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Kitchen Story: Shortcuts: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

May 30, 2011

You have to put your hands in it. The reason it has the word “loaf” in the name isn’t just because it’s shaped that way; meatloaf needs to be handled like bread dough. Put the ingredients together in a really big bowl, roll up your sleeves, and mix it with your hands. It will be cold. Your hands may hurt, and you are going to have to wash them several times, but it’s worth it. Meatloaf gets a bad rap, and, like most dishes, when it’s bad, it can be trauma-inducing, but it is such a versatile dish that to say “meatloaf is bad” is like saying “roast chicken is good” – I’ve had great meatloaf and terrible roast chicken. I don’t think a dish should necessarily be judged on it’s history.

This particular meatloaf is very Italian in flavor and the better the beef and the sausage, the better the end product will be. For anyone who hasn’t discovered the difference between those desiccated breadcrumbs in the cylindrical container and freshly made breadcrumbs, trust me: it is well worth the extra effort. When it came out of the oven, it was not a pretty sight – looked more like a cocoon of something alien and not very friendly.  But like so many comfort foods, the meatloaf’s charm is not in it’s appearance, but in the depth of the experience, the rich variety of flavors, and how nicely it sits on a fork with a mess o’ mashed potatoes. If your meatloaf history needs some revisions, try this one and see if you can’t change your perspective.

A quick word about this lemon pie. Yes, it’s got a purchased crust. Yes, you could make your own. But there is nothing wrong with shortcuts if they work for you.  In my own kitchen experience, different from the breadcrumbs, for a pie like this, a purchased graham cracker crust is a great time-saving feature and allows more time to be focused on making a creamy, light but flavorful pie and not fussing about with getting a crust right.

Shortcuts, like breadcrumbs and pie crust, aren’t bad or good just because they are shortcuts, and even the ugliest of meatloaves may change history.

Beef and Sausage Meat Loaf with Mozzarella

Bon Appétit  September 2004

Yield: Makes 8 servings

2 pounds lean ground beef (15 percent fat)

1 pound coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese

1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed, meat crumbled

2 cups chopped fresh basil

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French bread

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup tomato sauce, divided

3 large eggs, beaten to blend

1/2 cup dry red wine

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine first 11 ingredients in large bowl. Gently mix in 1/2 cup tomato sauce, eggs, and wine. Place meat mixture on large rimmed baking sheet and shape into 16×4-inch loaf. Brush with remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce. Bake meat loaf until cooked through and thermometer inserted into center registers between 160°F and 170°F, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Lemon Pie with Blueberry Topping

Bon Appétit April 2001

Yield: Makes 6 servings

4 large eggs

1 6-ounce (8- to 9-inch) purchased graham cracker crumb crust

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

3 tablespoons all purpose flour

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 1-pound package frozen unsweetened blueberries

3/4 cup blueberry jam

Preheat oven to 350°F. Separate 1 egg, placing white in small bowl and yolk in large bowl. Beat white with fork until very foamy; brush over inside of crust several times to coat (discard remaining white).

Add 1 1/4 cups sugar, butter, and lemon peel to bowl with egg yolk. Using electric mixer, beat mixture until blended and smooth. Beat in remaining 3 eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in flour, then buttermilk and lemon juice. Pour into prepared crust. Bake until filling is golden on top and set in center, about 45 minutes. Cool pie, then chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Toss berries, jam, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Let toping stand until berries thaw and juices form, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Cut around crust to loosen. Cut pie into wedges. Serve, spooning topping over.

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From → Kitchen Stories

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