Thursday, April 10, 2008

Meat(loaf) 'n' Potatoes

On this snowy and blustery April night (who'da thunk?) I decided it was meat and potatoes time. America's Test Kitchen came through again with a great recipe and technique for meatloaf. Theirs dealt with the problem of when you only have ground beef and not meatloaf mix (which is beef, pork, and veal). I actually had some meatloaf mix, but I used their recipe for its excellent technique and combination of flavors. The result was tender and velvety, with a deliciously zingy glaze. I served it with rosemary potatoes, broccoli, and a nice cold beer.

Seriously, if you found meatloaf like this at a restaurant, you'd drive across town at 5 o'clock in a blizzard to get it again.

Their approach to meatloaf differs in a few ways from what I'm used to. Gone are the days of a dense brick swimming in a half inch of grease. I mean, that's tasty and all (especially if you want to keep your coat good and shiny), but it leaves plenty of room for improvement. The ATK approach, on the other hand, bakes the loaf without a pan on a rack set-up that allows the drippings to come off. At the end you glaze it under the broiler.

I'm still not entirely sure how the rest of the recipe makes it so damn tender. I didn't have to follow their machinations specific to just-beef meatloaf, so I'm sure part of it is using the meat mixture. The recipe calls for a ton of thyme and my own addition was marjoram. I used matzo meal instead of Saltine crumbs, and we were out of celery so I threw in a pinch of celery seed. The glaze was made with the very last jar of Lillian's Own Ketchup, which I still had leftover from a couple of years ago (don't tell the USDA!). I really will have to make more this year--it was sublime.

The only bummer is that there aren't any leftovers :'-(

Meat Loaf
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , grated on small holes of box grater (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion , chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 medium rib celery , chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread cheese on plate and place in freezer until ready to use. Prepare baking sheet (see illustration below).

  2. Heat butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming; add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add tomato juice. Cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits from pan, until thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside to cool.

  3. Whisk broth and eggs in large bowl until combined. Sprinkle gelatin over liquid and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, mustard, saltines, parsley, salt, pepper, and onion mixture. Crumble frozen cheese into coarse powder and sprinkle over mixture. Add ground beef; mix gently with hands until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Transfer meat to foil rectangle and shape into 10 by 6-inch oval about 2 inches high. Smooth top and edges of meat loaf with moistened spatula. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf reads 135 to 140 degrees, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and turn on broiler.

  4. While meat loaf cooks, combine ingredients for glaze in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Spread half of glaze evenly over cooked meat loaf with rubber spatula; place under broiler and cook until glaze bubbles and begins to brown at edges, about 5 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and spread evenly with remaining glaze; place back under broiler and cook until glaze is again bubbling and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes more. Let meat loaf cool about 20 minutes before slicing.


Marjorie Magidow Schalles said...

That sounds so delish - I can't wait to try it. The top picture looks almost like it has strips of bacon on it, which reminded me that my mom always put that on the meatloaf. It added to the grease factor, but I you use this technique with the rack it would be perfect. Too bad you don't have any leftovers - my favorite sammich of all time is meatloaf. Maybe if I had this recipe 20 years ago I would not have heard little voices saying "Not meatloaf!!"

Lillian said...

Actually that's just the glaze on top--no bacon involved. Don't feel bad about now knowing the technique. Apparently this recipe went down in the show's history as needing the most testing to get right. They made it around 100 times instead of the usual 30-40! I already want to make it again :-D