Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Meatier Meatloaf Revisited

September 16, 2012
  • Meatier Meatloaf
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Braised Beets with Orange and Walnuts
  • Vella Merlot
A few months ago I wrote about testing a new recipe for "Meatier Meatloaf" for America's Test Kitchen as part of their recipe development process. The final version of that recipe has now appeared, in the September 2012 edition of Cook's Illustrated. I like meat loaf, it's comfort food for me, and it makes for good leftovers. Rereading my blog post, it seems we weren't particularly impressed with the test recipe and thus made several suggestions in the survey provided with the test recipe. Comparing the published recipe with the test version, I noted several changes that were consistent with our suggestions. I don't know how much influence our particular suggestions had, the Test Kitchen solicits comments from many home cooks, but it is gratifying to see the changes. The best part, of course, is the meat loaf was better.

If you like working with your hands, meat loaf can be fun to make. I followed the recipe closely, using 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork, both labelled as 85% lean.. The other ingredients, after some cutting and chopping and cooking to develop their flavor, are added to the meat. You use your hands to combine them and then to mold the meat into a loaf of the desired size and shape. Somehow, I just can't see my mom, for example, using her hands to do this. When she made meat loaf she mixed it with a spoon and then cooked it in a loaf pan. It was good meat loaf, of course, and the reason why I think of it as a comfort food. It was perhaps something in the way they taught people to cook in the 1940's, when my mom was in high school, or maybe just my mother's preference, but I don't recall her ever using her hands to mix food. 

The Meatier Meatloaf was very good: moist, juicy, and tender. It took just 75 minutes to reach the recipe temperature of 165°.  I liked the ketchup glaze used in the published recipe (my mom also glazed meat loaf with ketchup) much better than the mustard glaze in the test version. The addition of a little hot sauce (I used Tapatío Salsa Picante) was a nice touch, providing just a hint of heat. 

This was not a particularly quick recipe to prepare, it took me about three hours from start to serving. It probably won't take you as long unless you pause to take photos along the way, too.

The mashed potatoes were made without referring to a recipe. I peeled and cut up a couple or russet potatoes and cooked them in salted water. While the potatoes cooked I combined some unsalted butter and milk in a Pyrex measuring cup and warmed them in the microwave until the butter melted. When the potatoes were tender I drained them and let them sit for a few minutes to dry. I mashed them, added a little freshly ground black pepper, then gradually stirred in the milk mixture until achieving the right consistency. I made extra because I love left over mashed potatoes which I fry in a little butter. (I think I should try oil, I could get it hotter and perhaps form a nice crust of fried potato.)

The beet recipe was, coincidentally, another recipe that the Test Kitchen had sent us to test. Diane made this during her recent visit and I still had some left over in the refrigerator. The beets went very well with the meat loaf. They have an interesting flavor with the fresh beets combined with orange, not something I would have thought of doing myself. The walnuts added a nice crunch to the original dish though that is lost in the leftovers. I thought the orange flavor was a little too strong and Diane thought there were too many walnuts, we'll see how it turns out in a few months.

Meatier Meat Loaf from Cook's Illustrated
     For another home cook's take on this recipe, see this post from My Year Cooking with Chris Kimball.

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