Vivian Howard is fascinated by meatloaf.
The first time the North Carolina native, restaurateur and host of PBS shows The life of a chef and Somewhere south never tried the dish was at K&W Cafeterias, a chain of family-style restaurants with locations in the South East.
“I didn’t grow up eating meatloaf,” Howard admits. But after her first tasting, she got hooked. Part of his fascination comes from the rudimentary makeup of the dish: minced meat bound with a starch and often topped with a layer of the ubiquitous American condiment, ketchup.
As she writes in her new cookbook, It will give it a good taste: a new way to simple cookingShe was also intrigued by its status as an American classic which, while long loved by some for its uplifting simplicity, is also woefully misunderstood by others. Despite being a fan, Howard understands both sides of the argument.
“My problem with traditional meatloaf is that I feel like it’s a bit like a sausage,” Howard says. “There are so many ways to make it interesting, but we’re only doing it one way.”
With this in mind, she wanted to rework and rethink the classic meatloaf. The result, Meatloaf’s Big Makeover (recipe below), appears in his new book, released this fall.
The book is divided into sections that highlight a particular ‘flavor hero’ including the r-rated onions and the quirky furki, which can be prepped and called upon to add a little more flair to a recipe in need. The knight of the meatloaf in shining armor? A blend of citrus, candied garlic and fresh herbs that she is nicknamed “herbdacious”.
“Meatloaf is kind of a web,” she says. “I think there are so many ways to be creative with the meatloaf paradigm. I wanted to encourage people to think of it that way.
Here are Howard’s tips for getting the most out of this hearty, heartwarming classic, including a recipe that will turn meatloaf enemies into loyal ones.
There’s nothing terribly mysterious about meatloaf. What you get is right there in the name: coarsely molded ground beef in the shape of a bread. It’s usually mixed with eggs, breadcrumbs, and Worcestershire sauce to give it texture and body, but not much more. “The meaty part of meatloaf is usually the most boring,” Howard says. “I just feel like ground meat can be such a good vehicle for extra flavors that I wanted to give it more.”
Howard boosts the flavor and consistency of the meat by mixing in sour cream – a technique she has used in burgers for years at her now closed restaurant The Boiler Room. After all, “meatloaf is not that different from a hamburger.”
“Sour cream adds acid and it also binds it in a kind of yogurt and sour cream,” Howard says. The idea originally came from her husband’s favorite Chicago tavern, Charlie Beinlich. “He asked them what made their meat so tender and so fresh, and they said they put sour cream in it. So we started doing it and I really think it makes a huge difference. “
It is also important not to overload the meat, which can make it tough. Instead, enter gently with “child’s hands,” as she advises in the recipe. “We’re not trying to bake bread here,” she said. “We want everything to come together and hold together, but we don’t want any of the ingredients to change and become one.”
In It will give it a good taste, Howard tries to dispel the idea that even the simplest home-cooked meals, like meatloaf, can’t be packed with flavor – this is where one of his “heroes” from. flavor comes into play. In the case of Meatloaf’s Big Makeover, this hero is “herbdacious,” which complements the acidity of sour cream.
“It’s basically candied garlic, basil, Parmesan cheese and a little lemon juice, all mixed in,” she says. “It’s a delicious, shiny and oily sauce that, when incorporated into the meatloaf mixture, really season each piece and make the inside as exciting as the outside.
Herbdacious has long been a staple in her Chef & the Farmer restaurant, but she has also adopted it in her home cooking for “quick and fine” meals. “I think every chef has an arsenal of things that they pull or call upon to put together simple ingredients and make things exciting,” she says. “This book is about [taking] that idea and do that one thing and be able to use it in a bunch of different dishes.
If you grew up eating meatloaf, chances are it is usually sprayed with ketchup from top to bottom. The ubiquitous crimson condiment is as much a part of the dish as the ground beef. Baked on top of bread, it gives a satisfying sweetness and a bit of moisture needed for what is often a rather dry dish. But this beloved ingredient is not exempt from Howard’s great transformation.
