Meat Loaf – Finalmente!

Meatloaf sliced

Here it is, the very much delayed meatloaf recipe. Taa-daa!

My love affair with meatloaf goes back more decades than I care to say. I was a boy and didn’t think much about this dish, wondering why we weren’t having hamburgers instead. Then I tasted Zia’s meatloaf. She and Mom were great cooks but Zia’s meatloaf was heaven-sent. I was perennially trying to steal away from our dinner table so that I could have a taste of her meatloaf when she was serving it. Mom caught on quickly enough but rather than get annoyed, she tried to make a better meatloaf. Although hers did, in fact, improve, Zia’s remained the best in my book.

Now move ahead many years. Zia and I have decided to create this blog and we’re making a preliminary list of recipes to include for our family. Well, very early in the process, I added her meatloaf to the list. You can imagine my horror when she confessed that she no longer had the recipe nor could she remember it. All she knew was that she added oats (see above) and nothing else. At that point, I resigned myself to eating mediocre meatloaf for the rest of my days. And let me tell you. I was responsible for many a mediocre meatloaf in those days. (It also drove home the point that these recipes needed to be put to paper and preserved.)

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meatloaf-4

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About 2 years later, I came upon a post by my now good blogging friend, Tanya. (You may know her as Chica Andaluza. If you don’t, get over to her site for some tasty dishes and to learn of life on her beautiful Mountain in Spain.) She’d shared a recipe for ketchup, and, once I made it, I was instantly converted. I no longer buy ketchup and use this homemade version exclusively. It’s also a permanent member of my Christmas gift baskets, the recipients of which — friends and family —  cannot get enough.

At some point — I don’t remember exactly when — I was preparing what would become another mediocre meatloaf when I experienced a true epiphany. Why not use the homemade ketchup? It was a life changing moment … well, meatloaf changing. My meatloaf reached a new level of excellence and, best of all, consistency. No need to worry about which and how much spice to use. The ketchup had everything I would have added. Best of all, during her last visit here, I prepared a meatloaf dinner for Zia and she declared that mine reminded her of her long forgotten recipe. She could not have pleased me more. That’s the day I decided to share the recipe — it’s also the last time I served sliced meatloaf for dinner.

You see, I’m a mid-western boy and we love our meat and gravy sandwiches. It was a special treat on a cold winter’s evening when Mom placed before me a plate containing a meat sandwich and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. Oh, boy! Over the years, even when serving a mediocre loaf, I dreamt of the next day’s smothered sandwich. Once that craving was satisfied, there would be meatloaf sammiches. These would be gravy-free but would instead contain lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a bit of horseradish sauce. I mentioned it to Zia and learnt that she, too, loved both sandwich and sammich. I’ve not served sliced meatloaf since. Make note of this post’s opening photo. It is the last of its kind in my home.

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This is a very easy recipe to follow but it does result in plenty of meatloaf. I usually fill 2 small foil loaf pans first, and then use the rest of the meat mixture to create a larger loaf. I rarely place this loaf in a pan, preferring to create a free-form loaf by hand. The smaller loaves will eventually find a home in the freezer and, I must say, I get a certain amount of satisfaction knowing that I’ve got a meatloaf in the freezer. I feel the same about its neighbor in there, the tray of lasagna. This brings up another issue …and an invite. If ever you hear of a major power outage lasting for days/weeks in Chicago, rent a car, catch a train, hop a bus, take a flight, pirate a ship, or do whatever you need to get here. My guests and I will be eating mighty fine for the duration — or at least until everything melts.

