My New Favorite Meatloaf – Lamb & Veal

There are several recurrent themes to many of the recipes I’ve posted here – Middle Eastern, lamb, lemon zest, pine nuts, to name a few.  And meatloaf.  Totally adaptable and limited only by one’s imagination, starting with the choice of ground meat, through to the minced vegetables, choice of binder grain or starch, the moistener, and finally the herbs and spices.

This one is my new favorite, the culmination of many years of meatloaf experimentation, and drawing on a few tricks I’ve picked up from America’s Test Kitchen.

But first, a few of my hard and fast rules about meatloaf in general:

  1. Never bake a meatloaf in a loaf pan.  Everyone likes a bit of the crusty exterior, and you’ll never get that unless you bake it free and clear of walls.  Instead, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and fill it with your mixture.  Then turn it out into your baking pan.
  2. Always make enough for leftovers.  Not only does it reheat nicely, but meatloaf sandwiches are so damn good, it’s enough reason just to make one in the first place.
  3. Never use ground sirloin – it will turn out dry.
  4. If you’re using turkey, it should be the freshly ground dark meat turkey from Whole Foods – they grind it coarsely so it’s got a nice texture.  All other packaged ground turkey is mush.
  5. Schmeer a coating of ketchup over the whole loaf for a nice glaze and criss-cross it with  2-4 bacon slices (2 for an ‘x’, 4 for a Union Jack, or Reebok logo if you prefer)

While I’ve written this recipe with a combination of lamb and veal, it could just as easily be done with any 2-pound combination of ground chuck, dark meat turkey (see rule #4), or ground beef & pork.  The Middle Eastern flavors will come shining through.

MIDDLE EASTERN LAMB & VEAL MEATLOAF

INGREDIENTS – A LONG LIST BUT WELL WORTH IT:

1 lb each ground lamb and ground veal

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk, or low-fat milk mixed with some half & half to make it richer

1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 cup minced sweet onion

1/2 cup minced red bell pepper

2 plump cloves garlic minced

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp Worcestershire

grated zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon (I always have lemons available but rarely oranges, so use 2 tsp dried orange zest)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 cup golden raisins (and if you hate raisins like some people I know, sorry – they’re an essential to balancing the flavors; maybe try dried chopped apricots, but I won’t vouch for the results)

1 tsp each allspice, thyme, and unflavored gelatin (the latter guarantees a moist loaf)

2 tsp each dried mint and ras al hanout

1-1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

2-3 tbsp organic ketchup

2-4 strips bacon

PREPARATION:

If you have the time, this is best put together and refrigerated a few hours before baking.

In a large bowl mix together the meats with your hands.  In a separate medium or large bowl, beat the eggs and combine with all other ingredients except the ketchup and bacon.  Then pour this into the bowl with the meat and use your hands to get it all mixed together.  It will feel very wet at first but will come together as you work it with your hands.

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Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, with about 6″ of overhang at each end.  Fill it to the top with the meat mixture, patting down to make sure you don’t leave any air pockets.  Fold the plastic wrap back over the top and chill until ready to bake.  I use a Le Creuset loaf pan, but choose any one that will accommodate this as shown.

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When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 on convect (countertop Breville works like a charm for this).  Pull back the plastic wrap from the top and carefully invert the loaf over a lightly greased baking pan large enough to allow some room around the sides.  Schmeer all over with the ketchup and lay your bacon strips on top.

IMG_0752Bake for 1-1/4 hours and allow to rest about 5 minutes before cutting into generous thick portions.  Enjoy with mashed potatoes or pilaf and a nice green vegetable or salad.  And look forward to sandwiches!IMG_0753

Six-Spice Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal.  I crave it hot on a wintry morning, made with milk and a touch of maple syrup.  I use it in lieu of breadcrumbs in one of my meatloaf recipes, and pulverize it into flour for my favorite banana bread.  But best of all, I love a chewy oatmeal cookie bursting with unexpected nuances of flavor.

My search for the ultimate oatmeal cookie was rewarded several months ago when I stumbled upon a 20-year-old recipe posted on the Epicurious website by Diane Elizabeth Brown.  With only a few adaptations, such as the substitution of dried cranberries for half the raisins, and a little dried coconut, I’ve followed her ingredients list exactly.   Also, I increased the size and baking time to produce 36 respectably-sized cookies rather than 60 or so smaller ones.

The six spices in these cookies – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, clove and cayenne – are truly an inspired combination that launched these onto my all-star list.  A favorite with the family, and sure to be a real company or crowd-pleaser the next time you’re entertaining or asked to bring something to a potluck.

DIANE-INSPIRED SIX-SPICE OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES

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Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger and cumin

1 pinch each ground cloves and cayenne

1/2 tsp each baking soda and kosher salt

2 sticks unsalted butter softened

1 cup each dark brown sugar and granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup each golden raisins and dried cranberries

1/4 cup dried unsweetened grated coconut (optional)

Equipment:

2 cookie sheets; medium bowl; stand mixer with large bowl and paddle attachment; 2 cookie sheets; cooling racks

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour with the spices, baking soda and salt.

With paddle attachment of stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and somehwat fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  With mixer speed on ‘stir’, add in the rolled oats and everything else, and stir just until well combined.

