Friday, October 17, 2014

meatloaf: it's what you make for someone you love

Friday, October 17, 2014

I have written many times about my love and adoration for Molly Wizenberg, her books, and her blog, Orangette.  My dear sister-in-law (so very dear, by the way) sent me a link to Orangette all the way back in 2008 (!!!!) and I've never looked back.  A Homemade Life, Molly's first book, sits well-worn and loved in a special, sparse shelf where I keep my most cherished books, ensconced between East of Eden and Absalom, Absalom!  I've read it many, many times, and neither the memoir itself nor the recipes have ever disappointed.

You can imagine my excitement when I learned that Molly would be writing a second book, this one centered around the origin and development of the restaurant she began with her husband, Brandon.  Ok, you probably don't have to imagine it.  It has not gone unmentioned on the old blog, even in the dearth of posts over the past two years.  I eagerly anticipated its arrival, and I was crushed to discover that I wouldn't be home when Molly visited the Bay Area for a book tour shortly after Delancey's release (it is, in case you have not guessed, named after the restaurant).

Enter my newest, sweetest friend J.  We happened to be at the same table at our MOPS group and enjoyed forging a new friendship in the early winter and through spring.  J had recently moved from Seattle, home of Molly Wizenberg, and was actually a frequent patron of Delancey!  After I set aside my jealousy, I quickly familiarized her (and probably frightened her) with my obsession.  Not only did she decide to read the book with me, thus making it our first book club choice together (we are now on our fourth book, and our club contains three other members), she also volunteered to attend the book signing, taking both our copies.  What a gem.

Delancey is a bit different from A Homemade Life, specifically because it is focused entirely on the restaurant and how it came about.  It's as much about how Molly and Brandon each dealt with such a huge project as it is a fascinating look at the crazy amount of labor, money, and inspiration that goes into building a successful restaurant.  As such, there aren't as many recipes.  I can attest, however, that the ones Molly chose to include are really, really wonderful.  The fact that she has turned me into the kind of person that would not only make meatloaf, but eat it and ENJOY it, is something I can still hardly believe.

Perhaps the least appetizing food photo in the history of the world. 

I'm fairly certain that I've written about my disdain for baked meat.  Even typing the phrase makes me cringe.  In my mind, any meat, particularly beef, needs the nice, browned crust that comes from being grilled or lightly fried in a pan.  The idea of meatloaf is almost mindblowing in its sheer grossness, in my opinion.  However, most red-blooded Americans find it to be an incredibly comforting, wholesome dish.  It reminds them of their mothers, or grandmothers.  It's the kind of thing people remember eating as they grew up.  My SH certainly likes it, and since my little guy will eat anything that is in the vicinity of ketchup I knew he would like it too.  Since I want to be the kind of mother who makes food he remembers, I figured I should give meatloaf a shot.  What better recipe to trust than one put forth by Molly Wizenberg?

I took one bite of my first completed meatloaf, quietly sizzling with warmth, juicy but not overwhelmed with tomato flavors, and I felt like I knew what the fuss was about.  Molly says the trick to her meatloaf is the fish sauce, which might be true, but all I know is that it is finally something I can enjoy eating too.  I've made it many times since, and I always feel such a satisfaction thinking that I've made something that my family is comforted by, that they love to eat.  I think that is what you're going for when you make a meatloaf.  I should make one for J next.  :)

Molly Wizenberg's Meatloaf, adapted from Delancey

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
About 1/3 cup whole milk, or enough to saturate the breadcrumbs
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 large eggs, beaten well
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup ketchup, plus 1/4 cup for topping the loaf

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
2. Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent but not brown.  Set aside.
3. Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl, and drizzle the milk over them, stirring to moisten.  Set aside.
4. Put the beef and pork in a large mixing bowl, breaking up any large hunks.  Add the salt, fish sauce, eggs, mustard, parsley, and 1/3 cup ketchup.  Add the onion and garlic.  Using your hand, squeeze the milk from the breadcrumbs; then add the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture (discard the milk).  Holding one hand in a claw shape, press it down into the ingredients, and briskly stir with your hand to mix evenly.  When the meat and seasonings are uniformly mixed, pick up the mixture and turn in over in the bowl, and briefly mix again (Turning it over helps to ensure that no ingredient settles to the bottom and clumps there.)
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet, and use your hands to pat and shape it into an approximately 9 by 5-inch loaf.  (If you find that the mixture is sticking to your hands, rinse them well and leave them slightly wet; the moisture will keep the meat from sticking).  Brush the loaf evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup ketchup.  (see photo above of undressed loaf)
6. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reaches 155 F to 160 F.  Cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.