Monday, October 20, 2014

Meatloaf! File this one under "not Mom's"

Some of the best inventions came about by accident. And by inventions, I mean food inventions, too.

The microwave oven wasn't intended for cooking food, for example, and the first instance of cooking food probably had more to do with something accidentally burning rather than some primitive ancestor deciding that mammoth tartare was getting boring.

Cornflakes were an accident, and nachos happened because a desperate cook threw together what he had on hand when some late customers wanted something to eat. Caesar salad allegedly was invented in the same way. Cookies were small amounts of cake batter that were cooked to test the cake.

And, allegedly, chocolate chip cookies were an accident as well, although some sources say that's a bit of a fiction.

Yes some good things happen when we step out of our comfort zone, reach into the fridge, and accidentally grab the wrong spice.

This meatloaf isn't quite that accidental, but it wasn't really deliberate, either. I was cooking a recipe from a cookbook, and I used 1/4 pound each of ground beef and pork. But I had bought 1-pound packages. So I had 3/4 pound each of the ground beef and pork.

So ... what could I use that meat for? The weather said, "meatloaf" and I obliged.

My usual meatloaf is all-beef, so the half-and-half pork and beef mix was different. And I usually add cubed or torn bread. But ... I ended up using bread crumbs, because that's what I had.

The bread crumbs themselves were a little unusual. I had made a loaf of bread that included cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and oregano, so that's what the crumbs were made from.

So the bread was definitely different, since I normally use a plain white bread. The tomatoes added specs of red to the meatloaf, and the cheese and oregano added some subtle flavor.

The biggest difference between this loaf and my usual was the texture. My meatloaf is usually fairly chunky and ... not exactly crumbly, but coarsely grained. This one was a lot smoother - more like the lunchmeat style meatloaf that you'd find in the deli.

Definitely a success, and I'm sure I'll make this again. But I'm not going to abandon my mom's old fashioned meatloaf, either. There's room for both.

Not-Mom's Meatloaf

3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/2 onions, diced
1/2 - 1 cup bread crumbs*, or as needed
Splash of heavy cream (or milk)
Salt and pepper, to taste (1/2 teaspoon each, if you're unsure)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have a suitable baking pan standing by.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Your hands are the best tool for this, since the feel of the meatloaf is important. You want a loaf that's not particularly wet or dry. It shouldn't be mushy or sloppy, but it also shouldn't be as dense as ground meat. The texture going into the oven is similar to what you'll get coming out - more cohesive, but similar.

If your meatloaf is too wet, add more breadcrumbs. If it's too dry and dense, add a splash more cream or milk.

Form meat into a loaf. It should hold together well and not sag or collapse.

Place this on a baking pan or lipped baking sheet. I used a glass casserole (reviewed here).

Bake at 350 degrees until the internal temperature reaches at least 180 degrees - this took about 2 hours, but the shape of your loaf, the pan, and your oven will make a difference. Check after an hour to see how far you have to go.

Let the meatloaf rest at least 15 minutes before slicing.

*I used flavored bread crumbs, but plain crumbs are fine. If you're using plain crumbs, you can opt to add some herbs, spices, or other flavorings to the loaf.