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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Never use ground sirloin – it will turn out dry.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
Bake 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!
Anyone can combine ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, seasonings, and whatever to make a meatloaf and then pour gravy over it to make it palatable. This Middle Eastern Spiced Meatloaf is turkey-based, using the courser grind of dark meat turkey available at Whole Foods. I’ve found that other pre-packaged brands tend to be too finely ground and mushy, giving no texture to your final result. Redolent with spices, laced with golden raisins, minced mushrooms, scallions and more, this meatloaf will surprise and delight, and no one will have guessed it’s made with turkey. To shape a perfect loaf, try one of two techniques. Either pat down your final mixture into a rectangle on a sheet of plastic and then use the plastic to guide you as you roll it up into a log. Then transfer it to your shallow roasting pan. Or, line your favorite loaf pan with the plastic wrap, press your meat mixture into it, and then unmold it onto your baking pan. either way, you’ll get that slightly crusty exterior all around, and much more ease of slicing than if baked in the loaf pan itself.
MIDDLE EASTERN SPICED MEATLOAF
2 lbs. dark meat ground turkey (preferably Whole Foods, which is more coarsely ground than other brands); 2 extra large eggs lightly beaten; 3/4 cup very finely chopped brown mushrooms (pulse them in your food processor); 3/4 cup golden raisins; a few large sprigs flat leaf parsley chopped; 1/4 cup sun-dried tomato pieces coarsely chopped; 1/3 cup minced scallion; 2 garlic cloves minced; 1-1/2 tsp allspice; 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon; ½ tsp Ras el Hanout seasoning (optional); 1 tsp salt; generous grinding of black pepper; 1 – 1-1/3 cups Panko or whole grain bread crumbs; 3/4 cup marinara (I like TJ’s Toscano Marinara); 3 tbsp organic ketchup; 4 slices applewood smoked bacon
Chopped items can easily be combined in food processor and finely chopped together. Combine all ingredients except ketchup in a large bowl and knead by hand until well-combined. Transfer to a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap to shape the meatloaf, and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Lightly grease a shallow roasting pan with olive oil or vegetable oil and invert the meatloaf from the loaf pan into it, gently removing the plastic. Coat by hand with the ketchup, and then lay four strip of bacon across the top – two of them diagonally across the top corner to corner, the other two horizontally and vertically down the middle, like a Union Jack. Bake in center of oven @ 350 for 1-1/4 hours if you have a convection setting, slightly longer in a traditional oven. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes before cutting to serve. Leftovers make outstanding sandwiches.