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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Viva la meatloaf!

Who doesn't have a bad memory of their mother's meatloaf? A gray, lumpy, tasteless mass cruelly seasoned with (a) Lipton Onion Soup Mix (my mom); or (b) an “exotic” combination or soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, and/or bottled barbecue sauce; or (c) if you were lucky, drowned in ketchup. 

Who doesn't have a bad memory of their mother's meatloaf? My kids (she said boastfully)!

I admit that for years (maybe decades) my meatloaf wasn’t much better than my mom's. I tried adding bacon (isn’t everything better with bacon?), tomato paste and zingy mustard, lots of sautéed onions and garlic, many different spices (meatloaf with chili powder? meatloaf with za’atar? meatloaf with ras el hanout? been there, disliked them all) but nothing was very good.

Until I found this recipe. It’s from a 2009 issue of Gourmet (oh Gourmet! how I miss you!) (and this does not do the trick) and it straddles the line between meatloaf and pâté and pleases lovers of both. The secret ingredient (and, trust me, keep it secret) is liver, which gives the dish a complexity and depth that ordinary meatloaf can only dream of. And, I promise, it does not taste like liver. My liver-phobic husband had no idea what it was that made this meatloaf so special, but he loved it. The other secret ingredients (you can reveal these) are chopped prunes and pistachios. And the last brilliant notion is the recipe does not use ground beef, not one speck. The combination of ground pork and veal makes for a much tastier, richer end result.

I’ve written the recipe exactly as Gourmet published it, with my notes
in parentheses. One nice thing: It’s better made a day ahead and brought to room temp before serving. The flavors meld nicely and the loaf holds together better. And, the next day, cold (or reheated) in a sandwich with lettuce, mustard, and a dab of mayo on crusty bread...you'll think you died and went to Paris.

Courtesy of (please come back to us!) Gourmet

1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (if I don’t have fresh, I use panko)
1/2 cup whole milk (it won’t matter much if you use skim)
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound chicken livers, separated into lobes, trimmed, and rinsed
3/4 pound ground veal
3/4 pound ground pork (since ground meat normally comes in units of 1 pound, unless you’re buying from a butcher, I reserve a quarter pound of each along with the extra half-pound of liver and freeze it for future meatloaf)
1/4 cup chopped prunes
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (these are great if you toast them lightly before using)
2 tsp thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (for serving, not necessary)

  • Preheat oven to 475°F with rack in middle.
  • Soak bread crumbs in milk in a small bowl.
  • Cook onion, garlic, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper in oil in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly.
  • Purée livers in a blender or food processor, then transfer to a large bowl. Add pork, veal, prunes, pistachios, thyme, eggs, bread-crumb mixture, onion mixture, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and gently mix with your hands until just combined.
  • Transfer meatloaf mixture to an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch glass loaf pan and bake, covered with foil, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 165°F, 50 to 55 minutes. (Put your loaf pan on a larger pan to I remove the foil for the last 10 minutes so the loaf gets a bit of a crust.)
  • Let rest 5 minutes. Cover top of meatloaf with parsley before slicing. Serve with Dijon mustard and cornichons.

Note: You can use a metal loaf pan; the meatloaf will take about 15 minutes longer to cook.

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