling its presence in any way.
This version made a nice Sunday supper, bringing all the satisfaction of a good plate of meaty stew, since it includes carrots, onions and porcini mushrooms simmered in red wine. Seasoned with fennel and Asiago cheese, the traditional flavor additives for Italian sweet sausage, and paired with roasted baby redskins and some Bok Choi Italiano, this meatloaf exactly hit the comfort food target!
Pork and Porcini Meatloaf
1-1/2 lb ground pork (Boston butt if you have a choice)
1/2 lb ground beef (75% lean)
4 oz pancetta
4 oz bacon
3/4 C hearty red wine
1 carrot, minced
1 onion, minced
1 celery rib, minced
1-1/2 oz dried porcini
1 C panko
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 T salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
4 T flatleaf parsley, minced
1/4 C grated Asiago cheese
2-1/2 T fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C meat stock
3 T flour
salt, hot sauce, to taste
Cover the porcini with hot water and set out to soak for 15 minutes. ‘
Cut pancetta and bacon into chunks and place in food processor with a steel blade. Pulse several times to grind coarsely.
Toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over high heat, stirring constantly, until they start to change color. Grind the seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Slowly sauté the carrot, celery and onion in 2 T of olive oil, stirring. When they have been cooking for a few minutes, carefully lift the porcini from the soaking liquid (reserve liquid) with a slotted spoon and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until most of the liquid is gone. Pour the mushroom liquid through a fine strainer into the pan, leaving the last few drops and any grit from the mushrooms in the bottom of the bowl. Add the wine, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost gone. Remove from heat.
Combine the meats, panko, vegetable/mushroom mixture, bay leaf, egg, salt, red pepper, parsley, cheese, fennel seed and garlic in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands and then form into a loaf. Set the loaf in a baking dish and bake in a preheated 350º oven until the internal temperature is 160º (depending on your oven and the initial temperature of your loaf this will take 3o - 50 minutes).
Allow to rest, covered in foil, 15 minutes before serving. If desired, make a gravy by cooking 3 T of flour slowly in 3 T of fat from the roasting pan, stirring, until it's a light brown, and then adding 2 cups of warm meat stock. Cook the gravy for a few minutes, stirring, until thickened and season to taste with salt and hot sauce.