Monday, May 11, 2015

UnRecipe: Meatloaf is the New Ham (p.s. this title makes no damn sense)

My return to blogging after a short birthday/new dog break is, of course, nonsensical. As it should be. About as nonsensical as a freakin' hailstorm in May. We had one of those last week, and I was bundled up in two layers of sweats and freezing my buns off. Which makes something as cozy as meatloaf and roasted root veggies so fitting. Even though it's nearly Memorial Day weekend.

Meatloaf inspired by ham. JUST GO WITH IT. - Photo by Wasabi Prime
So, why, pray tell, is meatloaf the new ham? One of the biggest challenges of making meatloaf is cooking it in a way that gives you a tender interior, but a crispy exterior. Cooking it at a constant, high temperature ensures a fully cooked-through loaf of meat, but also a rubbery, tough texture. All that protein just seizes up and you get a super-bouncy-ball of beef. You could certainly sous-vide a meatloaf, that would guarantee a fork-tender interior, but not everyone has a sous-vide machine -- and you don't need one for this. I was inspired by cooking ham, which is letting this big hunk of meat cook low and slow, covered with foil, in the oven, and then cranking up the heat at the end to develop a caramelized crust.

Roasted veggies, toasted barley, loaf of meat - simple pleasures - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Frankly, it's as simple as that for getting the perfect cooked meatloaf -- bake low and slow in a foil-covered Pyrex loaf pan (250 degrees, about an hour for the center to be cooked through), then overturn onto a sheet pan and let the broiler crisp the outside for a few minutes after basting the surface with a sugary glaze. For this latest loaf, I was able to go 100% ground beef, a tablespoon or two of olive oil for extra fat, a tablespoon of milk, seasonings like salt, pepper and Worcestershire, and I also mixed in about a teaspoon's worth of chia seeds, which soak up the excess moisture the way breadcrumbs would. I also threw in a tablespoon of coconut flour as a binder, versus using an egg, but either works. You can totally make a gluten-free (or gluten-full) meatloaf that isn't tough like shoe leather by basically cooking it like a ham in two stages, simple as that.

EAT YOUR VEGGIES - make your mother happy - Photo by Wasabi Prime
As far as sides go, it's whatever you like. I just used what I had -- carrots and brussels sprouts, which caramelize nicely in a hot oven. You can leapfrog the meatloaf's low-temp cook with a tray of vegetables needing a hotter oven, as you let the meatloaf cool down enough to flip it onto a sheet pan and paint with your glaze. Covering it with foil will keep the interior temperature warm while the veggies roast. When you're just about ready to serve the meatloaf, crank up the broiler and place the glazed meatloaf back into the oven, and let the crust develop -- should only take a few minutes. Can keep the veggies on the lowest part of the oven to finish cooking. I also mixed in toasted pearl barley, which is just barley cooked in boiling water until tender, and then spread out onto a sheet pan and roasted until lightly crisped. You can have the barley share the baking tray with the veggies for a little less than half the time it takes for the veggies to get soft. When cooking the barley through, you can also use a rice cooker -- I used the brown rice setting on ours, and I got fluffy, fully-cooked barley that you could eat as-is or do the toasting method for more texture.

It's a Dog's Food Blogger Life for BK - Photos by Wasabi Prime
These are the easy-breezy kinds of meals I'm sticking with for a bit -- mostly because I'm getting used to my new evening schedule. I'm prepping dinner for humans AND a fuzzy new friend. It's been a delightfully easy transition. Dogs are creatures of habit, they appreciate routine, and our little BK/The Beeks loves food. Any food. Especially whatever we're eating. So I have to resist the urge to give her whatever's on my plate. But she's definitely gotten a few morsels here and there. I'm no Food Tyrant, I figure if she's going to be living in the house of a food blogger/photographer, she should feel like the fluffy little princess she is -- I dressed up one of her meals the first week she was with us. She's on a raw diet, along with natural oil and dry kelp supplements. All the building blocks to make a picture-perfect meal. Even if she totally ignored the garnish. That's OK. Everyone's a critic.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Commentary encouraged. Fresh baked cookies, super-encouraged. (hit the 'post comment' button twice, sometimes it's buggy)