I haven’t made meatloaf in twenty years, probably. You have to compromise when you’re in a relationship, and these are the foods that I like but rarely, if ever, cook because my husband doesn’t like them:
His compromise? No Indian food, not ever, not even a walk past an Indian restaurant on the way to somewhere else to have dinner. And green peppers. It seems fair to me — I get to eliminate an entire country’s cuisine (and green peppers) in exchange for giving up some pretty unexciting food.
(However, I have held firm at asparagus. Like a ROCK. I will never give up asparagus nor stop cooking it once a week while it’s in season even if I’m eating all of the leftovers on everyone’s plate each time. Commonsense might suggest that I simply make myself an extra, extra-large helping of asparagus and leave everyone else alone, but I’m convinced they’ll come around one day.)
I make beef stew once in a while when my husband goes out of town in the winter, and he likes this one okay. I really didn’t think too much about the other food I don’t make anymore, until I started flipping through Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs’ The Food52 Cookbook. If you don’t know about the Food52 site, head over there right after you finish reading this post. If I let you leave now, you won’t come back. It’s a community-based food site — home cooks contribute recipes, others try them out and then everyone votes on them in weekly contests. The winning recipes were compiled in this cookbook (actually, the site’s second). It’s social, there’s lots of food porn-y photography and the recipes are excellent. I spend far too much time there.
So, I’m flipping through the cookbook, and I came upon meatloaf with blackberry barbecue sauce. And my mouth began to water. It also made me think — because it’s topped with an unusual, spicy blackberry sauce, the meatloafiness of the meatloaf might be mitigated, and with the word “barbecue” thrown in, possibly the first word, “meatloaf,” would be forgotten about entirely.
More (plus a link to the recipe) after the jump.
Those are gluten-free bread crumbs. I put the bread through the food processor instead of tearing it because tearing it wasn't working out for me.
I liked the mix of ground beef, pork and veal right away — mainly because I’d never seen ground veal in the grocery store around here and that meant I had an excuse to visit Belmont Butchery. When I got there, it turned out that they had this very blend already mixed up and ready to go (ask for the butcher’s blend). It’s a small thing, but somehow, it made the whole enterprise seem very economical, time-wise.
Putting all of the ingredients together is just a matter of measuring and mashing with your hands. No biggie. The mixture was a lot looser (a lot) than I expected but the recipe calls for a full 3/ 4 cups of milk and after cooking, I didn’t see any negative impact, so I’ll stick with it next time.
However, at the time, I was a little nervous because I was planning on shaping it freeform, without a loaf pan. I’d read in Cooks Illustrated a million years ago that meatloaf steams away in it’s own juices in a loaf pan (that doesn’t sound like a good thing at all, does it?), so they recommended using a baking sheet. I was afraid my meatloaf would spread like a big meat-cookie if I put it on a baking sheet, so I used a cake pan instead, hedging my bets and rationalizing that a meat-cake was almost like a meatloaf, if worse came to worse.
The thing that sucked away all of my time and patience and goodwill towards meatloaf in the existential and the specific sense was the blackberry barbecue sauce. In fact, it was so frustrating, I nearly gave up on the whole thing and painted plain old ketchup on top instead. Sadly, sadly, as it so often is the case, this was my own fault, and had nothing to do with the recipe.
In an effort to forestall complaints, I decided to strain out the blackberry seeds. No problem, you say? Just whip out the old fine-mesh strainer and press away! I agree, it’s very convenient, if you have a fine-mesh strainer, and more importantly, if you can find it.
Here we come to the real downside of training and then demanding that your children do all of the dishes. In the beginning, the major hurdle was their inability to load the dishwasher properly so that the dishes actually got clean. It took me a while to see the value of their doing dishes, and I really felt like we had gotten somewhere when we conquered that problem. Now, the frustration is that when they unload the dishwasher, they scatter utensils and pans in every drawer and cabinet.
There’s no overriding organizational imperative in place: all pot lids go here and all baking pans, regardless of size, go there because they’re related to the activity of baking and not related to the coverage of pots, for instance. I’ve tried to find joy in the fact that they’ve hewed to the construct of a silverware drawer and that stacking plates by size in the same cabinet seems to be a constant.
So, after searching through every space that might be construed as a place to put anything related to the kitchen and coming up empty-handed, I was forced to use the skimmer I bought at the Asian market. It’s almost flat, appropriately fine-meshed and since it doesn’t have a hook on one side to secure it to the pot, there’s always the danger (and reality) of dropping all of the blackberry seeds you just pressed out of the sauce right back into it.
I’d love to say that because this sauce is so amazingly delicious, it makes up for all of the trouble I went through to get it perfectly smooth and seed-free. Please keep in mind that this step was not specified in the original recipe. It was, in fact, pretty delicious but I didn’t get quite the response I expected. I thought I’d hear, “aaaah!” Instead, I heard, “eh.” My husband AND my oldest daughter immediately had the same inspired idea — they lunged for the Sriracha (conveniently located in a cabinet with all the other condiments) and swirled it into the leftover sauce. Then they loved every bit of that meatloaf and scraped up what was left on their plates with their asparagus spears. Keep in mind that I’d deliberately cut back on the ginger and the cayenne in the recipe to make it more enticing, and you can imagine my mostly silent fury at the site of them patting themselves on the back for “saving” dinner.
It is, however, a truly excellent meatloaf recipe and you should really try it. Here’s the link.