Using a 1-1/2 tbsp measure, scoop out portions of the cookie dough and scoop them out of the measuring spoon with a table knife onto your cookie sheet, spacing the cookies about 2″ apart.  12 per batch will fit nicely.  Bake for about 13 minutes, until golden in color, let cool one minute on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to rack to cool completely.  This recipe will produce 3 batches of 12.  Photo shows only 33, as my husband stole 3 of them before I got to photograph.

Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese

Once realizing I’d never posted this recipe, I truly could not wait for this to be baked and photographed before sharing it.  So please imagine that buttery panko topping browned and crispy, and the cheeses just oozing a bit from beneath that crunchy blanket.

Yes, I do unabashedly declare this to be the ULTIMATE mac and cheese recipe, adapted from what I enjoyed years ago at Stephanie’s on Newbury in Boston’s Back Bay.  The restaurant is still there, having grown up into much more than the bistro it was in the ’90s, but still featuring this signature dish on their extensive menu.  You can make a reservation and pay $19 for a lunch portion of this dish, or you can make a batch serving  6  for about $9 in ingredients.  Easy, and yet truly sophisticated.  Never go back to elbows and orange cheddar again.

ULTIMATE MACARONI & CHEESE

(adapted from Stephanie’s on Newbury Street, Boston)

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(oven-ready, not yet baked – imagine crispy browned topping!)

8 ounces penne, rotelli,  cavatappi, or similar pasta shape, cooked al dente and drained

For sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

2 cups  half & half  or light cream

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

8 ounces shredded Vermont sharp cheddar

4 ounces Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio blend , or 2 ounces shredded romano & 2 ounces shredded asiago

For topping:

1 cup panko (do not substitute – this is essential for crisp topping)

4 tbsp melted butter

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in large saucepan, add flour and simmer 2-3 minutes on medium heat.  Add cream and whisk until dissolved.  Continue cooking on low-medium until thick & bubbly.  Add all the cheeses, and S&P – cook until cheese is melted.  Add to the pasta and place in buttered 2-quart baking dish.

Mix together the panko & melted butter, sprinkle evenly on top, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Top with parsley.(optional)

For added depth of flavor, add 1/2 tsp truffle oil, or embellish with chopped broccoli, lobster meat, or prosciutto.

Wonderful winter comfort food, and a real crowd-pleasure on Superbowl Sunday.  This is a half-recipe, enough for 6 hearty portions.  Double it for a crowd and – of course – use a larger baked pan, but no need to increase the baking time.

The Comfort of Challah

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It dawned on me when my husband photographed my freshly-baked challah yesterday that I’d never actually posted my recipe for it or for the challah French toast we had for brunch this morning.

I baked my first loaf of challah – my first loaf of any bread requiring yeast – the day we first started bombing Iraq in 1991.  Ever since, I’ve found the act of baking and the aroma emanating from the oven incredibly comforting during times of national duress.  These days, I’m baking lots of bread.

My two nanas and my bubbie (great grandmother) were all bakers extraordinare, working without recipes, simply by feel and tradition.  I remember watching them work their challah dough by dropping the egg into a volcano of flour and working the flour gently into  the egg to incorporate it into dough.  Theirs being a kosher challah to serve with Shabbat supper, the additional ingredients were water and oil.  My favorite recipe is not kosher, unless you’re serving it with a dairy-based meal, as it’s the Silver Palate recipe using milk and butter.  I’ve done other challahs with water and oil and just don’t like them nearly as much.

The braiding technique is a trick I learned from one of my Jewish cookbooks.  A three-braid loaf is boring, so I simulate a more complex braiding technique by dividing the dough as if I were making two loaves, one much larger than the other.  Braiding both with three strand of dough, I then lay the smaller one atop the larger, then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds before baking.  The result is, as you see, one very large and impressive loaf.

SILVER PALATE CHALLAH RECIPE – ADAPTED

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups milk

8 tbsp butter (divided 6 tbsp for challah, 2 tbsp for buttering the dough bowl)

1/3 cup sugar

14 grams yeast (2 packets)

4 large eggs (3 lightly beaten, one reserved for egg wash)

2 tsp salt

6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 tbsp cold water

poppy seeds

PREPARATION:

Heat the milk, 6 tbsp butter and the sugar in medium saucepan until butter and sugar are melted.  Pour into large mixing bowl of a stand mixer and cool to lukewarm (105-115º).  Stir yeast into the mixture and let stand 10 minutes.  Beat 3 of the eggs and stir them and the salt into the mil/yeast mixture.  Stir in 5 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, and then use mixer’s dough hook to knead for about 10 minutes on medium-low speed.  Add additional flour until you achieve a sticky dough.

Schmeer another large bowl with remaining 2 tbsp butter and turn the dough out into it, turning to coat it lightly with the butter.  Cover with a cotton towel or napkin and let rise until tripled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface (wooden bread board if you have one) and divide into two pieces, one 2x the size of the other.  Divide each piece into three and roll the pieces into long snakes about 18-20″ long.  Braid the three pieces from the larger dough portion into a loaf, tucking the ends under.  Repeat with the smaller pieces and lay that loaf atop the larger one.  Sprinkle  your baking sheet with cornmeal and lay the loaf on top.  Cover with a cotton towel and let rise for an hour.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.

Beat the last egg with 1 tbsp water and brush the egg wash evenly over the loaf.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake on center rack of oven 35 minutes, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when thumped.

Let cool on a rack, resisting the temptation to cut a slice right away.  Enjoy any way you like, and make sure to save some for this……..

CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST

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