“Just because we create something classic doesn’t mean it has to be basic,” she says. “I replaced the ketchup topping with something really simple that a lot of us have in our pantry: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes in their oil and a little honey. This gives it a nice burst of sauce. It seeps into the top of the meatloaf. This is delicious.”
While sour cream and aromatic herbs provide most of the flavor in Howard’s meatloaf recipe, it also adds kalamata olives. These disperse into the bread, giving a few more bites of brine. Don’t have any olives on hand? The chef recommends trying capers, caramelized onions, confit chopped garlic or whatever you have that could add a nice touch of flavor.
“The Meatloaf spirit is all about taking what you have and making the most of it,” Howard says. “It’s really just a guideline. I think for a good meatloaf you need a semi-sweet and tangy tomato sauce on top. You need soft and tasty minced meat, bonded with eggs and some kind of starch. From there, you can add any number of flavors or ingredients. “
Leftover meatloaf is legendary in some households. But if you’re tempted to throw a cold slice between the bread for a slapdash sandwich, Howard recommends that you try – even once – pulling out a skillet instead.
“I much prefer leftover meatloaf to fresh meatloaf because I like to cut it into pieces and then pan-fry it,” she says. “You not only get the delicious moist meatloaf inside, but you also get two crispy sides, which adds an interesting texture.”
A pan-fried slice served with a dollop of mashed potatoes is her favorite way to eat meatloaf, even beating a freshly baked serving. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do now than sit on my couch with meatloaf and mashed potatoes in front of a movie,” she says.
Meatloaf’s great metamorphosis
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, finely diced (2.5 to 3 cups)
- 2.5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 0.5 cups (7.5 oz jar) sun-dried tomatoes, with their oil
- 1.5 cups (12 oz jar) roasted red peppers, drained
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- 2 large eggs
- .5 cup sour cream
- 2/3 cup of Herbdacious *
- 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 2.5 pounds of ground beef
- .5 cups crushed salted breadcrumbs or crackers
Preheat your oven to 325 ° F. In a 10 to 12 inch sauté pan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon of salt and black pepper. Sweat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent and tender.
While the onions sweat, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, honey, vinegar and half a teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, herbs, olives and Worcestershire. Add the onions, beef, breadcrumbs and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently to combine. If you crush and knead this to subdue it, you won’t be happy with the texture of your meatloaf, so treat it with childrens hands.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil and place meat mixture on top, then shape into a rectangular block about 3 x 3 x 12 inches. Spread the tomato mixture on top, making sure to cover the sides. It will sound like a lot of gravy, but it’s intentional. I like the sauce. Slide the baking sheet onto the middle rack of your oven and bake for 1 hour, until fully cooked. Take out the meatloaf and let it cool for a few minutes before slicing it.
- 2 heads of garlic (about 20 cloves), peeled
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup wrapped fresh basil leaves
- .25 cup wrapped fresh parsley leaves
- .25 cup Firmly packed fresh dill, mint, chervil or cilantro
- 0.25 cup green onions, roughly chopped, green parts only
- .5 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated (use a microplane)
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
In a small saucepan, bring the garlic cloves and olive oil to a boil over very low heat. If it begins to sizzle and boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly before returning it to the hot eye of the stove. The idea is to slowly poach the garlic in oil rather than frying it. It can take up to 20 minutes if you keep the heat extremely moderate. When the garlic is cooked, it will be soft and lightly browned.
This candied garlic plus its oil are heroes of the kitchen in their own right and can be used anywhere you want fluffy garlic notes. You can stop this recipe here and keep these little garlic bombs in the refrigerator for a month, as long as they are submerged in oil. Mashed cloves are especially useful for thickening and adding flavor to sauces.
But you don’t get herbdacious by calling it quits early. Once the candied garlic is completely cool, put it with all the remaining ingredients in the strongest blender you have and let it tear until the mixture is smooth and green. Store herbdacious in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in your freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 2 cups.
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