Saturday, January 19, 2013

Five Meat Loaf

This is my all-time favorite meatloaf, moist and intensely flavorful. The bacon keeps it from drying out and adds a smoky element (it gets discarded), and the Black Forest ham makes it unique. I was worried about finding a workable replacement for grains, and baked, riced potatoes did the trick. For a more uniform smoothness like a typical meatloaf, use an Idaho potato and mix thoroughly. For tiny bites of potato, use a Yukon Gold and mix a little less. Broccoli rabe simmered in stock makes a very nice side. Serves 4.

8 oz grass-fed ground beef
4 oz grass-fed ground veal 
2 oz ground pork
2 oz Black Forest ham* (I've tried others before. This really is the best for this recipe)
1 medium Idaho or Yukon Gold potato (you will not use the entire potato)
1/4 - 1/3 c yellow onion, very finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, room temperature, well beaten
4 slices lean smoked bacon (nitrite/nitrate-free), cut in half cross-wise

Take your meats and egg out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature, preferably at least an hour. Pierce the potato several times with a sharp knife and bake the potato in the microwave on high for 6-7 minutes, or in a 400*F oven for 1 hr, until it separates easily with a fork, not a knife. Let it cool enough so you can handle it. Peel off and discard the skin, and put the potato through a ricer or food mill (I use a ricer since it's just one potato). Baking keeps it dry, and ricing it makes it fluffy, like this (you can click on the pictures for a closer look):

Use a fork (not your hands; the warm potato will stick to your fingers and clump together) to separate and gently spread the potato out on the cutting board and let it cool completely, about 20 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 350*F

Coarsely chop the ham and pulse it in a food processor with the sharp blade until it's very fine, like this (if you don't have a food processor, mince it finely):

In a large bowl, combine everything but the potato and bacon, mixing thoroughly with a fork until it's well blended. Sprinkle 2/3 c of the potato over the mixture and blend it in. Here's where you can choose to leave it in little bites, as I did, or mix it more thoroughly. Put a cooling rack over a baking half-sheet and lay down 4 half-strips of bacon in the center. Handling the mixture gently, form a rectangle, pressing the meat out to the edges of the bacon. Lay the remaining four strips of bacon over the top.

>>You can put it on a plate, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until the next evening, then transfer to the wire rack-baking sheet and bake.

Bake for 1 hour. Your whole kitchen will smell like heaven, and your dogs will be hanging out as closely as they dare. Here it is straight out of the oven.

Let it sit for 10 minutes. It's a very tender loaf and needs time to rest. Use a large spatula to remove from the rack to a plate or cutting board. Discard the bacon (ha! my husband always steals it) and slice into 1/2" thick serving pieces. I'll add a gravy recipe later, if you like, but honestly this tastes so good it doesn't need one. See the lovely little pieces of Yukon Gold? Yum! I'm so glad I made this for the blog!

*Hormel Natural Choice products contain no nitrates or nitrites, no artificial ingredients, no MSG, no hormones, and are gluten free.

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