Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dinner By The Dashboard Light

Good evening everyone. Tonight's menu item is a classic - but one that faces a lot of negative connotations and turmoil. Tonight, we're serving up meatloaf. Now, depending on the type of person you are (and the type of childhood you endured) you most likely pictured one of three things here:

Option #1

Option #2

Option #3

Option #1 is the singer - Meatloaf (obviously) and isn't really relevant to tonight's blog - but there are still some who picture him when they hear 'meatloaf'. (And subsequently start humming 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light') Option #2 is the most common image associated with meatloaf. Nasty - dripping in some form of grease (gravy?) and full of heaven-knows what's. Option 2 is ready to crawl right out of the tray, hope on your head and give your brains a good nibble. It's terrifying, it's nauseating, it's anything but appetizing. 

As a kid, I always thought of meatloaf as option 2. This has to be due to the thousands of kids shows during my days (Rocko's Modern Life, Salute Your Shorts, Angry Beavers - heck I think even the Rugrats made a crack or two at meatloaf's expense.) The jokes were always the same - somebody mentions meatloaf - they make a quick cutaway to something that resembles food either crawling, oozing, or otherwise being gross and then run away. It's all fun and games - except as a kid, I didn't know that meatloaf didn't have to be gross. For the longest time, I associated the phrase 'meatloaf' with negative images. 

Many years later, my mom introduced her meatloaf recipe to the family and I was converted. Meatloaf wasn't gross - it was a great blending of flavors and textures - a culinary creation that was worth the time and effort it took to create. In short, it was delicious. Tommy Pickles and the rest of the Rugrats could suck it - they didn't have any idea what they were talking about in regards to meatloaf. 

That's why, when I hear meatloaf, I think of option 3. A delicious culinary creation of layered flavors and amazing, juicy, succulent beef. No matter what option your conjured up when I first mentioned meatloaf tonight, I'm sure our recipe this evening will show you that option 3 is the most accurate image of the classic dish. 

The Recipe: Classic Meatloaf 

What You'll Need: 

For The Glaze - 

1/2 Cup Ketchup 
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
4 Teaspoons Cider or White Vinegar 

For The Meatloaf - 

2 Teaspoons Vegetable Oil 
1 Medium Onion (Chopped) 
2 Medium Garlic Cloves (Pressed) 
2 Large Eggs 
1/2 Cup Whole Milk or Plain Yogurt 
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard 
2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Teaspoon Table Salt 
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper 
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme 
1/4 Teaspoon Hot Sauce 
2 Pounds Ground Beef (Lean - 90/10 or 93/7) 
2/3 Cup Crushed (Unsalted) Saltines (Roughly 16 crackers) 
1/3 Cup Minced Fresh Parsley 

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a large baking pan (9 X 5 minimum) with cooking spray. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the glaze and whisk until everything is combined. Set aside. 

Next, add your oil to a medium skillet and cook the onions and garlic until softened and golden brown - roughly 5 to 7 minutes. Set the skillet aside to cool while you work on the next step. 

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk (or yogurt), thyme, hot sauce, dijon mustard and worcestershire sauce. Mix well with a fork until everything is combined. You should end up with a thick, gloopy mess that resembles a mixture of melted ice cream and spoiled milk.

In a large bowl, add your hamburger, crushed crackers, salt, pepper and parsley. I found that it was easier to mix these ingredients together (by hand) first - rather than following the recipe and mixing everything at once. Simply turn and knead the mixture until the parsley, crackers and meat are all well blended. Next, pour the egg mixture in with the meat and add the cooled onion/garlic mixture from the skillet. 

The recipe (comically) tells you to use a fork and mix everything together. If you're willing to sit there for 30 minutes and toil away at mixing - be my guest. Those who don't want to waste such time - can just plunge their hands into the mixture and get involved. (A fair waring - this part is gross, the texture is...well, I'm not entirely sure how exactly to describe the texture of this concoction - but all I know is that it wasn't pleasant. After a minute or two the 'icky' feeling goes away and then it isn't so bad.) 

Mix everything very well by hand until the egg mixture begins to absorb into the meat. If you still have a lot of excess 'gloop' you need to keep working in the egg mixture. Once the meat is moist - but not dripping, begin to work the meat into a large loaf like shape. Place your meatloaf into the baking dish you prepared earlier and finalize the shape by patting down any misshapen areas or lumpy spots. 

Using a pastry brush, cover the loaf completely with the glaze you prepared earlier. Focus on the sides first, making sure a light glaze covers all sides and crevices. Finally, once the sides are covered, layer the top of the loaf heavily with the glaze. You have the option of reserving some of the glaze to serve on top of the finished meatloaf - however, I enjoy the caramelized glaze so much that I used the entire glaze here. 

Once glazed, place the baking dish into the oven and let cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour - or until the inside of the loaf registers 160 degrees. Slice up and enjoy! 

The Results: 

Caramelized glaze - yum yum 

Meatloaf - tastes great, photographs horribly 

Delectable. This recipe showcases why meatloaf should not be thought of in a negative light - but rather lifted in a parade upon the streets as all proclaim its culinary prowess. Okay - maybe that's taking things a little too far - but you get the point. The subtle flavors, the amazing, juicy, tender meat - this dish is anything but boring and flavorless, it's a culinary treat. What's even better is that meatloaf is completely wide upon as far as the chef is concerned. This is my second take on meatloaf (my first foray happened in the pre-blog days) and both of those recipes had next to nothing in common (aside from the 'meat' aspect). My mom's recipe is unlike this recipe and it's still just as good. My point is your only limit on a delicious meatloaf recipe is your creativity. A simple dish, not that time consuming, full of flavor AND the great potential for creation? Meatloaf is a classic that everyone needs to try. 

That's all we have for you this evening. I'm back in the kitchen tomorrow night with another 100% new recipe. (This dish also has it's fair share of negative press, now that I come to think of it...) Be sure to stop in tomorrow evening to see what dish I'm trying to spin in a positive light cooking. 

As an aside - I'm brainstorming and idea for a new feature on the blog. There are a lot of cooking wive's and home remedies out there - burn a candle to avoid teary eyes while chopping onions, lemons clean stainless steal better than soap - etc. etc. What I'm thinking is it's time to put some of these to the test. That's where you come in, dear readers. We want your cooking / kitchen myths. If you have always heard something but have never put it to the test, send it in and we'll take a crack at it - Mythbusters style. Either leave a comment in the section below tonight's post or send us an email (outoftheculinary@gmail.com) We'll collect the best ones and put them to the test in a future blog. The more you send, the more we can test - so be sure to send some in! 

Until tomorrow, 


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