Saturday, August 21, 2010

Husband-requested meatloaf and onion gravy

My husband likes meat a lot. As in, when I ask him what he wants for dinner, his usual response is "some kind of meat and something to go with it". This afternoon when I asked him if he had any requests for dinner, it went like this:

me: Is there anything specific you want for dinner tonight?
him: Yes! Meatloaf!
me: ...meatloaf? Really?
him: YES! I would like meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
me: Ok. Meatloaf and it.
him: And peas!
me: Alright...and peas.
him: And onion gravy!
me: Meatloaf, mash, peas AND onion gravy. Sheesh. Ok.
him: *happy grin*

I used to HATE meatloaf as a kid (sorry Mom), so I'm always interested in trying different meatloaf recipes in an attempt to find the perfect one. I came pretty damn close tonight, and the recipe was right in my own kitchen all along! My much-loved and well-used copy of Mark Bittmann's "How To Cook Everything" had a nice simple meatloaf recipe that sounded worth a try. So...I got to work!

The recipe calls for 2 lbs of ground meat, and Bittmann suggests mixing beef with something else - veal, pork, what have you. I used a pound of nice lean ground round, and a pound of ground pork. I added breadcrumbs soaked in milk, a beaten egg, salt and pepper, some grated garlic, a smallish onion (also grated - it's way less work than mincing), and chopped parsley. The recipe called for sage, either fresh or dried. I was out of sage, which I didn't realize until I was elbow-deep in meat, so that was a bummer and I had to skip it. It also called for a minced carrot. I grated mine instead of mincing it. I mixed everything up by hand (my least favorite part) and formed it into a loaf on the rack of my broiler pan. I like cooking it this way rather than in a loaf pan because then you get a nice crust on most of the surface. A lot of what I never liked about meatloaf as a kid was the texture of it after it had cooked in a loaf pan in its own grease. Blech. Anyway - I liberally applied a layer of HP Sauce on the surface of the loaf, and popped it into the oven at 350 and cooked it for about an hour.

While the meatloaf was cooking I peeled 5 big russet potatoes and cut them into medium chunks. I boiled them till tender, then drained them and set them aside. For the gravy I thinly sliced one large white onion and cooked it down in a pan with about 2 tbsp each of olive oil and butter (hey, I didn't say it was healthy...that's why we don't have it every day or even every week). When the onions were nicely browned and softened I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour and a little black pepper into the pan and stirred thoroughly. I let the roux cook to a dark golden color, then added in about half a cup of beef stock and whisked vigorously. I let that cook about 30 seconds until it thickened, then added more stock and whisked again. Once it thickened up the second time I added the rest of the stock and whisked again, then turned the heat down and let the gravy bubble gently and reduce.

The potatoes were ready to mash at this point so I tossed in some butter and milk, salt and black pepper, and mashed away. I can never get them entirely smooth but I don't mind, really. Having some lumps in them reassures me that they're real potatoes, I think. ;)

The meatloaf came out of the oven just as the gravy was getting thickened up again. I put half a bag of frozen peas in a pot with 1/4 cup of water and covered, letting them steam while the meatloaf rested. When the peas were done, it was time to eat!

I don't have a gravy boat so yes, my gravy was in a Campbell's Soup cup. ;) The meatloaf was, in a word, wonderful. Really and truly. It was incredibly juicy without being greasy, and it had such good flavor. I can only imagine that having the sage would have made it even better (because I love sage). The only thing I'd change about the meatloaf recipe is that next time, I'll omit the carrot. It just didn't add to the flavor in a constructive way, I didn't think. I kept noticing it and thinking "what's that I taste? Oh, carrot again...yeah..." Other than that, this is most certainly going to be my go-to meatloaf recipe from here on out.

See how juicy? NOM! Also, this is a good shot of my gravy. I originally came up with the gravy recipe when Mark was explaining "Bangers and Mash" to me, since I'd never had it. It took a couple tries to get it right, but now that I've got it down, it's super easy (though not quick).

Mark is already looking forward to meatloaf sandwiches for lunch tomorrow! ;)