Monday, February 25, 2008

I Would Do Anything for Loaf

Meatloaf is too often relegated to the throwback meal…it evokes visions of bad TV dinners, school cafeterias and beehived moms in seafoam-green kitchens. It’s a product of the Depression when meat was scarce and it went a lot farther when mixed with bread, eggs, and veggies. It is admittedly old school and not at all refined, but with the right recipe, meatloaf can be very worthy of your dinner table.

I follow two rules when making meatloaf. Number one, I think the best part is the top crust, so mini loaves make much more sense to me. That way you maximize the crust and everyone gets his own share. Number two, be creative, but don’t overdo it. Meatloaf has been around forever because it’s the most un-trendy food you could possibly think of. It’s fine to experiment with different flavors, but let’s call a spade a spade. At the end of the day, it’s still meatloaf and, in my opinion, it should be as uncomplicated as you can make it.

Ground turkey is flavorful and has less fat and saturated fat than many kinds of ground beef, so I generally go to it as my meatloaf foundation. The additions to the meat seem ho-hum traditional, but when they combine, they really are spot on. The addition of pancetta makes the crust even more delicious and adds moisture and fabulous flavor throughout. Served with roasted potatoes, it’s comfort food at its best.

Mini Meatloaves

serves 2

1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 (1.3-pound) package ground turkey
4 1/4-inch slices pancetta

Preheat oven to 450˚.

In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring, 4 to 5 minutes or until onions are golden and very soft. Put cooked onions and garlic in a large bowl and cool slightly. To the same bowl when the onions are cooled, add breadcrumbs, soy, Worcestershire, ketchup and egg. Mix thoroughly. Add turkey; mix lightly with hands until combined. On a small baking sheet, form mixture into two loaves and top each with 2 slices of pancetta, slightly overlapping to fit. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

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