I know I'm ready for the change of seasons because it rained this weekend and I was more than happy to pop on my slippers and favorite cozy sweater. I can also tell I'm ready because my food cravings are changing. I'm ready to spend hours cooking comfort foods. Every time I start to think about what I'm going to make for my next meal, warm, hearty dishes my mom would make for me as a child come to mind.
The other night, I got an inkling for meatloaf. While it rained this weekend, the night I decided to make said meatloaf it was 85 degrees outside. I had never made a meatloaf before. Had I known better, I would have made the decision to start defrosting the beef much earlier than 7:30. Needless to say, it took hours! It was totally worth it, and I don't mind eating late, so it all worked out in the end.
Since I had no idea what I was doing, I also had no idea how to make a gravy out of the drippings. Later, when I recalled this adventure to my mom, she very gently laughed at me and then explained how it's done. That's later though - I'll explain in an upcoming blog post when I put it to good use.
For now, I'll just get to it. Here is my take on meatloaf!
Garden Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions and Mushroom Gravy over Pasta
(See, I told you I was into comfort food lately.)
Makes one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf
1 16 oz box of organic Casarecce pasta
1 lb organic grass-fed ground beef
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 stalk of celery
1 small yellow onion
2 green onions
3 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons curry ketchup
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 large yellow onion
5-6 crimini mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups of chicken stalk
3-4 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Begin by finely chopping the celery, yellow and green onion, and garlic. Place in a big mixing bowl with the breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Give it a good toss.
Add the ground beef, curry ketchup, lightly beaten egg, and olive oil. Roll up your sleeves and dig in. Mixing with your hands will provide the best manner of combining everything without over-mixing, which will make the meat tough. Transfer to the loaf pan and place in the oven. It will take about an hour to cook.
Next begin the gravy, and yes, right away. Caramelizing onions can take 30 - 45 minutes. Start with 3 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan on medium-low heat. Let it get all melty and enjoy the smell for a minute. Add the onion, roughly sliced or copped and sprinkle with a few generous pinches of sea salt.
Cover and wait, stirring every few minutes. The onions will begin to release their juices after 5-10 minutes. Then they will slowly reduce, turn a lovely caramel color and sweeten over the next 20-30 minutes. The onions should never reach more than a slight simmer in the pan, cooking them slowly is the key. When the onions are done, remove them from the pan and set aside, leaving any liquid behind.
Add another tablespoon of butter to the same pan and the roughly chopped crimini mushrooms. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and let the reduce over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. When the mushrooms are cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside, again leaving any liquid behind.
Add the chicken stalk to the pan and whisk to mix with the reserved liquids from the onions and mushrooms. Turn the heat up to medium and let the mixture come to a gentle boil. Once it begins to boil, add the flour 1 tablespoon at at time until the desired consistency is reached. Give the gravy a few minutes between flour additions to thicken a bit so you don't add too much.
Once the desired thickness is reached, add the cooked onions and mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, bring salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as directed on the package.
When everything is done, layer the noodles, meatloaf, and gravy. Head outside to enjoy the late summer breezes and eat a well-deserved meal!
Many people get frustrated by meat. It goes bad too quickly in the fridge, but is a pain to defrost from the freezer without ruining it. Here is a tip from the pro's - and no I don't think I'm a pro, this is how health and food safety classes teach employees to defrost meat in restaurants - hot water. It takes longer than defrosting something in the microwave, but it preserves the quality of the meat much better. You won't end up with weird, rubbery pieces. Place the frozen meat in a plastic, sealable bag. Fill the sink, or a bowl, with very hot water and place the bag in the water. Change out the water as it cools until the meat is defrosted. It can take anywhere from 20 min - 1 hour depending on the amount and thickness of the meat, so think about this step early on.
I would start the water for the noodles after the onions are done caramelizing. This way meatloaf, gravy, and noodles should all come out at about the same time.
Curry ketchup! What is curry ketchup? Only the most amazing ketchup ever! It is exactly what it sounds like, a blend of curry and ketchup, but the result is delicious. It is sweet, tangy, and savory all a the same time. You can pick up curry ketchup at most grocery stores and German-style markets. Seriously, you are going to love this stuff.