Saturday, November 15, 2008

Comfort Food for Expats: Meatloaf

There are few dishes easier to make and as satisfying to eat as a good meat loaf. It is not hard to make it in a kitchen in Mexico. You'll need a reliable oven.

(Photo from Internet)

For the meat loaf itself, I like a combination of 2/3rds lean ground beef and 1/3 ground pork. Speak with your butcher. Get the meat freshly ground to order. Ask him for some additional fat, "para que el pastel de carne salga jugoso."

For filler, I prefer dry breadcrumbs. Seasoning varies according to my mood, but I always use minced onion, garlic, s&p, Worcester Sauce, and at least one dried herb.
Today I used oregano, because that's what I had.

A couple of eggs to bind it together and some milk to moisten the breadcrumbs*. Topping: I really like it with a brown gravy, but that's hard to generate from meatloaf pan drippings. You could cleverly improvise a brown gravy with those Costilla Jugosa cubes made by Knorr-Suiza and sold in better supermercados. Last time I made it, I went the second best way, and coated the top with Heinz ketchup and three strips of good, hickory smoked bacon. While the not-crisp bacon detracts somewhat from the meatloaf flavor, it is mighty good to nibble on just before scarfing the meat loaf itself.

Baking container: I don't like the results when it's cooked in a loaf pan, so I always cook it in a baking tray with sides. It browns on all sides this way. If I'd only remembered to lay down some parchment paper first, it would have been an easier clean up. Typical baking time to doneness averages 1 hour at 350º F.

The above meat loaf had been pre-tested by a panel of one; a small slice nestled into a warm, freshly baked potato roll, and a squirt of ketchup more. I immodestly give the combination 4 stars out of a possible 5. Brown gravy would have probably gotten it a 5.

*Once, long ago, while a Cook Specialist 6 in the Missouri Army National Guard, we made a huge batch of meat loaves using sweetened colored cereals, such as Froot Loops and Cap'n Crunch. The results were well-received by the men in our unit. But that was before my tastes had matured. ;-)

With meatloaf, some real mashed potatoes, enriched with butter and half and half or even evaporated milk is traditional. A touch of freshly grated nutmeg is nice. (nuez de moscada) Fresh green beans (ejotes) are a nice contrast if cooked crisp-tender.

Have some fresh, sliced white or whole wheat bread, or better, some potato rolls on hand so you can make sandwiches later on.

Maybe I'll give a recipe for potato rolls next.


Steve Cotton said...

It is a beautifully crisp morning in Oregon. Clear skies. 37 degrees. I am heading to the hot tub with breakfast. But your meat loaf description now makes me wish I had cooked some last night. Great post.

Don Cuevas said...

Thanks, Steve.
Really, today's meat loaf post is an unfinished leftover from last winter. I was going through my Drafts and revived it, added a few flourishes, "obtained" a photo, and there it is.

If we had a hot tub*, we would have been in it by now. But, as we don't, we warmed up by walking about 2 kilometers under a pleasant sky.

*Actually, we are fortunate in that we do have that uncommon fixture of Mexican baños, a tub.

(I'm kind of surprised that Michael Dickson and La Guapa Señora don't have a hot tub. I would think it would fit their sybaritic lifestyle. Or maybe they do have one, and they're just not telling us.)

I'll be writing about Potato Rolls soon, I hope in time for Thanksgiving.


Tancho said...

Glad to see someone else cooks their meatloaf in the open like a raised gopher mound, sort of. why simmer the good stuff in a pool of bad stuff. Out our age we need all the help we can figure out!
I use day or two day old bollios smashed into small crumbs, seems to make it a little lighter than dry bread crumbs and it gets rid of the old bread......

Don Cuevas said...

Ken; good to hear from you.
Bolillos are a good way to do it. In reality, my dry bread crumbs are made from stale bolillos. I package the crumbs and freeze them


Croft said...

Off topic Michael but a question I have been hoping to ask for some time.

We have seen what looks like large green onions (leeks?) being grilled here in Mexico. I watched a Mexican family in a picnic site take out a plastic container full of these onions as well as some liquid they were marinating in. He removed the onions, shook off the marinade and laid them on the grill. The smell was delicious!

Do you know what the marinade is for these? And are they in fact green onions?

I wish my Spanish had been good enough to ask them myself but when I showed interest, they offered me some but I did not want to intrude as they did not seem to have very much food for their family.

Don Cuevas said...

Croft, thanks for your comment. Rather than being off topic, it's a timely question.

One of my Thanksgiving favorite "must have" dishes is creamed baby onions. In fact, I'm planning on making that dish on Thursday. But that doesn't answer your question.

Here's what I know about onions in Mexico (so far.)
Leeks, are the thick stalked members of the onion family. They have a mild flavor. In Spanish, they are known as "puerros" or possibly "poros." I see them infrequently in the Pátzcuaro mercado, and they aren't cheap.

Besides the common white onion and the less common red onion, or "cebolla morada", and the seldom seen brown skin onion, all of round globe proportions, you can usually find the green stemmed knob onions, or "cebollitas" which is what I think you are writing. These are commonly served gratuito with a plate of tacos. Most of the taquerías I've been to around here simple fry the cebollitas in the meat-flavored oil of the taco plancha. You can squirt some fresh lime juice on them. But they are even better when charcoal grilled. See below.

"Cebollines" are pretty much equivalent to scallions or "green onions" NOB. I've only seen them in the larger supermercados in Morelia.

We were first introduced to grilled cebollitas when visiting friends in Chihuahua. Our host, Ramón, marinated the onions briefly in a sort of vinagreta of lime juice and vegetable oil. I supppose that you could add a squirt or two of Maggi Liquid Seasoning if you wished. The onions are a great accompaniment to grilled meats.

We often include them as part of a Mixed Vegetable Grill. (That's a blog post in its own right.) But I will say here that we like to include slabs of eggplant, sweet red, yellow and green peppers; chiles poblanos, perhaps pads of nopales, and for certain, a lot of cebolletas. For that I use a vinagreta as above, but with sone crushed garlic in it.

Thanks again. I may expand this into a full topic.

Now I'm hungry.