An American-Italian feast to fight the post-NY blues: Meatloaf recipe

A few days ago, I was here:

Now, I’m here:

Brixton, I love you, but in the words of Cat Power, “you’ll never be, never be, Manhattan.”

So I was blue to be home after one very tasty and informative trip to Brooklyn and Manhattan. But instead of solely drowning my sorrows with bloody marys and American films like I did when I came back from my first visit in 2009, I decided to cook up a storm inspired by my trip and the food magazines and cookbooks I brought back.

I was craving the hearty flavours of American-Italian fare – creamy mac n cheese and meaty treats. I’d been on a burger crawl of Brooklyn with Byron Burger founder Tom Byng, and was originally going to try my hand at burgers, but seeing as the butcher I use in Brixton market was closed on the Sunday and my only option was supermarket mince, I decided on a meatloaf instead: two parts pork to one part beef. I couldn’t get any veal, as most of the recipes I’d looked at had specified. I adapted two recipes I’d found, one from the Food Network’s magazine and one from my proudest new purchase, my copy of James Beard‘s American Cookery – a behemoth that I’d bought from the brilliant Bonnie Slotnick (163 West Tenth St, NY) in the West Village: a tiny, wonderful second hand book shop stocking out-of-print and antiquarian cookbooks. James Beard has no less than six different recipes for meatloaf here, but I went for the ‘Favourite Meatloaf’ one, which like mine is a mixture of beef and pork.

The Food Network mag did it with an accompanying garlic sauce, but I decided to do it with a rich, slow cook Italian tomato sauce, as suggested by Mr Beard, which I got from the Polpo cookbook. After all, this was to be an ode to American-Italian food!

For the meat loaf, Food Network had called for panko, instead of normal breadcrumbs, so I got some of the those from the oriental grocer on Electric Avenue, but unlike Beard, it recommends using a cup of milk, which I refrained from in fear that it would make it too sloppy. This recipe is an amalgamation of both, with little things like the fish sauce, spring onions, chopped gherkins and red chilli added in by me.

Of the meat loaf, Beard says this. “Meat loaf is a modern development. To be sure, Europeans long ago made pates of various kinds to be eaten cold as special treats. But the meat loaf we use so constantly nowadays is a product of the present century. The best loaves are those made with a combination of meats, honestly flavoured, and still moist when cooked. The average loaf cooked today is apt to be overcooked and dry because of the filler put into it; one finds recipes calling for oatmeal, cornflakes, and other cereals, as well as condensed soups and canned vegetables. A good meat loaf is similar  to a country pate. It should be highly seasoned and firm but not dry. It is much better eaten cold, when it slices nicely and holds its shape. It should have a pleasant texture and never be grainy. It may be served hot with a good tomato sauce, a brown sauce with mushrooms, or an onion sauce.”

American Meatloaf (with a slight Asian inflection)

2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 banana shallots, minced
500g minced beef
750g minced pork
1 tablespoon of chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 chopped red chilli
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 big gherkins, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks of celery, minced
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
teaspoon of Tobasco

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Put the olive oil in a shallow frying pan and fry the garlic, chilli, shallots and celery for a few minutes gently until the shallots are translucent and lightly brown. Meanwhile, blend the panko crumbs until very fine. Thoroughly combine the meat with the seasonings and egg, add in the crumbs, and finally mix in the celery and shallot mixture. Pack into a greased loaf tin and cook for an hour, basting as you go, until the top is caramelised. Serve with tomato sauce and some kind of greens. Make sure you check the temperature with a meat thermometer when you take it out to see that it’s done.

I served mine with homemade red onion and rosemary bread, bacon mac ‘n cheese and a wonderful salad of broccoli stalks with floret vinaigrette (below) that I got from Bon Appetit magazine – but those are separate posts altogether for another time. Please excuse these pictures – I have lost my camera cable so these are the ones taken with an iphone. When my new cable arrives I will replace the pics with the good ones.

About Rosie Birkett

London-based freelance journalist and kitchen dweller. I do restaurants, food and travel.
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