Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Elevated Meatloaf.


Meatloaf is a seemingly humble thing, a relic of 50's kitchens.

But if you take it as a food concept departure point for elevation it goes from the droll to the sublime.

All meatloaves need 2 or 3 eggs and some bread crumbish thing from crushed Wheaties to mashed triscuits to ensure binding and if hamburger is used, it should be the 75% grade as the leaner stuff resists binding.

350 degrees F. is a good temperature and an hour or internal temp of 165 degrees is a good cooking guideline.

Those are the essentials. Beyond that any combination of ground beef, pork, turkey or veal for the truly heartless, will work well.

Chicken and lamb are probably out. Ground lamb is its own world, Shawarma, and chicken has a lame texture.

Beyond that, the possibilities are wonderful. Among the additions to make a fun flavor and texture mix would be shallots, leeks, garlic or scallions for the stink lily family.

Walnuts rule and almonds may as well or chopped pecans, maybe even hazelnuts.

Celery is welcome or chopped bell peppers of whatever color, hot peppers maybe if you gotta have a scoville factor and mushrooms are all great plant kingdom things. I've used dried black fungus 'shrooms from Asian markets and fresh baby portobellos.

And then, another oddly fun thing are tinned smoked oysters. Oyster flavor and beefish flavor get along swimmingly. The chinese oyster ketchup is another variant on the oyster flavor element. You can also go wild with worcestershire or A-1 Steak sauce.

For the spice element, the triumvirate of herbs, sage, rosemary and thyme clearly lead, paprika is another option or its sexy Spanish cousin, pimenton la vera, a bit of white ground pepper or coarse crushed black tellicherry peppercorns as your whim suggests, and also some coarse sea or kosher salt.

Meatloaf is a creation that embraces an informed whimsy.

Once you've dumped all this stuff in a big bowl, knead it with your washed hands and blend it all around. Meatloaf is primal. Then fashion it into a long flatish loaf maybe a few inches high and the length of the standard broiler pan, width will depend on batch size but 6 to 8 inches seems to work well.