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meatloaf-duo

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Meatloaf Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 lb (680 g) ground beef (See Notes)
  • 1.5 lb (680 g) ground pork
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk, leaves included
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 cup oats (I use good old Quaker Oats for “Nothing is better for thee…”)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup homemade ketchup, divided (See déjà vu)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚ F (175˚ C)
  2. Chop the carrot, celery, and onion to equal size.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over med-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables and cook until soft – about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic midway through.
  4. Set aside to cool until safe to handle.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add the meats, eggs, oats, sautéed vegetables, and 2/3 of the ketchup. Mix to combine but do not over-mix.  (See Notes)
  6. Use part of the meat mixture to fill 1 or 2 small loaf pan(s). The rest will be used to fill a large loaf pan or to create a free-form loaf on a foil-covered baking pan.
  7. Use the remaining 1/3 of the ketchup to lightly coat the tops of the loaves.
  8. Place the loaves in the pre-heated oven.
  9. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes. Each loaf is cooked when its internal temperature reaches 160˚ F (70˚ C).
  10. Once cooked:
    • For the larger loaf:
      • If using a loaf pan, allow to rest 10 minutes, drain the liquids from the pan, removing the meatloaf and placing on a serving platter.
      • If not using a loaf pan, allow to rest 10 minutes and place on a serving platter.
      • Serve immediately.
    • For the smaller loaves:
      • Set aside to fully cool. Completely cover with plastic wrap before tightly wrapping in aluminum foil. It can now be frozen for up to 6 months. When ready to serve, unwrap the plastic wrap, replace the foil, and thaw in the fridge overnight. Once thawed, place in a pre-heated 300˚ F (150˚ C) and cook until heated through. (See Notes)
  11. If you’re like me, forego the platter and use the liquids to prepare a gravy with cornstarch, a cup of beef stock or low sodium bouillon, and a little milk  (optional). Meanwhile, create a sandwich using 2 slices of bread  and a generous slice of meatloaf. On the same dish, serve some mashed potatoes with a well in the center. Use the hot gravy to smother the sandwich and fill the mashed potato well. Buon appetito!

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meatloaf-3

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Notes

At one time, I used equal amounts of ground veal, beef, and pork to make meatloaf. I prefer not to use veal these days unless I can be sure it’s been humanely raised.

If you do not have — or do not want to use — oats, an equal amount of bread crumbs may be substituted.

Overworking the meat mixture will result in a meatloaf that’s too dense. Mix until al of the ingredients are combined but no more than that.

You needn’t thaw the meatloaf before re-heating but I find the results much more reliable. I never seem to get the timing right and dinner is just about always delayed when I stick a frozen meatloaf into the oven. Remember: it’s already been fully cooked so there’s no worry of serving raw meat — just really cold.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

ketchup-throwback-photo

As I mentioned, the secret to this meatloaf is the ketchup, although the recipe I shared is about as close to the ketchup we all knew as kids as is salsa. Thanks to a recipe derived from one posted by the Kitchens’ good friend, Tanya, the one and only Chica Andaluza, the flavor of my meatloaf has improved greatly. The fact is that I always have a few jars in reserve and am lost without it. (Sorry, Heinz.) You can see my recipe HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Soft Shell Crab Curry Preview

Curried Soft Shell Crab

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The Ketchup that Came Down the Mountain

I’ve mentioned it in the past and it bears repeating: blogging continues to surprise me in ways I never dreamt possible. One need look no further than my dining room table to see what I mean. There, in jars of all shapes and sizes, you’ll find preserves, jams. jellies, pickles, pickled peppers, brandied figs, apple sauce, corn relish, and ketchup. You may recall that I was the guy that swore he’d never can anything. Now it looks like I’m stocking a bunker for a nuclear holocaust. Look closely, however, and you’ll soon find the Belle of the Ball … well, Ball Jar. I’m talking about the ketchup and that’s the recipe I’ll share today.

Way back in September of 2011, my blogging friend Tanya, of Chica Andaluza fame, posted a recipe for “Up The Mountain Spicy Tomato Ketchup.” With this area’s farmers markets still flush with tomatoes, I bought a couple pounds and decided to give her recipe a try. Knowing how spicy things can get up that mountain, however, I did tweak the recipe to cool it down just a bit. And the result? This is one exceptional ketchup. In fact, it hardly seems right to call it ketchup for this isn’t at all like the bottle of red stuff on your grocer’s shelf — and that goes for all 57 varieties! Tanya’s sauce is so good that I actually felt like I was wasting money the last time I was without and needed to buy ketchup. But don’t just take my word for it. I’ve given jars of Tanya’s ketchup to friends and family alike, all of whom, without exception, sing its praises. And to all of my fellow Chicagoans, this ketchup is good enough to be served on a hot dog! Yes, it’s that good!

