Thursday, November 24, 2005

Wandering around the 'net for as long as I have you come across a strange collection of useful and less than useful sites. One of these sites, one that I came across 5 or 6 years ago, was the home of Getty Images. Now for those that don't know, Getty Images is a company that sells images used in marketing and mass media. They have millions of photographs. And I mean millions. The best part is that they are all searchable, albeit in a less than print perfect form. But they still make for entertaining surfing.

This is what I got after I searched for 'meatloaf'. (Remember to clarify between 'Meat Loaf (Named Person)' and 'Meat Loaf (Meat Dish)')

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A little while ago my friend Pasta sent me a short note about his first experience making a 'loaf. Since he lives in Colorado, a state that has a strong history with the cattle industry and deep in the centre of the US of A, the home of meatloaf, I thought he may have gotten by purely on karma and osmosis. Boy, was I wrong!

Hey Pete:

I hope to have a story with a better outcome for you next time:

Sex has been said to be like pizza. Even when its bad, its still not that bad. I assure you this does not hold true for meatloaf.

I made a meatloaf tonight from a recipe that I found on the web. It was a Martha Stewart Recipe. It was a meatloaf gone wrong.

I would love to tell you that Martha's meatloaf recipe was a no frills dish that she and her fellow cons may have enjoyed some Thursday evening, a dish that was more for hiding a file than for delivering true nourishment. Alas, the recipe was from 2000, so I need to take at least some of the blame. I'm not sure what went wrong, but what did go wrong, went very wrong. It was not overcooked. It had a nice glaze. The consistency was not too bad. So - I can't really tell you what exactly was wrong with it, other than something was. And this was not an isolated opinion. A frozen pizza was quickly de-thawed for the rest of the family. I however was not as quick to abandon the meal. I figured - its cooked I may learn something from it. What I learned was that this meatloaf was ONLY a vehicle for mustard - and frankly not a very good one at that. I actually had to abandon the mustard for a stronger smokier barbecue sauce, and then just had to throw in the towel. Perhaps our kind host can help me with a simple recipe that minimizes the chance of me screwing it up.

Well, not knowing exactly what steps transpired really ties my hands, but I will give it a go.

According to Dame Melanie Barnard, whose cookbook I praised elsewhere on this 'blog, meatloaves consist or "four categories or ingredients: a main protein, a starch, a binder, and seasonings." You would be hard pressed to find a recipe that doesn't fit this template and I am pretty sure Martha's didn't stray too far from it. What I am about to share are the key tips to each of the four categories. Hopefully, the mistake will be obvious.

Main protein - The key is using a fairly lean fresh (not frozen) selection of meat. Extra lean and/or expensive cuts are generally pointless as they don't add anything except pretension and a little fat is needed for flavour and moistness.

Starch - The starch makes the 'loaf juicy, softer and more flavourful by absorbing the released juices from cooking protein. That is its purpose. The best choice is bread crumbs/chunks from a 1 to 2 day old loaf. Stale or old bread crumbs can actually make a loaf taste off, especially breadcrumbs kept in the freezer for a long time. Freezer burn has a very strong flavour.

Binder - The binder is what keeps the starch and protein together and not crumbling apart in the mixing process. Most starches are quite dry and proteins only release juices when cooked. The binder is best if it is a bland flavour carrying agent like eggs or dairy product (ie milk, yoghurt, or, god forbid, cream). It is there to keep the starch from sucked all the mosture out of the protein as well as keeping the whole package together in its loaf shape.

Seasonings - A lot of spices are best used fresh. If adding vegetables (ie carrots, onions, celery, etc) it is best to cook them lightly before adding them to the mixture. The cooking brings out more flavoured moisture. Dried spices more than a year old may have lost a lot of their flavour. One key thing is that seasonings should be used "with an assertive hand" as they truly make the loaf.

Also, if the recipe used was the one I linked to then be warned that chili sauce means something different now than it did even a few years ago. Chili sauce doesn't mean the Asian variety of textured hot sauce, but more like the Heinz Ketchup-version mixed with chili and peppers. It isn't inordently spicy.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you try again. Oh, and I miss you too Mark.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

This has been the longest time I have gone without a post. I apologize to any and all that still read this drivel. I have been uninspired and unhealthy, but that is no excuse. I sound continue with my quest.

In that vein, I do have a lot to catch up on. There are still a number of ideas I wanted to write about, plus a couple of blurps sent to me. Not in any chronological, here is the first of what I hope is many. This was sent to me by Janis, who I think is in Alaska, but who really knows:

Dear meatloaf officionado,

Recently I was at the dentist, sitting back enjoying my nitris (sp) 'treatment', when I began contemplating the good ol' days when teeth were pulled, not fixed. I was pondering this because I was questioning who the delightful person was who invented nitris. Then it came to me that it certainly wasn't a dentist of long ago since he was happy to just pull the offending tooth. Which then led me down the path that many people had a mouth full of gums, not teeth. My final conclusion was that it was during this early dentistry time frame that meatloaf was discovered! Makes perfect sense. Back then people were 'meat and potatoes' folks and without teeth the couldn't enjoy their meat! Some kindly grandma, most likely, was the savior of the day. Now ketsup.....that's another thing.

I actually found your e-mail by trying to find the 'real' origin of meatloaf. Unfortunately, I didn't find one I liked any better than my explaination. Bon apetite !

Thanks Janis!

I am not sure that this is the true origin of meatloaf, but I am really excited by your use of external stimuli to try and get to the truth. Nitrous oxide is some crazy stuff and, although, I try and steer clear, it seems that meatloaf is as good a thing to think about in a dentists chair. Well done.