Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Recipe: Smoked Meatloaf (Not your mama's)

The other day I whipped together dinner using a little of this and a little of that in the refrigerator. I was happy to use up odd bits that were still good, but on their way out.

My four-year old took one bite and spit it out. "Blech!"

I took a taste and though it was edible, I kinda had to agree with him. That night my facebook status update read, "It was not my best work. More cleaning out the fridge than cooking, really."

That inspired me to create something really good using what I had on hand in the refrigerator. I had 2 carrots, 3 mushrooms, 2 stalks of celery, half an onion, a hard end of bread, half a package of bacon, and some ground beef in the freezer. All I needed was some pork sausage and I had everything I needed for meatloaf.

Not your mama's meatloaf

At least not my mama's.

My mom basically added a few dried herbs and an egg to a hunk of ground beef, shaped it into a loaf, poured over a bottle of ketchup and cooked until well done. I was programmed to think I hated meatloaf, until one day while babysitting when I was about 14. Before leaving, the mother of the child I was sitting pulled out a meatloaf and gave me reheating instructions for dinner.

I looked at it with suspicion, but heated it in the microwave like she said. I cut off a slice and to my surprise, it had cheese and salami in the middle of it. What's more, the red sauce on it wasn't ketchup, it was a delicious marinara.

Ever since that day I learned that meatloaf can be a place of creativity and self expression....and no place for ketchup.

This meatloaf is smoked, and really, once you cook meatloaf on the grill, I swear you won't cook it in the oven again. I won't. This is based on my recipe in She-Smoke (Not Your Mama's Meatloaf, pg. 164), but of course I changed it to use what I had on hand, which is what we do when we are cooking. We use the ingredients in the larder and only buy what we absolutely have to. I encourage you to do the same with this recipe.

1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
4-6 slices bacon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
3-4 large mushrooms, finely diced
2 stalks celery, sliced thin and down the middle
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 pounds ground all-natural beef, 90/10

1 pound pork sausage (ground, not in casings)
1/2 cup salsa (I used up the tomatillo salsa in my fridge. Any salsa will do)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil or finely chopped fresh basil (or herbs of your choice)
2 teaspoon ground dried sage
2 eggs

1. Cook bacon on low until brown but not crispy. Set aside. Pour out half the fat, but leave the pan nicely coated.

2. Add olive oil and saute onion until almost clear. Add carrots, mushrooms, celery, garlic salt and pepper. Cook until beginning to soften.

3. Chop bacon and add to vegetable mixture. Set aside and make a fire in charcoal grill, smoker, or gas grill. Once hot, get your smoke on with wood chunks or chips. Target temperature should be 225-250 degrees.

4. While fire is getting hot, gently mix the ground beef and pork sausage. Add the bacon-veg mixture. Whip egg, herbs and Worcestershire sauce together and pour over meat. Gently mix until ingredients are incorporated.

5. Shape into 3-4 small loaves. Place on a cookie cooling rack, perpendicular to bars.

6. Place entire rack with loaves on an indirect grill with a drip pan underneath. Smoke meatloaves for 2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 160. For a faster cook, 300 degrees at 1.5 hours.

7. Cool for 10 minutes and slide loaves off racks onto plate. Cool another 10 minutes before slicing. (I've found that if they cool too much, they start to stick on the racks. 10 minutes is still warm enough to slide, but they'll still need a little setting time before you eat).
Incidentally, I made four small loaves and gave two to a friend who had twins only a month ago. She said it was the best they'd ever had. Of course, she's sleep deprived and probably living off cereal and church casseroles, but it was still nice to hear.

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