Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nigella's Meatloaf with Roasted Potatoes and Capers

In the years that I’ve been cooking, I noticed a phenomenon: Give me a recipe where the ingredient list runs for a page, requires hours of prepping, and close attention to detail, and I can usually have it come out fine. However, present me with a short, simple recipe that comes together in no time flat, and there’s a very good chance I’ll muck it up. Have no idea why, but it seems to be the way it is.

Take, for example, meatloaf. How hard is it to make? There aren’t tons of ingredients. You basically toss everything into a bowl, squish it around until blended, pop onto a pan, and throw it into the oven. Easy-peasy. But I could never get one to come out right. Somehow I would mess up the ratio of binder to egg or something -- even though I would be following a recipe --  and it would either be too dry or so moist it would fall apart. After more than a few attempts of trying my hand at making a successful meatloaf, I almost gave up.

But then…then I watched Nigella Lawson make this recipe on TV. If you’ve never seen Nigella, trust in the fact that she could make the task of boiling water a sensual experience. She loves and adores food. Add to the fact that she has a wicked sense of humor and makes few excuses about using decadent ingredients, she is uniquely qualified to be deemed a Domestic Goddess. Okay, so maybe I have a little bit of a girl crush on her. But really and true, after seeing her make this meatloaf, it was enough to make me want to give it a go.

I’ve ended up making this recipe a few times and, not to spoil the surprise, have had excellent results every single instance. You’ll note that her recipe starts with hard boiling some eggs. I’ve tried it with and without the eggs and still love it. As you’ll see as we get this party started, I opted to forego the eggs this time around. And because I'm not feeding an army, I halved the recipe.

Instead of starting with the eggs, I jumped in at the next step, which happens to use one of my favorite ingredients:

Uh-huh…bacon fat that I just happened to have reserved in the fridge from a previous pork fat outing. Sigh…isn’t it just lovely to look at? Better yet, to smell?

Anyway, after I melted the bacon fat in my pan, I tossed in the chopped onions.

They coated themselves in the bacony goodness until they turned a lovely brown.


I set the pan aside for the onions to cool and started working on the other ingredients for the meatloaf. Into a bowl, I put 1/2 pound each of ground beef and ground pork, along with some Worcestershire sauce. I used both the beef and pork because ground beef on its own here in Belize is lean, lean, lean. The ground pork helps give it some needed moisture. I learned this after making burgers a few times.

The now-cooled onions were also added into the bowl:

I gave the mixture a quick smush to start incorporating everything, then added one egg and breadcrumbs:

I found that breadcrumbs are another one of those hit-or-miss purchases. Sometimes stores carry them, mostly they don't. And when they do have them in stock, they have always been fine-ground. To get around the sourcing problem and to give myself some options, I put any stale bread bits into my food processor and whir away. Some I make fairly fine; others I keep on the course side. Pop them into a zip-lock bag and throw 'em in the freezer. This way, they're ready when you are.

After smushing the egg and breadcrumb into the mixture -- but being careful not to overwork the meat -- it was time to mold the loaf.

But wait...we're not done. There's one last step to take the meatloaf from amazing to over-the-top goodness:

Oh. Yes. It. Is! Take five to six slices of BACON and drape it over the top, tucking the ends under the meatloaf. Doesn't it just make your heart go pitter-pat?

The now completed loaf was then popped into a pre-heated 400 degree oven to bake away for about an hour.

While the meatloaf started on its baking journey, I started prepping my potatoes. I cubed three medium sized potatoes, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and gave them a light toss with some olive oil.

After the meatloaf had been baking for about 15 minutes, I popped in the potatoes. This way, the potatoes would finish up about the same time as the meatloaf, after it was out of the oven and allowed to rest. Which brings us to what the meatloaf looks like straight out of the oven:

Hello gorgeous!

I left it to rest for about 15 minutes under a loose tent of foil. In the meantime, the potatoes were ready to come out of the oven and get dressed up.

I put the roasted potatoes in a bowl, then drizzled them with a bit more olive oil and put in about a tablespoon of arugula pesto(ish) and capers. In a separate, smaller bowl I whisked together a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar, about a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and caper juice. When the sugar was dissolved, the mixture was poured over the potatoes and everything was tossed together.

After slicing the now rested meatloaf, it was time to plate:

My, my, my, my, my. The meatloaf turns out tender and juicy, with kudos going to the lovely onions. With each bite, the meatloaf almost melts in your mouth, but you have that crispy bit from the bacon blanket. And the potatoes? Lovely. The outsides are nice and crunchy, but the insides are still soft. The dressing adds just enough kick to make your tastebuds say, "Thanks!"

So while I may not be the Domestic Goddess of Nigella's fame, her meatloaf recipe definitely has me in training as one of her acolytes.

1 comment:

  1. I want to thank you for the link to "French Laundry at Home". What fun! Cooking in Belize is a challenge, but with the right inspiration, you can create some fabulous meals. The meatloaf and potatoes sound wonderful...