Of all the edible treats that become part of many families’ holiday traditions, very few people check the box next to a classic American dinner table staple that’s the subject of today’s column.
I’m talkin’ about meatloaf.
I assumed that for most people, meatloaf on the menu probably falls somewhere between pedestrian food products to occasional comfort food. Few people, I suspected, would classify it as a gourmet treat.
But just for fun, I try to “road test” the topics on which I expound, and literally half of the people to whom I asked, “So what do you think about meatloaf for the holidays?” replied, “Meat Loaf? The singer?”
Now granted, Mr. Meat Loaf, aka, Marvin Lee Aday, the Texas-born rocker, is unique among pop stars, both with his over-the-top concert persona and the hard-driving power-rock songs that have marked his career.
But it’s a testament to how far down the list of dinnertime choices meatloaf has slipped that more people think rock star, rather than family meal.
Maybe a trendy new way to prepare the classic entrée can renew some interest in what is still an appetizing, if somewhat less popular, center-of-the-plate specialty.
I mean, other than finicky veggie-wanna-bes, have you ever seen anyone express distaste for meatloaf?
It just doesn’t happen.
Cooking Show Cuisine
This Southwestern-style Cabo Meatloaf recipe was showcased on Roanoke, Va., NBC-TV affiliate WSLS on the “Daytime Kitchen” show with Chef Jeff Bland, who is a member of something called The Food Fanatics.
Of course, televised cooking show segments follow a familiar format: a few minutes talking about spices, ingredients and some tricks of the trade — and then, voila! The completed entrée suddenly appears from beneath the table, fully cooked, pre-sliced and ready for the two female on-air personalities (Natalie and Brittany in this case) to gush over as they sample a dainty bite.
Judging from their reactions on the video clip, neither woman has ever tasted anything quite so exquisite.
But allow me to summarize the recipe, and you might agree that their response is legit.
First of all, Chef Jeff urges viewers to steer clear of the pricey “lean” ground beef, and go with 70/30 ground chuck. “Otherwise, it will end up dried out,” he cautioned.
Right on, Jeff.
Next, he noted that the green peppers to be diced and added to the mix come in two varieties: three-lobed and four-lobed. The three-lobed peppers are female plants, and are actually sweeter than the four-lobed version, and thus better for adding to a cooked food.
Did not know that, but you’d best believe I’m gonna roll it out next time I see someone slicing up green peppers.
Two other hints Chef Jeff offered also made sense. First, he recommended using chicken broth as a flavor enhancer, and second, lightly sauté the diced onions, rather than adding them raw to the ground beef.
Then the key to the recipe: Along with Panko bread crumbs and chopped chipotle peppers, he placed the loaf into a bread pan lined with 12 strips of bacon, which are then “woven” around the meatloaf. Roast at 325 degrees until the bacon is crisp, the let it “rest” for 10 minutes while you make a glaze of caramelized onions, brown gravy mix and taco seasoning.
Yes, it takes some time and effort. And unfortunately, regular folks can’t just pull out a finished entrée from under a kitchen counter. But even so, the results appear well worth it.
After all, aren’t the holidays supposed to be the one time every year we put in extra efforts in the kitchen?
Spicy Southwest-style Cabo Meatloaf might be a bit off most folks’ radar, but I guarantee that a big ol’ slice on a dinner plate, with a side of mashed potatoes, would be far better received by Santa than the traditional milk and cookies.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and columnist.