Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Amazing Glazed All-Beef Meat Loaf

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Amazing Glazed All-Beef Meat Loaf
Serves: 6-8
Difficulty Level: Easy
Amazing Glazed All-Beef Meat Loaf 
This is a surprisingly great all-beef meatloaf. Most meat loafs are a combination of beef, pork and veal – with each having an important role leading to the end result. Beef contributes the assertive beefiness, while pork adds flavor and extra fattiness. With the addition of veal, it is mostly about the gelatin – which has a viscous natural water-retaining quality that helps keep the meat loaf moist. Gelatin is formed when collagen, the protein in the cow connective tissue, breaks down during cooking. Collagen in calves (the source of veal) is more loosely structured, and therefore converts to gelatin more readily as compared to adult cows. In this all-beef meat loaf recipe, the gelatinous qualities of veal are replicated by the addition of powdered gelatin.

In meat loaf, gelatin, as a pure protein, has a stabilizing effect, making it harder for water and other liquids to be forced out by suspending the liquids in its mesh-like matrix. In meat loaf, then, gelatin helps by decreasing the amount of liquid leaking from the meat and improves the textural feel by making the liquids more viscous. This viscosity translates to a luxuriant texture in the mouth – mouth-feel – much like reduced stock or demi-glace – and greater richness.

Lastly, by forming a free-form “loaf pan”, one can avoid allowing the meat to stew in its own juices which makes for a greasy mess and a greasy loaf. Meat loaf baked in a traditional loaf pan exposes only one side of the meat loaf to the browning heat.  By opting for the free-form loaf, one achieves an all-over browned crust.

Meat Loaf:
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated on SMALL holes of box grater (1 C) (see pic below)
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 C)
  • 1 medium rib celery, chopped fine (about ½ C)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed thru a garlic press
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ C tomato juice
  • ½ C chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp unflavored gelatin (powdered)
  • 1 Tb soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 C crushed saltine crackers
  • 2 Tb minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-pound ground sirloin
  • 1-pound ground chuck 
  • ½ C ketchup
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ C apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tb packed light brown sugar
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 375-degree F. Spread cheese on a plate and place in freezer until ready to use.
Finely grated cheese...use the SMALL holes in the grater!
Prepare your baking sheet by making a free-form loaf pan. Fold heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a 12 by 8-inch rectangle. Center the foil on a metal cooling rack and place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet.  Poke holes in the foil with skewer (about half an inch apart).  Spray the foil with a nonstick cooking spray.
Foil with holes punched in it
Heat butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming; add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add tomato juice.  Cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits from the pan, until thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a plate and set aside to cool.
Resting the fixins'....
Whisk broth and eggs in a large bowl until combined. Sprinkle gelatin over the liquid and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, mustard, saltines, parsley, salt, pepper and cooled onion mixture. Crumble frozen cheese into coarse powder and sprinkle over mixture. Add ground sirloin and chuck; mix gently with hands until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. 

Adding the fixins' to the meat

Transfer meat to foil rectangle and shape into a 10 by 6-inch oval about 2 inches high. Smooth top and edges of meat loaf with a moistened spatula.  Bake until an instant-read thermometer into center of loaf reads 135-140-degrees, 55-65 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and turn on broiler.
Shaped into a "loaf"
While meat loaf cooks, combine ingredients for glaze in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. 
The glaze for the meatloaf
Spread half of glaze evenly over cooked meat loaf with rubber spatula; place under broiler and cook until glaze bubbles and begins to brown at edges, about 5 minutes. 

Remove meat loaf from oven and spread evenly with remaining glaze; place back under broiler and cook until glaze is again bubbling and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes more. Let meat loaf cool about 20 minutes before slicing.
How it should look when it is ready!
If you cannot find chuck and/or sirloin, substitute any 85% lean ground beef. To avoid using a broiler, glaze the loaf in a 500-degree F oven and increase cooking time for each interval by 3 minutes.

Whatever you do, make this meat loaf.  You will be amazed.


Modified from Cooks Illustrated, Jan. 2006

Monday, May 19, 2014

Caribbean Black Bean Soup

Caribbean Black Bean Soup
Serves: 6-8
Difficulty Level: Gourmet
Caribbean Black Bean Soup
On January 20 I posted a quick and easy black bean soup.  It truly was simple (essentially dump it all into a blender or processor), and great. This recipe is not quick as you need to make it stepwise in order to develop the layers of flavor. But give it a try – you will be surprised how a few extra steps along the way changes the texture, smell and flavor of the soup.

A substantial bean soup like this one makes you realize how easy meat-free eating can be. The secret to the rich flavor is in caramelizing of the aromatic vegetables and deep roasting of tomatoes and garlic.

