Monday, 20 October 2014

Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese and Red Wine

Let’s talk about meatloaf. I can hear some of you groaning already, remembering your mum or your grandmother’s ketchup-glazed, and yet still dry, loaf of ground meat.

So what is it about meatloaf? What has changed it from a 1950s Americana staple meal, to the rather dubious notoriety as the birthday choice for Mitt Romney’s “Blue-Collar Birthday Meal”?  Apparently he eats his own “mini meatloaf cakes” with cooked carrots and mashed potatoes every year for his birthday celebration. (Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a man of mystery and adventure. Ann must be a very happy woman.)

My most memorable meatloaf reference belongs to Ren and Stimpy, in perhaps the most bizarre cartoon scene ever aired on television, where Stimpy wanders into his own psychedelic bellybutton, meeting Jerry, The Bellybutton Elf, who is smoking a stogie and wearing a miniskirt of the finest lint. Stimpy is then enslaved by his Bellybutton Elf, and mistakenly serves him LintLoaf (at 7:35 here). Jerry HATES LintLoaf, and Stimpy must escape. Very dramatic, and certainly scarred my psyche permanently.

With the chill in the air, I’ve been thinking about comfort food, and I wanted to try something new. I had it in my mind that my dad really likes meatloaf, and so I thought about looking through my grandmother’s recipe book to learn how to make hers. But let’s be real. Meatloaf, prior to 1980, was made with about 4 different ground meats. Her recipe had veal, pork, beef and probably about a pound of lard. So I wasn’t about to do that, although I did want a luxe version.

I decided to use a pound of ground veal, and combine a few recipes I found. One had a red wine glaze, which sounded great, but then I came across another with blue cheese and caramelized onions, which also sounded amazing. And don’t forget, I make that blue cheese sauce with shallots and cream, which I thought could be a great stand-in for gravy in this recipe. And so, an idea was born.

Start by caramelizing your onion. This takes some time, so just chill and start with this. Do not rush your onion slices. Let them go slowly. Easy on the heat. Lots of butter. Little bit of salt. (Not sugar. You’re better than that. You don’t put cream in your risotto, and you don’t put sugar in your caramelized onions. You aren’t that kind of girl. Or guy.)

Once they are nice and golden, you can turn up the heat a little, and pour in a hefty splash of red wine. Reduce until it’s basically onion syrup. Set aside.

Okay, now we’re going to do the raw meat portion. In a bowl, add your meat, 1 cup of breadcrumbs, your onion mix, one egg slightly beaten, a ¼ cup of crumbled blue cheese and spices. You’ll notice in the recipe above they only add salt and pepper, but that’s as basic as a pumpkin spice latte, and the idea here is an upscale meatloaf, not one that Mitt Romney is going to glaze with ketchup and eat with boiled carrots, before he spends 7.9 minutes in missionary position for his birthday nookie. (Sorry, that got racy, but I couldn’t resist.)

For spices, I used a palmful of herbes de Provence, but use your favourites. Mix with your hands (awful, I know) and form into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350° for about an hour. Serve with blue cheese gravy, boiled carrots and mashed potatoes (mine are rosemary garlic, just for a touch of excitement).

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Peruvian Chowder

Getting sick of my soup recipes yet? Well you won't be when you try this one. It's a hearty and healthy fall harvest recipe. Found it on the Food and Wine site and liked the idea of the flavours. Always, always trying to use as much veg as I can from that Farm Share Project, (As in Please let this project end very soon because I can't take it anymore!) And it's sort of a kitchen sink recipe in that you can modify it however you like. The base flavour is Peruvian from what I guess. And I'm pretty sure they'd be thrilled to let us modify it to suit whatever we have on hand and enjoy the flavours of their country. Easy to convert this one to vegetarian too if you like. I'll list the recipe and comment as I go along.

You'll need:
Vegetable or Canola oil - about 3 tablespoons
1 pound of unpeeled raw shrimp
Salt and I'll explain
1 finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp paprika (I used smoked because I'm so jazzy)
1/4 tsp cumin
Dash of Tabasco sauce
That's your base. You can improvise from here
1 butternut squash cut into 1/2 inch pieces. But I think pumpkin would work here too if that's what you have. Tip on how to keep all your 10 fingers when cutting up a butternut squash - put it in the microwave for a minute or two first to soften it up. Or better still, spend an extra buck and buy the already peeled and cut at the grocery store.
1/2 head of green cabbage chopped. I didn't use cabbage. I used chard since I like that more. So any green you like in other words.
2 potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 in chunks
4 ears of halved corn on the cob. But they admit this is a messy business, so I used a can of corn unless you enjoy being covered in chowder from head to toe
2 quarts of water. Okay no. I didn't go for this. And that explains the salt. I just don't cook with water, but I get it that some people do. So you can use chicken broth or vegetable broth. I used vegetable and just enough to cover the vegetables. A box. And add water if needed to cover.
1 1/2 cups of cream or half and half.
That's the recipe. But here's what I think - Add any vegetable you like or even a can of
any beans you like. Or omit anything you don't like. This is your baby. The flavour base will get you to where you need to be.

And here is what I loved the very most about this recipe. They tell you to heat your oil (I say pretty low heat) and saute your shrimp with the shells on. And here is the magic - They tell you to leave the shells on because that will flavour your cooking oil. WTF? Kitchen secrets like that are just what you need to bring your recipes up to magical level! So I had respect and that's what made me decide to try this one. So do that and once they are pink, remove from the oil and add the onion, spices and Tabasco and saute until your onions are soft and transparent.

Add all of your vegetables and liquid and cover and simmer for about half an hour. Peel your shrimp and remove the tails when they're cool enough to handle. After half an hour, taste for salt and add as needed. Put some pepper in too if you like. Add the cream and bring it up to a simmer for about ten minutes and add your shrimp back in. Simmer for about two more minutes and serve. Can there be anything easier than that? Chowder on a damp and cold day can literally Rock Your World! Enjoy friends.