Sunday, August 17, 2008

Meatloaf and Ratatouille

Tonight was a scrumptious dinner. Since Lee and I share a car right now and he works all day on Sunday and takes the car, I'm usually at home all day. I've decided to use Sundays to make some of those more special dinners that take longer to make (lasagna, roast dinner, etc...).

Today I chose to make meatloaf and ratatouille. It was kind of a repeat from when Lee's family came to visit a couple of weeks ago. I didn't take a picture of it then, but it worked out because today I was actually able to make it better!

Since I raved so much about the ratatouille when I made it for Recipes to Rival, how could it be better, you ask?

Well, I made it with mostly farm-fresh ingredients. I've fallen in love with the farmer's market. I wish I lived in an area that had one year-round, but they end here in October. Also, it won't be as easy to get to it now that school's starting back up because the market is only there from 9:30-2.

This past week I managed to find Japanese eggplant at the farmer's market! There is an Asian family that has a farm and they go to the farmer's market on Wednesdays and Fridays. They have some great Asian ingredients that maybe harder to find. Of course, when I saw the Japanese eggplant, I knew I HAD to make ratatouille again with the proper ingredients! Well, not only was I able to get the eggplant at the farmer's market, there was yellow squash and zucchini that were the same diameter as the eggplant (bonus!!!!) and there were Roma tomatoes! I bought fresh-picked onions and had some fresh garlic as well. I'm not sure the eggplant made a big difference, but the freshness of the ingredients certainly made a HUGE difference in the taste.

The meatloaf was incredible! I first made this meatloaf when Lee's family came. I love Tyler Florence and have had his cookbook Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen for years. I have loved the recipes I've tried. He is all about fresh ingredients and making amazing food simple. This recipe is a variation of his father's meatloaf, so it's called "Dad's Meatloaf with Tomato Relish."

Mr. Florence was trying to be sneaky!!! The day before Lee's family came, I was watching Tyler's Ultimate and it happened to be an episode that featured his meatloaf recipe. Well, he changed the recipe since my cookbook was published! In the cookbook, he uses just ground beef for the meat. In the show he used ½ ground pork and ½ ground beef. Also, instead of using plain breadcrumbs, he says to use 3 slices of bread soaked in milk. He mentioned he learned that trick in Italy while learning to make meatballs and he has started doing that in all the meatballs and meatloaves he makes.

Now, Tyler's recipes was fantastic as it was. In fact, in the book he says it was one of the biggest hits of the Cafeteria Restaurant in New York where he was the chef. The problem I had was the amount of liquid that seeped from the meatloaf while it cooked. I don't have a loaf pan (well, I have one, but it's 16" long and I thought that was a bit much for the meatloaf!), so I layed it out on a sheet pan. I watched Tyler do that on his show, and his meatloaf turned out fine, so I felt confident in doing it that way myself.

My meatloaf turned out flat. Luckily meatloaf isn't big in England and his family didn't know better. It also still tasted fantastic, but I knew it wasn't as it should have been.

I ended up making the recipe a little bit differently today. Instead of using all milk-soaked bread crumbs, I used half-soaked and half-unsoaked. The recipe called for white bread crumbs, I made a special effort to get white bread last time, but this time I just used the wheat I had on hand and it was fine. I actually think the stronger wheat bread was better. I also rigged the pan a little differently. I pulled up the aluminum foil to make a pocket for the meatloaf and mounded the meatloaf a little higher than I had before.

These precautions worked great and the meatloaf had perfect shape after cooking. The unsoaked breadcrumbs helped a lot with the moisture of the meatloaf. It still had plenty of moisture, but it didn't leak as much as it had the first time.

One of the best parts of this meal? Mashed potatoes are always a must with meatloaf, but the ratatouille really complements the tomato-pepper relish. The flavors just match so well.

You can get the recipe for the ratatouille from clicking on the link above, but here is the recipe (as I made it) for the meatloaf. Since I changed it from Tyler's I'm not using the "Dad's" part of the name, since my dad would certainly never make anything with onions!

Meatloaf with Tomato-Pepper Relish
Serves 4

For the Relish:
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 red bell pepper
1 tomato
3 tbsp dried parsley flakes
6 ounces ketchup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

For the Meatloaf:
1-1.25 lbs. mealoaf mix (ground beef, ground pork, ground veal)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 slice bread
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 strips bacon

  1. Put olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and bay leaf until onions start to become transluscent.
  2. Core, seed, and finely dice the red bell pepper. Toss in skillet.
  3. Take tomato and slice in half, remove the seeds and core. Finely dice the tomato and add to skillet.
  4. Add in the parsley, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Give a good stir and cook for about 5 minutes, or until flavors mix.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Remove 3/4 cup of the relish and set aside in measuring cup or small bowl to cool a bit.
  7. In a small bowl, place a slice of bread and pour just enough milk in for the bread to soak it up.
  8. In a separate bowl, combine the meat, egg, thyme and 3/4 cup tomato-pepper relish (as long as it's cool enough for your hands to touch it, go ahead and add it). Be careful to lightly blend with hands, don't smash.
  9. Remove the bread from milk, drain any excess. Break the bread slice into pieces and add to mix. Slowly add in dried bread crumbs until there is just enough for soaking up moisture.
  10. Place meatloaf in loaf pan, or aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Form into a loaf shape. Lightly press top of loaf to make a smooth, flatter surface.
  11. Spoon 1/4 cup tomato-pepper relish over the top.
  12. Lay the 2 strips bacon lengthwise over meatloaf.
  13. Place in oven and cook for 45-60 minutes or until bacon is crisp and the meatloaf is fully cooked.
  14. Heat up remaining tomato-pepper relish and serve over the meatloaf.


Made by Lena