Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

Hey, y’all!  I’d like to thank everyone who’s been voting and spreading the word about the Best Healthy Eating Blog competition over at Shape.com.  You’re all so wonderful!  Just a clarification, though – it won’t block you from voting more than once, but it won’t count it; if you vote a second time, when it takes you to the results page, scroll up to the top of the list and you’ll see a message saying, “Thank you, we have already counted your vote.”  I’ve dropped to 7th place (not that I ever expected to win), but everyone that I’m ahead of, I’m ahead of by a comfortable margin.  I really appreciate your support – there’s 10 more days of voting, so if you can continue to spread the word of the only paleo/primal/real food blog in the running, I’ll be ever so grateful.

Sorry there was no post on Friday, but I spent the day playing one of my most important roles:  Grandma.  No photos, sorry; I took my camera but I just wanted to spend time doing the grandparent thing rather than documenting it, if you get my meaning.  Not to worry, though – The G Man is going to spend an entire week at the Sushi Bar the week following Thanksgiving while his Mommy takes a trip, and you can bet I’ll find plenty of opportunities to follow him around while saying, “G – look at Grandma and smile, honey!!”

But now to the business at hand.  You know, it was warm and sunny (albeit windy) in Cincinnati this weekend, but when we returned to Podunk it was wet, dreary and cold…all part and parcel of autumn in northeast Ohio.  I had a hankering for something resembling Chinese food last night, but it was clearly meatloaf weather, so I threw this together.  I have to admit, it was pretty darn good, too, as were the side dishes, one of which I’ll likely post later this week.  It doesn’t take any longer than a traditional meatloaf, and it is reminiscent of good old Chinese-American Sweet and Sour without the fake bright red color.  If you need an endorsement – The Young One gobbled it down in about 7.3 seconds.

Note:  I made two smaller meatloaves to shorten the cooking time; you can make one large meatloaf if you wish.  Also, if you want to make it a little more “authentic” (although there’s precious little that’s authentic about Chinese-American Sweet and Sour), use ground pork instead of ground beef.  Also, if you cannot find coconut sugar, use an equal amount of honey or – as a last resort – sucanat (evaporated cane juice).

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

serves 6 to 8

2 pounds ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon lard or butter
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup coconut sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Melt the lard or butter in a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together the tomato sauce, coconut sugar, apple cider vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, salt, pepper, onion/bell pepper mixture and ¼ cup of the tomato sauce mixture, mixing well with your hands. Form it into two loaves and place them in a shallow glass baking pan. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

While the meatloaves are baking, pour the remaining tomato sauce mixture into the skillet you cooked the onion and bell pepper in. Cook it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced by about half and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and set aside.

After 30 minutes, remove the meatloaves from the oven. Glaze them with the thickened tomato sauce mixture and return to the oven. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Allow the meatloaves to rest for 5 to 7 minutes before slicing and serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 352 calories, 25.8g total fat, 109.8mg cholesterol, 546.2mg sodium, 439.8mg potassium, 6.6g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 5.5g sugar, 21.5g protein.

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Texas Style Chili, Revisited

Remember how I said I was going to look at some of my old recipes and retrofit them to suit our new way of eating?  Turns out, going through the cookbook files, I already had begun.  And with the logical choice.

In January 2009, I not only posted my recipe for chili, but damn near wrote a treatise on the subject.

At the end of Goodfellas when Ray Liota’s character enters the Federal witness protection program and is relocated far from his home (one presumes NYC), he laments that he asked for spaghetti with marinara sauce at a restaurant and received egg noodles with ketchup.

I can relate, for the first time I ordered chili in Ohio, I received tomato soup with ground beef and beans in it.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been too terribly surprised; I honestly thought I’d gone beyond surprised when connecting through the airport at Cincinnati and saw that these nutty Ohioans eat their version of chili on a bed of spaghetti.

Hey – we Texans take our chili very seriously.

I went on to discuss not only what should and should not go into chili (yes to beans, no to ground beef and poultry), but what to eat with chili (yes to corn tortillas, cornbread, saltines and Fritos, no to flour tortillas and any cracker that’s not a saltine).  For the most part, I stand by my rules for what goes into chili – yes, even the beans, although I don’t always include them and when I do they’re properly prepared (pre-soaked in an acidic medium) and in far fewer quantities than pre-paleo/primal/real food/whatever you want to call it.  But the accompaniments have sadly gone the way of the dodo, although my Savory Almond Flour Muffins are a fine replacement for cornbread.