I have mentioned Rancho Gordo heirloom beans in the past – and highly recommend them for this as well as any bean recipe.  They are simply the best.  They are becoming more available all the time – in stores and online. They sell their heirloom beans “new” – meaning they are harvested, dried and sold to the public within a year. When beans are stored too long, a longer cooking time is needed to soften them. Less cooking time means their delicate flavors are preserved and that they retain their shape when cooked. See http://ranchogordo.com.
Rancho Gordo beans--it really does make a difference
Heirloom beans do not require a lot of fussing if they are used fresh, which I would define as within two years of harvesting. I prefer cooking them simply with a few savory vegetables like carrots, onions and garlic. Keep in mind that salt, vinegar, molasses and sugars can negatively affect the beans as they cook. Do not add these flavorings until after the beans are soft and able to absorb them.
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed but kept whole
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into quarters, root attached
  • 1 lb black beans – midnight, valentine or your favorite heirloom bean
  • Water as needed to submerge beans
  • 2 Tb safflower or grapeseed oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 jalapeno chilies – seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • 6 whole fresh or 16 oz can plum tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 carrot peeled and chopped
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground or mashed in a mortar
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 - 3 C chicken or vegetable broth
  • Garnishes: sour cream, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro leaves

Soak 1 lb of black beans, after rinsing them in lots of cool water and checking them for small bits of debris. Cover them with about 1 inch of cold water and leave them overnight or all day if you begin the soaking in the morning. They will expand as they absorb the water. So you can remove them later – add large chunks of peeled carrots, the quartered onion and 2 smashed whole peeled garlic cloves to pot. Add more water if needed so the beans are completely submerged by at least 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. I like to see how low the heat can go and still produce the occasional simmering bubble. If too much heat is escaping, cover the pot partially. If the liquid in the pot starts to get low, you can add more room temperature or warm water. Allow the beans to cook. This can take 1 hour or even 2-3 hours, depending on the age of your beans. When finished, remove the large carrot chunks, quartered onions and smashed garlic and add salt. Go easy as it takes a while for the beans to absorb the salt.

While the beans are cooking, in a medium, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, warm the safflower or grapeseed oil.  Add the chopped white onion, the chopped jalapeno chilies, green pepper and carrot and sauté until the vegetables are very aromatic and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes. Add the cooked vegetables, cumin, oregano, and cayenne to the cooked beans.
Getting ready to sautee the veggies

Sauteed veggies with all the herbs and spices

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.  Put the unpeeled 8 garlic cloves on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in the foil. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them in half and put them cut side down in the dish. Season with salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the tomatoes and garlic until soft, fragrant and brown, about 30 minutes.
Plum tomatoes, ready for roasting
Peel the roasted garlic cloves. Chop the garlic and tomatoes coarsely and add to the bean pot along with 2 C vegetable or chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft and the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.
With all the goodies....
Let the soup cool slightly. Transfer about half the soup to a blender. Blend until smooth. Return the blended soup to the pot, stir and adjust seasonings. Add more broth as needed to achieve desired consistency.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with sour cream, avocado slices and/or cilantro.

This soup can be made a day in advance and keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days or the freezer for up to a month.  Give it a try – you’ll be amazed what a little layering of flavors will do to a bean soup.



Adapted from multiple recipes in the Rancho Gordo Cookbook!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fennel, Arugula & Green Apple Salad with Almonds, Parmesan & Golden Raisins

Fennel, Arugula & Green Apple Salad with Almonds, Parmesan & Golden Raisins
Serves: 8
Fennel, Arugula & Green Apple Salad with Almonds, Parmesan & Golden Raisins
Are you looking for that new and interesting salad – something easy, quick and different – yet not so bizarre that you or your guests wonder what they are eating? I absolutely love, love fennel – coupled with arugula…well, perfection. Even as a kid, I coveted everything licorice and enthusiastically exchanged my jellybeans for any of the black ones. My true aha moment was the discovery that licorice love could be satisfied with real food. Fennel, anise, tarragon and basil get their signature perfume from the same compound (anethole) that licorice does.

Fennel is a hardy perennial with dill-like foliage atop celery-esque stalks that sprout from a pale green bulb. Though the peak season is fall through spring, I serve fennel to rave reviews – roasted, sautéed, grilled, braised and in salads – all year long. It is crisply refreshing raw and meltingly sweet when cooked.
The stars of the show!
This salad is set off to its ultimate advantage by a garlicky vinaigrette – bolstered by arugula, apples, Marcona almonds, Parmesan cheese and raisins – comprises an intriguing mélange of tastes and textures.
  • ¼ C Sherry vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ C extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large head frisee, torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 large bulbs fennel, stalks and outer layers removed and very thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
  • 1 C salted Marcona almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1 C golden raisins
  • 1 C shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 C celery, thinly sliced crosswise
  • ½ lb baby arugula
  • ¾ tsp fennel pollen 

To make the vinaigrette: Place the sherry vinegar, salt, pepper, shallots and garlic into a lidded jar, close and shake. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and shake again.

In a large bowl, combine frisee, sliced fennel & apples, almonds, raisins, shaved Parmesan cheese, celery and arugula.  Add enough dressing to moisten and flavor and toss lightly to coat salad. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle bowl or each serving with fennel pollen.

Bon Appetit!
You will love it!