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Stormy Weather Meatloaf

Stormy Weather Meatloaf
  

The '07 Patriots' Day Storm (I won't use the bogus term Nor'easter) raged around here for about a week, fraying nerves and generally making us bounce off the walls. (You don't live in Maine if you don't like winter, but for most transplants it only dawns slowly that while winter is bearable and sometimes even pleasant, spring in Maine is the pits. Every year: chilly, raw, rainy, muddy, ugly --- with nary a flower in sight, long after the daffs, tulips and apple trees are out only a short way down the coast in Boston. I'm  starting to understand why so many Mainers head to the islands and the southern beaches in April, instead of in January and February when you would expect a snowbird exodus.)

Comfort food, of course, is the time-honored remedy for the crabbiness that blooms when cabin-fever has been hanging around too long, so this spicy, herby meatloaf was just what the doctor ordered. (Not the heart doctor -- he ALWAYS says no to this meal...the head doctor, I'm sure, is the one who orders comfort food to be administered.)

Since it's comfort food (which means that the food police have been given the night off), I adhere to the following meatloaf rules: more pork than beef, at least 25% fat, and a good measure of salt. After those rules are complied with I go with the flow in terms of ingredients...tasty porcini mushrooms, tarragon, ground fennel seeds and a mirepoix (celery, carrots and onions) ended up in this version.

I served this with garlicky turnip greens, mashed potatoes with celeriac, a full-bodied, earthy Chianti and some vintage Muddy Waters. Needless to say, our soggy blues were well chased from the house.

Stormy Weather Meatloaf

12 oz ground beef,  70% lean
12 oz ground pork, 80% lean
6 oz bacon or pancetta, medium dice
1 medium carrot, medium dice
1 small onion, medium dice
1 medium stalk celery, medium dice
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1-1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup full-bodied red wine
1 egg
6 T panko flakes or unflavored bread crumbs
2 T fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
3 T fresh tarragon leaves, minced
1-1/2 tsp fennel seed, freshly ground
2 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce

Place the meats in the freezer* while preparing the other ingredients, to allow them to reach a temperature around 34º before mixing. Place the mushrooms in 2 cups of hot water to soak 15 minutes.

Sauté the carrot, onion and celery slowly in a little olive oil until the onions become translucent. Remove from heat.

Carefully lift the mushrooms from the soaking liquid with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Allow them to drain over the bowl for a few seconds and then transfer to a sieve. Rinse the mushrooms in running water for a few seconds to wash away any grit. Sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil on medium heat for about three minutes, stirring. Pour the soaking liquid into the pan through a fine-mesh strainer, leaving the last teaspoonful in the bowl with any remaining grit. Add the wine, raise the heat and cook rapidly, stirring occasionally, to reduce the liquid to a thick, syrup-like glaze which will coat and cling to the mushrooms.

Combine the cold meat, carrot mixture, garlic, mushrooms, nutmeg, egg, panko, herbs, salt and hot sauce in a roomy bowl. Mix quickly but thoroughly (I think this is best done with a pair of clean hands) and press into a loaf pan. Deocorate if preferred with some artful carrot slivers, tarragon leaves, etc.

Bake in a 350º oven until the internal temperature reaches 150º. Remove from oven, wrap in foil and allow to rest 20 minutes.
_______________________________

* I've been reading Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie lately and he instructs that blending the meat at near-freezing temperature binds the fats in such a way that they don't break down so readily under heat, which is apparently a good thing, so I've added this step to my meatloaf routine. Comments welcome on this.

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Comments

Very interesting about chilling the meat before forming the loaf. That's the opposite of what I've always done, but I'm willing to give it a try. I agree completely with your rule about more pork than beef and often use pork sausage in my meat loaf for some extra flavor. Love the idea of fennel seed too, which is an ingredient I'm crazy about.

As for the weather, my condolences. I hate cold weather; even Utah is too cold for me and it usually doesn't even get that cold here.

I do love meatloaf. And I notice you're sensible enough to aboid that ketchup on top crap.

Add bread pudding for dessert and I'm there!

So what did you do with the syrup? Was it mixed into the loaf? Spread on top before baking? Last 20 minutes in the oven? Used as a gravy?

WhiteTrashBBQ - sorry...I wasn't clear enough in my descrption of the process of finishing the mushrooms...there really shouldn't be any liquid left separate from the mushrooms....just keep stirring them over heat until the liquid is reduced to a thicky syrupy glaze which will cling to and coat the mushrooms. See my correction above. Thanks for calling this to my attention!

That is the best explination of comfort food ever...crabbiness indeed! LOL. And that photo! Fab-a-licious!

Hi,
I just found your blog and I LOVE it. This meatloaf looks very good. My husband was just telling me that we need to make some one more time before the weather gets too warm. I agree on the pork ratio and I'm going to try the porcini next time. Thanks for the ideas and tips.

Today must be the rainiest July 18th ever here in Victoria BC Canada. I spent the morning surfing food blogs when I came across your Stormy Day Meatloaf - how perfect!! We just finished dinner and I have to say it is the best meatloaf we have ever had!! Thank you for inspiring me on such a bleak day!

Stephen, great meatloaf. This is definitely the best I've made and really redeems a dish, which, in my opinion, is generally unimpressive. I, too, was inspired to make meatloaf because of the weather. After snowing all day yesterday, the temperature dropped to single digits. Hearty food, and wine, was necessary. I might post about this on a food blog I contribute to. I have left the URL.

Thanks.

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