October 18 is National Meatloaf Day, and I, along with dozens of other bloggers, was asked to make a meatloaf, photograph it, blog about the experience and submit all results to the Big Brainy Heads at Serious Eats, who would use our data to produce one heck of a nice tribute to the great American comfort food.
Just one problem. I've never eaten meatloaf.
I'm pretty sure.
Not at Camp Robinson Crusoe. Not at Aunt Dottie, Helen or Martha's house. Not at le cuisine de Madame la Skolnique, nor as cooked by her sisters either.
Not at Camp Manitou-Wabing. Not when I was a Cherub (pre-college student) at Northwestern University. Not at the home of any boyfriend I can recall. Not as made by my former mother-in-law, the Pink Lady, so named because people rose from her table and clustered at the foot of the Pepto-Bismol bottle, there to pray for peace.
And I certainly never made one myself.
Honestly, I have no idea why this is so. Many meatloaves have pork in them, or might be made entirely of pork, but that doesn't mean Jewish families didn't eat beef, veal or lamb loaves. And my mother's kitchen might have been a bit eccentric--that brilliant idea of hers for only buying six days worth of food every seven days stands out as a stunner--but it wasn't that way for lack of money, cooking knowledge, or the availability of a thrice-weekly housekeeper to stand in front of the stove and make with the pots and pans.
We actually did have a kind of meatloaf at home, but Dad was the only one who ate it. It was called Kottyetin and it was comprised of low-grade ground beef mixed with loads of garlic powder and bread crumbs. Pan-fried to the texture of tooth decay, it was one of my father's favorite links with his Ukrainian homeland, although I doubt if you could have found one Ukrainian in a hundred who would admit to liking the stuff.
I actually prefer this one, by Jacoppo Bassano; it looks like they're fighting over the check
So the problem was, not just that I didn't have a traditional family recipe, but that I had no idea how to produce one that I'd like. And it's very hard to do a good job of creating something that you yourself do not want to eat.
I did find this recipe, courtesy of Mario Batali, on Food Network:
|1 pound ground lamb |
1 pound ground veal
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated caciocavallo or pecorino Romano
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Several fresh gratings of nutmeg
1 egg plus 1 yolk, beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, segmented and finely chopped In a large bowl, combine the lamb and the veal, red pepper flakes, cheese, parsley, thyme, garlic, nutmeg, egg, and bread crumbs, season with salt and pepper, and mix well to make a homogenous mixture. Form the mixture into a loaf and dust the entire surface with all-purpose flour.
In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the loaf. Brown on all sides in the oil and cook over low for 90 minutes. Slice and serve with lemon alongside.
This is Annie again--Now, doesn't that sound great? And Maestro Mario wouldn't steer me wrong, would he? would he? It's not like "browning all sides" of a TWO POUND MEATLOAF IN A CUP OF HOT OIL COULD ACTUALLY BE DIFFICULT, COULD IT????
And you know, it would have made such a great story, what with the delicious loaf, the colorful hot oil burns on my arms, and the ghostly chortling of the red-headed Italian somewhere in the background. But no, Serious Eats. It is not to be.
I'm making sausage fried rice tonight. And it is good.