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.

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  1. 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!

  2. 10/14/2010

    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.

  3. 10/14/2010

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

  4. 10/14/2010

    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???

  5. 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?”

  6. 10/15/2010

    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.

  7. Peter

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

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