There’s only one possible issue worth mentioning. It is best to simmer this sauce slowly and to stir it frequently. If you don’t you could end up with a splattered mess or, worse yet, a scorched pan bottom. A splatter screen may help prevent the mess but a scorched bottom can ruin the entire batch of ketchup. If you suspect that the ketchup has begun to burn, do not use a spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. That will only foul your ketchup. Better to dump the pot’s contents into a large bowl and clean the pan’s bottom before re-filling it with the ketchup and continuing the simmer. Bear in mind, the lower the simmer, the longer the time required to get a thick, rich ketchup. For me, this job will easily last a full afternoon.

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Home-Made Ketchup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs. (approx 3.5 kg) tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 4 large onions (yellow, sweet, red, or any combination), chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 Serrano peppers, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 tsp whole allspice
  • 2 tsp mace
  • 2 tsp celery seeds
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Use a piece of cheese cloth to form a pouch into which you’ll add the cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves, mace, celery seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Use butcher string to enclose and securely tie the herbs & spices. Set aside.
  2. Place the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic into a heavy bottomed saucepan over med-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the ingredients are all soft, 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. Once the tomato mixture has softened, pass it through a food strainer, food mill, or fine meshed sieve to separate peel and seeds from the pulp.
  4. Return the strained pulp to the saucepan, along with the brown sugar, mustard, paprika, cider vinegar, and spice pouch. Stir to combine over med-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Remove the pouch.
  5. At this point, continue to simmer until the ketchup has reached the consistency you prefer. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
  6. Once it has reached the desired thickness, add cayenne pepper, ground nutmeg, and salt, to taste.
  7. Once the seasonings have been adjusted, you can either bottle it for storage in the refrigerator where it will keep for about a month, freeze it, or, you can process it in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes if using pint jars and 40 minutes if using quart-sized canning jars.

With thanks to: Chica Andaluza, “Up The Mountain Spicy Tomato Ketchup

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Notes

You may have noticed that the spice pouch was removed after simmering for 45 minutes. That’s because the tomatoes will continue to reduce for some time afterward and that will serve to concentrate all the flavors in that pot. To leave the spice pouch in the tomato mixture for too long could render the ketchup inedible. You can always adjust the seasoning at the end of the cooking, just as one does with the cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Living as far North as I do, finding good tasting tomatoes from now until Spring is pretty much impossible. Even so, I’ll still use off-season, or even canned, tomatoes to make ketchup during the Winter and Spring months, adding tomato paste to boost the tomato flavor. Although this version may not quite equal the taste of ketchup made from Summer’s best, it is still leagues ahead of any ketchup you might buy at a store.

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Grilled Chicken with Tomato Jam Glaze

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One last word about tomatoes …

In September, Marie posted a link to a recipe for tomato jam that used yellow heirloom tomatoes and basil. I spoke to Zia about my intention to try my hand at making the jam and that triggered a memory of Grandma making tomato jam when Mom & Zia were little girls. Grandma’s version didn’t use basil and, though the tomatoes she used would be considered “heirloom” by today’s standards, back then they were just “tomatoes.” Well, in an effort to bridge the gap between New and Old, I made tomato jam that weekend with yellow heirloom tomatoes but without the basil.  And the result? Like almost all the jams I’ve made, it goes very well with goat cheese. (Is there a jam or preserve that doesn’t go well with goat cheese?) Not only that but I was surprised to find out just how good it worked as a glaze for barbecued chicken. Next time, though, I’m adding a few red pepper flakes and a dash of hot sauce to the glaze. Of course, you can always serve it like my Grandma did for her girls: on a chunk of Italian bread.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

As a boy, vegetables were very much a part of my family’s diet. Whether picked fresh from Grandpa’s garden or selected at a grocery or market, you could count on a salad of fresh greens and at least one vegetable being served at every dinner.  Mom’s favorite, and frequent star at our supper table, was Swiss chard. Mom enjoyed it enough to commandeer a small patch of Grandpa’s garden so that she could grow her own.  Now that’s some serious chard love!  Very often, Mom would use a combination of chard & spinach to fill small pies, cacioni, from a recipe that came from Dad’s homeland, San Marino. Click HERE to check out the recipe for this family favorite.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you … 

Sausage Ravioli

Sausage Ravioli

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