See What’s On The Slab

Meatloaf is an interesting food. On one end of the spectrum, it can be a sad slab of factory meat on bland mashed potatoes drowned in burned, salty gravy at some diner. On the far end, it can be a terrine of elegant subtlety and refinement made from quality components, especially if it’s treated more like a pâté and cooked gently in a bain-marie. There’s plenty of room between these extremes, and that latitude allows a dish like this to be an excellent showcase for the only two things that matter in cooking: ingredients and technique. You get exactly as much out of a meatloaf as you put in to it.

In this case, that was two pounds of local, grass-fed ground beef worked together with garlic, salt, pepper, “housemade” breadcrumbs and a fistful of herbs. I just dug, potted, and brought in most of the herbs, so it’s a much shorter walk to get them, which is nice. I also added a bunch of chopped greens from the root vegetables I pulled to go under the meat: turnip, beet, radish (daikon, black, watermelon) and carrot, though no carrot greens went in the mix. No egg, because there weren’t any at the famers’ market today. I packed it into a pyrex loaf pan and put it in the oven, where a butternut squash was already roasting merrily away. I sautéed all the roots plus a fennel bulb, a shallot, and halved sungold tomatoes (added at the end, off the heat) in a bit of the duck fat left from the confit, and made a sauce from tomato purée, mustard, raspberry vinegar, wine, sriracha, and a drop of honey and let it reduce and thicken a bit.

That was it. Those skinny green things are pickled arugula seed pods, which added a nice sharp mustardy note. The meat was rich, juicy, and very flavorful; I took it out of the oven when it was at 135˚ in the middle and rested it for a few minutes. The roots were al dente and earthy/sweet, and the sauce was like ketchup but better in all ways. I opened a 2006 Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc to go with this. Tart, lean, and with plenty of middleweight tannin, I think another couple of years will see it peaking. It doesn’t have the dusky complexity of a Chinon or the sweet fruit of a Borgueil, but for something from New York it’s quite good. I wish it cost a tad less than $20 ($18 with case discount) because then I’d be all over it. Next up I’m going to try their pinot.

7 comments to See What’s On The Slab

  • Jessica

    Well, I was drawn in by the title of the post (intentional Rocky Horror reference?) but this looks perfect for a cooler weather meal. The sauce sounds delicious as well!

  • You totally made meatloaf with (zhuzhed-up, but still) ketchup. I knew you were mortal.

    I think Peter titled this post as such in preparation for the Glee Halloween episode.

  • And, now pickled arugula seed pods will be in my future. Thank you.

  • jo

    I feel it is time for a renaming intervention. If people just CALLED it by a new moniker like naked burger or tasty loaf or – oh i don’t know, I think it could gain back it’s rightful place in the yummy pantheon instead of the OH NO not meatloaf back shelf.
    What is not to love about it???

  • Peter

    Jessica: Yes, yes, and yes.

    Blanche: What is it with you and that word? And that show?

    Lisa: Stay tuned for a related post.

    Jo: How about “Terrine de boeuf haché?”

  • I hated meat loaf most of my life thanks to the generic slabs of meat, bread crumbs, and eggs. To me it was just a way to ruin a perfectly good hamburger.

    Thanks to my husbands love of the stuff, I had to learn ways to make it palatable to my picky taste buds. You said it best when you said to treat it like a pate. I love pate. I’m still detoxing from the pate I ate last week.

    Vegetables add a nice angle of flavor as well as texture. Fresh herbs taste way better than seasoned bread crumbs. I’d eat it without a problem.

  • Peter

    Rachel: It’s great because there’s no end to the tinkering and variations.

Yours Truly

I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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