When the weather gets damp, cool and gloomy like it's been the last week, some recipes come out of hibernation and make it into the heavy rotation of Sunday suppers. One of our faves is meatloaf.
But, not any old meatloaf. This jazzed up meatloaf has mushrooms, peas and mire poix. It's crusted with pine nuts, and layered throughout is hard boiled egg. "HERESY", you scream! Not really. It's made very similarly to what meatloaf really is, and that is a type of forcemeat. Pates and terrines are forcemeats, as are sausages, hot dogs and bologna. Olive loaf? Forecemeat numero uno.
When making a forcemeat, a traditional French method of charcuterie, there is a standard ratio of meat to fat, followed by what we call "garnishes". Most often people think of parsley and lemon crowns or large plouches of herbs that lie next to a finished dish as a garnish. But, garnish refers to ingredients studded throughout the forcemeat that give it its unique flavor. For example, a traditional dish made in this method is a duck galantine. A boned out duck is filled with a mixture of finely ground duck meat and fat, along with garnishes of pistachio, orange zest and other vegetables. After it is stuffed, it is rolled into a cylindrical shape and cooked. When it cools, it is sliced down into discs resembling meats like salami that have a flecked appearance and texture. An example of a popular type of galantine is turducken.
So, how did your mom figure out how to make a meatloaf without grossing out the family? First of all, there are few meatloaf recipes out there that I know of where you are actually grinding your own meat at home. If growing up our culture had more variety meats at the supermarket, we very well might be eating some version of game meatloaf or duck terrine on a Sunday at mom and dad's. And some do! But, as such, we used what was commonly available to us and affordable: ground beef. Older generations will tell you they almost always used a blend of ground beef, pork and veal. That's because their meats came right from the butcher, and it was readily available. Only recently have uber-grocers caught on to marketing this blend which they call...wait for it...the meatloaf mix.
But pates and terrines are cooked in hot water baths to evenly distribute the heat of the oven while gently poaching the meat, thus keeping the fats from separating. It's a sophisticated, yet time-consuming method of cooking. So, home cooks needed a less complicated way to cook their forcemeats; and, so they just roasted them in the oven.
The texture of a meatloaf is decidedly chunkier and not as smooth as pate. For that smooth texture, a tamis is often used. A tamis is a fine mesh sieve used on forcemeats by passing the meat mixture through the screen to promote a silky, smooth and even consistency. "Okay, Captain Loquacious, can we get back to this meatloaf??" Yeah, yeah- I just wanted to make sure proper credit is given to all those home cooks who make a killer meatloaf. If you didn't like meatloaf growing up, it's because your mom didn't make this one.
Base:1 1/2 # ground beef, pork and veal1/2 small yellow or sweet onion, minced
2 pieces garlic clove, minced1 stalk celery, small dice1/2 carrot, small dice5 white button mushrooms, finely chopped1 raw egg1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan1 piece of fresh bread, pulled into small pieces3-4 good-sized squirts of ketchup1 good-sized spoonful of Dijon mustard1-2 dashes of worcestershire sauceSalt and pepperGarnishes:1/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas2-3 hardboiled eggs, peeled1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
Topping:1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts, roughly choppedMore ketchup and mustard and some more fresh bread crumbs
In a saute pan, slowly cook the mushrooms in a little butter and oil until they steam. Add your mire poix, or carrots, celery and onion. When softened, add the garlic and cook until you smell all the ingredients together. Turn them out onto a plate and let them cool down completely. Place the mixture into a bowl with the ground meat, raw egg, grated parmesan, fresh bread, parsley and wet ingredients. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Note: I've grown accustomed to making a small patty and cooking it to taste. It only takes a minute or two, but it's a good way to tell if you've put enough salt and pepper in without going the "tartare" route.
Now, mix the ingredients by hand until just incorporated for a rougher texture. For a denser texture, mix more. Now drop in the peas and mix. In your roasting pan, turn out the mixture and form your loaf. Using your fingers or a spoon, take out an egg-sized portion of meat to make room for the eggs. Drop them in a tight line so they are end to end. Push the loaf together from the ends and then drop the scooped meat on top of the eggs to cover them. Like at Easter, hide the eggs.
For your topping, mix all the ingredients into a paste and spread evenly over the meatloaf.
Place in a 375 F degree oven and cook for about 35 minutes, depending on the thickness of the loaf. When the loaf is firm, or around 155 F degrees in the center, it is finished. Use a sharp knife to make slices and a spatula to lift them so the egg doesn't fall out.
Serve gobs of Dijon mustard, ketchup or steak sauce if you like, along with some Ugly Betty veggies and warm bread. Like Thanksgiving turkey, there are few wines that do not work with meatloaf. I like earthy reds, but drink what you enjoy. And- well, you know- enjoy.