At any rate, autumn is upon us in most areas of the country and it’s a fine time to revisit what is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best damn chili outside of the great state of Texas.  And I have to tell ya, adapting this recipe was hard work, folks.

I took out the beans.

Texas Style Chili

Texas Style Chili

serves 6

2 pounds chuck or round steak, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons beef tallow
3 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium roasted green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large Poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
4 to 6 cups cups beef stock, preferably homemade

Heat the tallow in a large, preferably cast iron, Dutch oven or stock pot. Season the beef with salt and pepper, and brown in the fat. Add the onion, cooking until the onion begins to soften. Add the peppers and garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, paprika and oregano, cooking until fragrant, another 1 – 2 minutes.

Add enough of the stock to cover the mixture well; bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the liquid is boiling away too quickly.  Once the meat is fork tender, continue to cook, uncovered, until mixture thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.

Garnish with cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole, as desired.

Nutrition (per serving): 456 calories, 30.7g total fat, 104.3mg cholesterol, 647.4mg sodium, 1287.1mg potassium, 12.4g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 35.2g protein.

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Lenguas

Warning:  This posts contains graphic images.  If you’re squeamish, come back tomorrow, when I’ll be all peace, love and farmer’s markets.

In the meantime – Chuck, this post is for you.  Ask, and ye shall (eventually) receive.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that since we’ve been buying our meat from local farmers, in bulk, we’ve become a bit more adventurous with our meals.  And I’m glad, because some of this stuff I’d never have thought to eat – mostly because you can’t find things neck bones and oxtails and marrow bones at your average grocery store – is also some of the tastiest stuff I’ve ever eaten.  Really.

That being said, I was still a bit nervous about cooking and eating this:

Yes, that would be a beef tongue.  And yes, it’s a tad…well, gross-looking.  Although I have to say far less gross-looking than I expected after researching just how to cook one of these bad boys, and I have my friends at Whitefeather Meats to thank for that – they did an excellent job of trimming the base of the tongue of all the gristle, bone and generally disgusting-looking stuff, something I was going to make Beloved do not looking forward to.

Now, having said all that, I have to tell you that gross-looking or not, it is absurdly simple to cook.  Nearly every recipe I’ve found, including those in my beloved 1972 copy of The Joy of Cooking, calls for boiling it whole, then dressing it up.  So that’s what I did – I dropped it in a large pot of boiling salted water and an hour later pulled it out, then that sucker peeled just like a banana.

Hey – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In all fairness, once cooked and sliced (or diced, as in this recipe), it looked far more appetizing:

See, isn’t that better?  It looks pretty much like a roast when sliced, and tastes just like one too – a very tender and flavorful roast.  It was, in fact, quite delicious.  Next time, this is where the preparation will end, aside from a sauce or condiment of some sort (I found a Thai preparation of beef tongue I’m just itching to make).  However, we made this into a classic Mexican dish – Lenguas – so I diced and spiced the tongue up before throwing it into my version of a taco shell (the leaves from a heart of romaine) and topping it with a little Corn and Black Bean Salsa, since we had all that corn laying around.

Oh, and did I mention that this 2-pound grass-fed beef tongue would have sold commercially for just over $3?  And if you need any further convincing, The Picky Young One went back for thirds, and that was eating just the lettuce, tongue and cheese.

Note:  You can, of course, substitute the corn and black bean salsa with something grain- and legume-free.

Lenguas

Lenguas

serves 8

2 pounds beef tongue
3 quarts water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup water
16 leaves romaine lettuce
4 ounces manchego or cheddar cheese, shaved
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup sour cream, (optional)
1 cup corn and black bean salsa (optional)

Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil with the tablespoon of kosher salt in a large stock pot. Add the tongue.  Return to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer. Cover and cook just until tender, about an hour.

Drain the tongue and allow to rest just until cool enough to handle – the skin should peel away easily from the base end.

Dice the meat and place in a wide, shallow skillet with the onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the tongue is cooked through and the water has evaporated.

Divide the seasoned tongue between the romaine leaves and top with the tomato, cheese, sour cream and salsa (if using).  Serve immediately.

