Wednesday, January 19, 2011

W & W "Meatloaf & Rosemary Potatoes"

As the smell of fresh garlic filled my apartment it occurred to me that I should write about my cooking experiences - the triumphs and the failures. Cooking is a new adventurous undertaking in my life. I've mostly been one for take-out or dining out in my 13 years in New York. So along with the regular stories I tell and the fiction I write, I've decided to add a spinoff blog called The Whisk and the Wine. Pour yourself a glass - my favorite is a California Pinot Noir - and enjoy the dish on my latest dish.

I decided just before Christmas that I wanted to make meatloaf. I have this memory of making a meatloaf once in my life. I was still living with my parents. I have no idea how old I was. It's more years than I really care to think about or reveal at this moment.

I needed a recipe. The first person I thought of was Paula Deen. I enjoy her and she's southern so it seemed the perfect fit for me. She actually demonstrates her recipe via a video clip. I wrote down all the ingredients. Later, I looked at the list and decided to start tweaking it.

The first time I made this meatloaf I added a Granny Smith apple to it in lieu of bell pepper. It doesn't necessarily do that much in the form of flavor, but it adds an interesting texture. Maybe there's just a bite of sweetness. I'm not positive on that though. There's such an explosion of flavors in the meatloaf that pinpointing the flavor of one ingredient is difficult. That first time I cooked the meatloaf I used a Pyrex® loaf pan. We live and learn. Paula's demonstration had the meatloaf baked in a regular 9" x 13" pan. What my friends who ate the meatloaf with me suggested was that the larger pan would allow for the juices to run off thereby letting the meat cook more to the texture we all associate with meatloaf. Baking it in the loaf pan kept everything completely contained. It took longer for the loaf to cook in its own juices than it should have.

This second time I again tweaked the recipe. I left out the Granny Smith apple and added back the bell pepper albeit orange instead of green. I also added pork to the mix.

I started with ground turkey instead of ground beef. I do want to be more on the healthy side. To the turkey I added thin slices of pork. I substitute some of the salt (sea salt) with garlic salt. It adds a nice flavor. I add more onion (purple) than necessary. I like it; what can I say. The orange bell pepper is a bit sweeter than the green and the color is amazing. I discovered a long time ago that color is important to me and food is no exception. Paula's recipe calls for a can of diced tomatoes in their juice. I like to use diced tomatoes with garlic. Can there ever be too much garlic? I mean really, most of the time I'm cooking for me. I'm not kissing anyone after. Bring on the flavor. Instead of bread crumbs the recipe calls for oats. It's supposed to make it fluffy. I just find it more interesting than bread crumbs. Bread crumbs are boring. Oats add an air of mystery and intrigue.

When the meat, salt, black pepper, purple onion, orange bell pepper, egg, oats, and diced tomatoes were all thoroughly mixed together I halved the meat mixture. I took half of it and placed it in the pan and coated it with cheddar cheese. I then took the remaining meat mixture and covered the cheese, forming one cohesive loaf.

Instead of using ketchup with the mustard and brown sugar for the topping this time, I substituted chili sauce. Don't be scared of chili sauce. I used Heinz®. It's not hot and they even suggest it for use on burgers and fries. It just has a different flavor than ketchup. The spices are different and it's less tomatoey.

I wanted to make Rosemary potatoes. I found a recipe and decided to make them as a side dish for my meatloaf. I had already scrubbed and dried about 15 small, red new potatoes earlier in the day. Now it was time to prepare them for the oven.

It was simple enough. I cut the potatoes into quarters and placed them in a bowl. I am a lover of brussel sprouts and have been known to coat them in olive oil with garlic salt and other spices and bake them. I decided to add brussel sprouts to the potatoes. That was my tweak of plain Rosemary potatoes.

I took 6 crushed cloves of fresh garlic along with dried rosemary and infused them in extra virgin olive oil. I poured the oil infusion over the potatoes and brussel spouts and used my hands to make sure everything was coated. Yes, they were clean. I don't suggest this though. It worked; everything was coated, but so were my hands - with pieces of garlic and rosemary. I didn't want to lose any of that flavor so I had to use the spoon to remove the pieces of garlic and sprigs of rosemary from my fingers and add them back to the bowl. I should have just used the spoon for stirring and coating to begin with. Hindsight's 20/20.

Both meatloaf and potatoes needed to be baked at 350°. I put the meatloaf in the oven first at it needed to bake longer. When my timer dinged 20 minutes into the baking, I added the potatoes and brussel sprouts to the oven.

Those of us who only have one oven only have one real option - we have to bake multiple things at the same time. I learned that I should have placed the potatoes in to bake at the same time as the meatloaf, but the brussel sprouts needed less time than I actually cooked them. I should have known that from my prior experience of baking brussel sprouts.

The meatloaf turned out better this time cooked in the larger pan. The juices did run off but so did some of the cheese from the middle. The texture was better, but truly it was all about the taste. It is still an amazing meatloaf. The pork, an interesting idea to me, did nothing in the way of flavor. The chili sauce was fantastic on top. Personally, I think the topping needs a little more brown sugar. That's for next time. The potatoes were good, but needed more garlic in my opinion. I could probably aid that by dashing some garlic salt on top of them before placing them in the oven. The brussel sprouts were over cooked, but still worthy of eating.

Here's to flavor, texture & color (purple, orange, red) and here's to trying it again.