A few weeks ago, Bob expressed an interest in having meat loaf. That's when I realized that years had passed since I plunged my hands into a bowl of raw ground meat and formed it into a loaf. Coincidentally, I just received a Cook's Illustrated cookbook with an interesting recipe for Glazed All-Beef Meat loaf. The recipe uses only beef, not the standard meat loaf mix of beef, pork, and veal. In true Cook's fashion, they found a way to produce a meat loaf with the same characteristics of one made with the traditional trio of meat. The difference was noticeable, in that the texture was different from any beef meat loaf I've ever eaten. It was moist and slightly unctuous, each slice holding together beautifully and all due to an unusual ingredient which I will reveal later in this post. Oh, and it was very tasty too.
As Cook's explained, meat loaf is often made with three meats, each lending a particular quality to the finished dish. Beef and pork each have their own distinctive flavors and fat content. As for the veal, it contributes gelatin, which acts to retain moisture and gives a unctuous mouth feel. Cook's solution to the absence of the veal is to add a small amount of unflavored gelatin to the meat loaf, which produced a very nice result, strange as it may seem.
The Jack cheese was frozen after it was grated, and then crumbled into smaller pieces before it was added. This provides another type of moisture in the meat loaf, but the small size of the cheese means that it's distributed into the meat better and doesn't produce pockets of oozey cheese in the finished meat loaf.
This was a very easy recipe, except for one thing. The recipe said for me to form it into a loaf 10" by 6". That was easy enough, but they also said it should be 2 inches tall. I wasn't able to accomplish that no matter how hard I tried. The recipe also advises using aluminum foil, with holes poked in it, resting on top of a cooling rack. This was a great idea, because it kept the meatloaf nice and clean.
Finally, after the meat loaf was cooked, I glazed it with a nifty sauce of ketchup, cider vinegar, coriander, and tabasco. I also noticed that almost no juices were in the pan, which meant the gelatin had absorbed them.
I did notice that the texture of the meat loaf was much better than previous all beef recipes I had made in the past. It wasn't just moist, there was a luxurious feel to it in the mouth. Each slice held together and was easy to cut, something that doesn't always happen with meat loaf. All in all, it was an interesting recipe.
Glazed All-Beef Meat Loaf (Cook's Illustrated)
3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , grated on small holes of box grater (about 1 cup)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 medium onion (about 1 cup)
1 medium rib celery mined (About 1/2 cup)
1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons minced parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 Lb. ground sirloin
1 Lb. ground beef chuck (Or use 85% Ground beef.)
21 saltines, crushed
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread cheese on plate and place in freezer until ready to use. Prepare baking pan by folding a piece of aluminum foil into a 10"X6" rectangle. Place it on a cooling rack placed inside a baking pan with sides. Using a skewer, poke holes in the luminum foil every 1/2 inch. Spray the foil with non-stick vegetable spray before putting the meat loaf on it.
2. Heat butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming; add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add tomato juice. Cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits from pan, until thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside to cool.
3. Whisk broth and eggs in large bowl until combined. Sprinkle gelatin over liquid and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, mustard, saltines, parsley, salt, pepper, and onion mixture. Crumble frozen cheese into coarse powder and sprinkle over mixture. Add ground beef; mix gently with hands until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Transfer meat to foil rectangle and shape into 10 by
6-inch oval about 2 inches high. Smooth top and edges of meat loaf with moistened spatula. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf reads 135 to 140 degrees, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and turn on broiler.
4. While meat loaf cooks, combine ingredients for glaze in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Spread half of glaze evenly over cooked meat loaf with rubber spatula; place under broiler and cook until glaze bubbles and begins to brown at edges, about 5 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and spread evenly with remaining glaze; place back under broiler and cook until glaze is again bubbling and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes more. Let meat loaf cool about 20 minutes before slicing.