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Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Farmer’s Market Meatloaf

I’ll be honest and tell you up front that I nicked this idea from my friend AndreaAnna (who is an excellent cook) at Life as a Plate – meatloaf made entirely with ingredients from the farmer’s market.  For her recipe, it was entirely true; in mine, it’s more the result of what was in our freezer, meat-wise, what was in my refrigerator from the grocery store as well as the farmers market and what the hell was I going to do with the 473 garlic scapes I received in our CSA box?

As for the garlic scapes, the answer to that questions is, “Put them in damn near everything I cook until they’re gone.”

Garlic scapes are the flower stems that garlic plants produce before the bulbs mature. They are often removed to encourage the plant’s growth into larger bulbs, and when harvested while they are young and tender, the scapes are delicious.  They have a much milder garlic flavor than the actual bulb that becomes quite mellow and a bit sweet when cooked.

At any rate, you can use anything you have lying around in your fridge if you think it will taste good in a meatloaf.  I’ll probably make this again this week – not only do 473 garlic scapes take a while to use up, but Beloved declared this the best meatloaf I’ve ever cooked.  Of course, he loves meatloaf and tends to say that every time I make it, no matter the variation.  But, hey!  I’ll take all the compliments I can get, so for now this is the best meatloaf I’ve ever cooked.

Farmer’s Market Meatloaf

Farmer’s Market Meatloaf

serves 6 to 8, or Beloved for dinner and lunch the next day

2 pounds ground chuck, preferably grass-fed
2 medium shallots, peeled
6 garlic scapes
1/2 large red bell pepper
8 baby carrots
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Peel and quarter the shallots; quarter the bell pepper half as well. Toss all of the vegetables into the food processor and pulse until they are all finely chopped.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl; using your hands, mix well then transfer to a 9″ x 9″ baking dish and pat into a loaf shape.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until cooked through but still moist. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Hanger Steak with Onion Wine Sauce

Well, I’m feeling kinda sheepish – after not one but two posts where I bitched and moaned mentioned how Tastespotting refused to publish my photographs, two were accepted in the course of 24 hours.

I has some mad foods photographin’ skillz.

(I SO hope you are NOT taking me seriously.  Please – I’m not even batting .500 with these people.)

Anyhoo.  Hanger steak.  I’d heard of it – it’s popular in restaurants – but I’d never seen it, cooked it or eaten it.  In fact, if our butcher hadn’t slipped this into one of our boxes when we picked up Chuck II (it was grass-fed, but not from our steer judging by the packaging) I’d have never thought to try to find one.

Oh, I didn’t know what I was missing.

This is a seriously good cut of meat.  According to Wikipedia “A hanger steak is a cut of beef steak prized for its flavor. Derived from the diaphragm of a steer, it typically weighs about 1 to 1.5 lbs (450 to 675g). In the past it was sometimes known as ‘butcher’s steak’ because butchers would often keep it for themselves rather than offer it for sale.”  Good heavens, I know why – properly cooked, this is about as tasty as they come.

Hanger steak is best cooked quickly over high heat to a nice medium-rare, especially when grass-finished; over-cooking will leave you with a dry, tough, chewy mess.  There is a long, tough and inedible membrane that runs the length of the steak unless your butcher was considerate enough to remove it for you; the recipe gives simple instructions for removing it.

Hanger Steak with Onion Wine Sauce

Hanger Steak with Onion Wine Sauce

serves 4 to 6

1 to 2 tablespoon tallow or other cooking fat
1 1/2 pounds hanger steak
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme, finely crumbled

Locate the tough membrane running the length of the steak. With a small, sharp knife detach the steak on each side; discard the membrane. Cut the steak into 6 to 8 smaller pieces.

Melt the tallow in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. Place the steaks into the pan, and quickly sear them on all sides. Continue to cook, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare – a moment or two longer for more well done (remember the steaks will continue to cook while they rest). Transfer the steaks to a warm dish, cover them with foil and allow them to rest while you prepare the sauce.

Reduce the heat to medium, add a tablespoon of butter and the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until it boils away, then add the wine and thyme. Bring the wine to a boil and reduce it by half. Remove pan from heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

To serve, cut each steak against the grain into thin slices; fan the slices out on a dinner plate. Drizzle the warm sauce over the steak and serve immediately.

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