Saturday, March 5, 2011

MoreThan Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of the easiest dishes to make, but it's also one of the easiest to really screw up.  Using a really lowfat meat without adding more flavors, or using too dense a filler are just a few ways to screw it up, and are both reasons that many people serve meatloaf with a tomato-based sauce topping it.  (Obviously, some people serve meatloaf with a tomato-based topping because they like it that way, but I'd argue it's because they never had it made like this).  This particular version is also stuffed with full-of-flavor veggies; it is hearty, nutritious AND delicious!

For meatloaf you basically need some ground meat, some starchy filler, something to bind it and something to flavor it.

My Basic Ingredients:
2-3 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 egg
packet of dried onion soup
ground savory
smoked paprika
Madras curry powder
salt & pepper

The "MoreThan" Ingredients:
1 red bell pepper
10-14 baby carrots
baby spinach

The onion, mushrooms, a few more carrots and small red potatoes go around the loaf before baking it, cuz unless there's mushrooms and potatoes, it ain't really meatloaf!  I actually used a 90/10 ground beef, and I wouldn't really recommend going much lower in fat content than that.  Normally I'd go slightly higher in fat content, but this one was on sale (and I lub me some stuff on sale).

So, the first step is to set the oven on 375 and let it start warming up.

Next, take a large handful of the baby spinach leaves, roll them into a cylinder and start slicing so that you are making baby spinach ribbons.  I did about 1/2 the bag.  I know there's a fancy chef-name for this technique, but I'll be damned if I know what it is!  You can always cut your ribbons a little smaller if they look to big when you're done, but remember that spinach starts big and ends small, so don't make the pieces too little.

Next comes the carrots.  Now I like raw carrots, but cooked carrots are probably my least favorite vegetable.  I put them around the outside of the meatloaf for other people (and because the color is so pretty).  I know they're good for me, so I trick myself (HA!) into eating them by shredding them and mixing them into the meatloaf.  Here's a picture of carrots I shredded using my little $10 mini-chopper. 
Next chop the red bell pepper into relatively small pieces.  Depending on the size of your pepper, you may want to only use half of it, but you'll definitely want to chop the pepper by hand, it's too delicate for the mini-chopper.

Now you'll need a bowl larger than you think you'll need.  I used the largest one I had, and I wished it was larger.  In the bowl, put:

  • the ground beef (2-3 lbs)
  • the bread crumbs (about 1/2 cup)
  • the onion soup packet
  • the egg (sans shell, obviously...)
  • the baby spinach ribbons
  • the shredded carrots
  • the chopped red bell pepper
  • all your herbs & spices (go easy on the salt because your bread crumbs and onion soup already have salt in them
Mix it all well, but not harshly.  I use my hands, and strongly recommend you do the same.  If you're creeped out by mushing raw meat, feel free to use gloves.  Shape it into a loaf and place it in the center of your baking dish, then lovingly surround it with small red potatoes, baby carrots and mushrooms, and garnish it with the sliced onion.  Add a small amount of water 1/4 to 1/3 cup, depending on the size of your dish.  This will augment the "drippins" from the meat, which will allow you to make a better gravy. Clicking on the image to the right --> will show you the little pieces of peppers, carrots and spinach, NOMZ!

Bake at 375 degrees, uncovered, for approximately an hour, perhaps slightly longer.  I recommend that you always use a meat thermometer and cook to the appropriate internal temperature!  I don't have the fancy kind that you bake along with the meat, I have the kind you poke into the meat when you take it out to check the done-ness, and it works fine.

I wish I had a better picture of it to show you, but to be honest I was starving and ready to eat!

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