Sunday, May 8, 2011
Dinner: May 8
It might be hard to believe that I’ve never cooked a meatloaf, but alas, it is true. This cooking experience involves quite a few firsts for me, and meatloaf is one of them.
To be honest, I wasn’t excited about meatloaf until I saw Lidia Bastianich cook one with lots of cheese on her PBS show, Lidia’s Italy. Even the Italian name for the dish - polpettone de manzo con ricotta - sounded incredible, and I was determined to make that meatloaf.
The problem with her recipe shown here was that it was supposedly a serving for 8 people but looked enormous (3 pounds of ground beef!), so I cut it down to 1/3 of her recipe. The substitutions I made were few: cheaper tomato sauce than suggested and dried parsley instead of fresh. And with everything recalculated into a third of the original ingredient amounts, and the knowledge that the cooking time needed to be adjusted for my mini-loaf, I was ready to go.
Basics: Soaked cubed bread in milk, squeezed out milk. To shredded bread, added ground beef, beaten egg, drained ricotta, diced scallions, grated Parmigiano cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Folded together, added mozzarella cubes, and lightly mixed. Arranged in loaf formation in olive-oiled pan, and drizzled olive oil over top of loaf. Baked covered with foil at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, removed foil, baked for another hour. Use simple tomato sauce to coat before serving.
I was worried. I wasn’t sure how much to adjust the times for my fraction of a meatloaf, and I believe I cooked that little sucker too long. I also didn’t use a roasting pan (ummm, not everyone has one of those!) so the juices from the beef gathered in the bottom of the pan and sizzled. A lot. When I took my precious dinner out of the oven, it looked burned, but since I like a crispy top to my meatloaf, I was hopeful. Upon further inspection, the very bottom of the loaf was burned a bit too much, but the top was crispy but very edible. Another mistake was not pressing the meatloaf form with my hands to make sure it was tight; using utensils to try to create that same effect didn’t work as well and made it loose enough for some of the cheese to ooze out of the sides of the loaf. And burn in the sizzling craziness.
With all that said, though, it was quite good! The cheeses made it very luscious, and the crispy top was a nice addition to the dish. Though it was a little sad that I lost the very bottom to burnage, and the loaf wasn’t picture perfect, the mix of ingredients was absolutely worth the effort. Yum! I would highly recommend this dish, especially for a larger group of people.
In addition to the meatloaf, I wanted a veggie side dish, so I quickly threw together a few vegetables from my refrigerator. I simply put some baby carrots into a pan with some mushrooms and scallions, topped with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and cooked in the same oven with the meatloaf for approximately 30 minutes. It was a super simple but complimentary side for my main course.
In the end, it all worked out. And I learned some valuable lessons about the difference between a roasting pan and anything else, adjustments that must be made to cooking times if cutting the recipe down, and the value of shaping a meatloaf by hand. I lived, I learned, and I ate the hell out of that meatloaf.