Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Meat Loaf Variations

It's not just Christmas that gets rushed.

I was just thinking of how back in my college days the week before Thanksgiving the cafeteria would put on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the students.  For this dinner you had to have your group reserve a table and then you would be presented with a turkey and all the fixings for your group.  The real novelty was that members of the faculty and administration would volunteer to serve the students, so it could be fun to have your prof waiting on you (and you would be nice to him or her if it really was your prof since your grade could hinge on it).  I remember one year my totally non-sports-loving friends and I had the honor of being served by none other than exalted Skip Roderick the soccer coach (kind of like the Joe Paterno of Elizabethtown but without any child molestation scandals). 

It was all very nice until the next day.  Also the following day.  Then the day after that.  You see, the Elizabethtown College cafeteria was no different from any other host of Thanksgiving dinner.  They had to use up those leftovers just like the rest of us.  So for a week we had turkey noodle soup and turkey tetrazzini and hot open turkey sandwiches and turkey croquettes.  After a week of turkey leftovers, we would all go home for Thanksgiving dinner with our families and then spend the remainder of that weekend eating turkey leftovers.

Now (CENSORED) years later, the cafeteria in my office building is offering a special pre-Thanksgiving turkey dinner this week. 

How much of this stuff are we supposed to want to eat?  Does everyone really want constant turkey dinners in November?

Turkey has never been one of my favorite proteins.  I find the meat is often unremarkable and rather bland.  I like things like pork and lamb and duck.  Turkey sandwiches have never topped my list of favorites (although I have often favored them for health reasons).  I like my meatballs and burgers made out of beef and my sausages made out of pork.  (Does that sound slightly off color?)

I used to really hate turkey in most forms, but I guess turkey meat producers are doing a better job of putting out better tasting turkey products.  Still, the way I enjoy turkey most is a whole roasted turkey, covered in nice crispy skin, where I can chow down on drumsticks and pope's noses and cover everything in tasty gravy.  Otherwise, I can take it or leave it.

Then I met my husband who is sensitive to more robust meats.  It's all about the turkey for him.  The blandness is exactly what he loves and craves.  That has put me on a lifelong quest to make turkey meat taste more interesting.

So despite it being a week before Thanksgiving, I'm making a turkey dish.

I've never been fond of meatloaf in general, even the beef variety.  I think that's because I have spent my life eating your standard beef-breadcrumb-egg loaf that was dense and weird in texture and less-than-thrilling in flavor.  I know that meat loaf can be transformed by being made into meatballs as they sit simmering in tomato sauce soaking up moistness and flavor, so there have to be other ways to improve upon it.  Once I started cooking my own meatloaf, I found I could make it taste decent.

One of my favorite variations is my Feathers and Fruit Loaf, but as husband and I are trying to get away from the gluten, I have been keeping it out of rotation.

I saw an interesting recipe for a turkey and veggie meatball on a Paleo website.  I wanted to give it a try so I decided use it as an inspiration for a new meatloaf recipe.  My binder was almond flour instead of breadcrumbs (I have learned I just HATE gluten-free breadcrumbs).

Making this meatloaf was a comedy of errors.  I didn't realize when I was making it that I was out of eggs.  It was dark and rainy outside and I had no desire to get in the car and drive to the supermarket to buy eggs.  I did the unthinkable and walked down the street to CVS and bought the cheap eggs there.  I like to think of myself as an egg snob who always buys fresh, local eggs.  I felt so dirty buying CVS eggs.  I felt less dirty when I paid for them.  They were cheap to begin with, but I found out they were on sale.  Eggs for under $2?  I think I'm a convert! 

Then there was the issue of sides.  I made no vegetables because I felt the meatloaf was veggie-enriched enough.  I still wanted to serve more on the plate than just a slab of meatloaf.  I raided the cabinets for something usable.  I guess I cleaned out the cabinet pretty well in the past.  I had no rice or other grains.  All I had was a box of cornmeal.  Since I had some rice flour in the freezer, I made some gluten-free cornbread on the side.

The meatloaf was really good - for turkey meatloaf anyway.  It was flavorful and light-textured.  Husband has requested I make it more often, so it's a keeper.  I think I'll wait until a few weeks after Thanksgiving though.

Turkey-Veggie Meatloaf

1 package ground turkey
3 carrots, cut in chunks
1 medium onion, cut in chunks
10 ounces cremini mushrooms
2 Tbl tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 eggs
2 cups almond flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor puree carrots, onion, and mushrooms until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and add tomato paste, salt, and smoked paprika.  Taste for seasoning.

Mix in ground turkey and eggs.  Add almond flour.  You may want to adjust your amounts if you feel your mixture is too gloppy and needs more flour to absorb some of the liquid.

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.  (You can't free-form this meatloaf.  It's too wet.)  Place turkey mixture into the pan and bake for one hour.


The Blonde Duck said...

Beef is my absolute favorite, but I eat a lot of turkey burgers and meatloaf. Can't do the meatballs though. Ben hates ground beef, so I make most of the stuff for me...he's even pickier about meat. It has to be bland, boring and cooked to death so falling off the bone.

Lo said...

I've actually drawn the conclusion that heritage turkey is the only way to go. It's texturally superior to grocery store turkey, and it packs a much bigger flavor punch.

That say, I've never been a big fan of meatloaf (too much dull meatloaf as a child, I'd guess) -- though I've grown into liking it as an adult.

I actually have a fabulous turkey meatloaf recipe that incorporates apples. I serve it with a shiitake mushroom gravy... yum.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Lo - I had such issues when I made a heritage turkey. It didn't cook evenly, and once it was cooked it was shoe leather. I'm a little afraid to try one again. I might though if I ever host Thanksgiving again.

My Feathers and Fruit loaf uses apples (hence the "fruit"). It's a bit sweet though.

Emily said...

Hey, no judgement on the cheap eggs! The meat loaf looks good. So does the cornbread! It looks nice and light.

JonathanN said...

Great post – I’m going to Tweet about your blog.