Monday, 20 October 2014

Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese and Red Wine

Let’s talk about meatloaf. I can hear some of you groaning already, remembering your mum or your grandmother’s ketchup-glazed, and yet still dry, loaf of ground meat.

So what is it about meatloaf? What has changed it from a 1950s Americana staple meal, to the rather dubious notoriety as the birthday choice for Mitt Romney’s “Blue-Collar Birthday Meal”?  Apparently he eats his own “mini meatloaf cakes” with cooked carrots and mashed potatoes every year for his birthday celebration. (Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a man of mystery and adventure. Ann must be a very happy woman.)

My most memorable meatloaf reference belongs to Ren and Stimpy, in perhaps the most bizarre cartoon scene ever aired on television, where Stimpy wanders into his own psychedelic bellybutton, meeting Jerry, The Bellybutton Elf, who is smoking a stogie and wearing a miniskirt of the finest lint. Stimpy is then enslaved by his Bellybutton Elf, and mistakenly serves him LintLoaf (at 7:35 here). Jerry HATES LintLoaf, and Stimpy must escape. Very dramatic, and certainly scarred my psyche permanently.

With the chill in the air, I’ve been thinking about comfort food, and I wanted to try something new. I had it in my mind that my dad really likes meatloaf, and so I thought about looking through my grandmother’s recipe book to learn how to make hers. But let’s be real. Meatloaf, prior to 1980, was made with about 4 different ground meats. Her recipe had veal, pork, beef and probably about a pound of lard. So I wasn’t about to do that, although I did want a luxe version.

I decided to use a pound of ground veal, and combine a few recipes I found. One had a red wine glaze, which sounded great, but then I came across another with blue cheese and caramelized onions, which also sounded amazing. And don’t forget, I make that blue cheese sauce with shallots and cream, which I thought could be a great stand-in for gravy in this recipe. And so, an idea was born.

Start by caramelizing your onion. This takes some time, so just chill and start with this. Do not rush your onion slices. Let them go slowly. Easy on the heat. Lots of butter. Little bit of salt. (Not sugar. You’re better than that. You don’t put cream in your risotto, and you don’t put sugar in your caramelized onions. You aren’t that kind of girl. Or guy.)

Once they are nice and golden, you can turn up the heat a little, and pour in a hefty splash of red wine. Reduce until it’s basically onion syrup. Set aside.

Okay, now we’re going to do the raw meat portion. In a bowl, add your meat, 1 cup of breadcrumbs, your onion mix, one egg slightly beaten, a ¼ cup of crumbled blue cheese and spices. You’ll notice in the recipe above they only add salt and pepper, but that’s as basic as a pumpkin spice latte, and the idea here is an upscale meatloaf, not one that Mitt Romney is going to glaze with ketchup and eat with boiled carrots, before he spends 7.9 minutes in missionary position for his birthday nookie. (Sorry, that got racy, but I couldn’t resist.)

For spices, I used a palmful of herbes de Provence, but use your favourites. Mix with your hands (awful, I know) and form into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350° for about an hour. Serve with blue cheese gravy, boiled carrots and mashed potatoes (mine are rosemary garlic, just for a touch of excitement).

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