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

MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON

 

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When life gives me preserved lemons like the ones I happened upon at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and when Whole Foods has a special on Bell & Evans whole air-chilled chickens for 1/2 price, I can feel a Moroccan chicken dinner in my future.

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Moroccan, Tunisian, North African – whatever you choose to call it – the spice profile of this cuisine calls to me often enough that my supply of essential spices is always available.  Cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, ras al hanout, and of course fresh garlic, ginger root and shallots.  Preserving lemons takes planning and patience, even with some quickie methods I’ve found in a pinch.  Diced fresh lemon can also be used if necessary, but they’ll retain the acidity that preserving leaches out.  This little jar of preserved lemon slices for under $3 is something I hope TJ’s keeps in stock, because once you find something there that you love it can disappear without notice based on “supplier” issues.

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Spice-rubbed and ready to refrigerate for a few hours

The whole chickens necessitated a major adaptation of recipes in my collection, which I usually make with just thighs, either boneless or on the bone with skin.  The finished dish is now sitting in my kitchen waiting for the basmati rice and Fatoush salad to go-with.  The aromas will keep me inspired!

MOROCCAN CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, FIGS, OLIVES & PRESERVED LEMON

(2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings, and each half breast cut in two)

2 T extra virgin olive oil + a bit more for sautéing the chicken

1 large garlic clove minced

1 T minced ginger root

1 t turmeric

1 t cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp ground cloves

¾ t cardamom

¾ t coriander

1 t ras al hanout (optional)

½ t kosher salt

½ t freshly ground black pepper

½ cup minced shallots

16 small black mission figs, halved

12 small pitted prunes

handful of green olives with pits (such as Castelvetrano or picholine)

1 medium-large sweet onion coarsely chopped

½ cup white wine or Vermouth

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup diced preserved lemons

1 T honey

Optional: Finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley for garnish

Early in the day, toss the cut up chicken with the olive oil in a large high-sided dish, such as a 13×9 baking dish.  Combine the next 11 ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the chicken.  Add the next 4 ingredients and toss to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Preheat a large electric skillet on medium, add another 1-2 T olive oil, brush the solids off the chicken, leaving everything else in your dish.  Brown the chicken on all sides until skin is nicely browned, and remove to a plate.  Deglaze the pan with the wine or Vermouth, add the chopped onion, and sauté briefly to soften.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then stir in the shallot/fig/prune/olive mixture and the diced preserved lemon.  Return the chicken and any juices to the pan, turn to coat with the sauce, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove chicken while you reduce the sauce with the 1T of honey, then return to the pan to keep warm for serving.  Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley if desired.