Friday, February 10, 2017

A Hearty Loaf

Meat loaf is one of those winter comfort foods that can be tailored to everyone and anyone's tastes.It can be subtly flavored or highly spiced. It can made with a variety of meats and even non-meats. Best of all any novice home chef can make it with confidence and ease.

It was the subject of an article written by Kim Severson in Wednesday's New York Times Food section.. as she also celebrated a new cookbook,Meat Loaf In Every Oven Batali'sfrom Mom's To Mario BataliA . It's all about the meat loaf and was written by longtime Times and Food writer, Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauser. The idea came from Mr. Bruni as these friends gathered recipes from all home chefs such as Chuck Schumer and Mr. Bruni's mother, Leslie, The last is the Cadillac of meat loaf recipes.It's probably the recipe most of us grew up on - seasoned with onions and topped with tomato sauce. Other recipes have a definite Japanese and Chinese vibe along with an Arab vibe, thanks to switching out the beef for lamb and including harissa, the fiery chile paste from North Africa.  Their book also includes a chicken (!) one that  tastes like a buffalo wings with a hit of blue cheese dressing. Poultry actually is good for the dish, especially the dark's the perfect canvas for highlighting other flavors such as fennel or even eggplant, according to Ms. Steinhauser.

Home chef's can also make individual fried loafs. My great aunt, Manya Mary, my Nonna's older sister was known for hers. These could also be also be turned into meatballs which her Neopolitan husband loved (as many of you know, we're Piedmontese and have our own spin on it). It starts out with ground beef that's been hollowed by a spoon or thumb. and then each mini loaf or meatball gets a quarter of an hardboiled egg each along with an equally sized piece of mozzarella. A slice of  prosciutto is also added and them they're browned on all sides in olive oil. My prozia or great aunt served them with tomato sauce. If you don;t want them fried then, make them in mini loaf pans (Kohl's and Wal-Mart has these) and serve with a side of tomato sauce. Vegans can also get their loaves on  with the use of vegan meat crumbles from Morningstar Farms. Binding is important here because the soy doesn;t have the adherent fat that real meat has,Using egg or an egg substitute is crucial in creating a shape that will stick together and not fall apart when sliced.

Meat loaf is the ultimate winter comfort food. No matter how you make it, whether stuffed with cheese , egg and prosciutto or laced with harissa , it's still a cozy tasty , stomach warming slice. It's the perfect dish on a cold, snowy day.

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