Sunday, February 03, 2013

Meat and Potatoes--on the go

A friend and neighbor recently had a hip replacement, and during his early convalescence, his wife wore herself ragged caring for him and sleeping on the couch so she could hear if he needed something at night. Friends brought food, and I volunteered to supply dinner one night. By that time, Joe was well enough—dressed and walking around—that they insisted I stay and share the meal with them. So, after ascertaining that they were lamb eaters (not everyone in Texas is), I fixed a lamb meatloaf. I grew up on lamb and love it, especially a cold roast lamb sandwich the next day. This meatloaf makes equally good sandwiches. With all courtesy and acknowledgement to the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen Web site, I present the recipe here. It’s from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook (1975). If you haven’t read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf novels you should—Wolfe was a gourmand who planned meals with his chef, Fritz, and considered murder a distraction from life’s primary purpose—eating good food.

Here’s the recipe:
1-1/2 lbs. ground lamb (fortunately I live near a wonderful gourmet market that always has ground lamb; if not, you can ask the butcher to grind it from cheaper cuts but not the leg; my mom would have ground it at home—having Dad operate the grinder—but I don’t have a grinder.)

1//2 lb. ground pork (not sure why that is there, since lamb has enough fat on its own, but I didn’t quarrel)
2/3 c. bread crumbs
¼ c. chopped parsley
¼ c. chopped shallots
½ tsp. dried basil (I didn’t have any so defrosted a pesto cube and threw it in)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
½ c. grated Parmesan
½ c. dry white wine
½ c. melted butter

I bought the lamb and pork on a Thursday but wasn’t slated to serve the meatloaf until the following Wed., so of course I planned to freeze the meat. Then it dawned on me that since I was cooking that evening for my kids’ arrival, I should go ahead and make the meatloaf and then freeze it. Worked fine.
Combine lamb, pork, eggs, bread crumbs (homemade in a processor is fine—you can also do the parsley and shallots in the processor), salt, pepper, cheese, and wine. Wash your hands carefully, dig in, and mix thoroughly. Shape in an oval loaf.
Brush loaf with melted butter (I forgot to do this, didn’t miss it at all). Bake on a rack in a shallow baking pan—you need the rack so the fat can drip off the lamb. Place in oven pre-heated to 350. Bake 1-1/2 hours. Let stand before slicing.

To go with this, I experimented with a potato trick I found on Pinterest:
Peel one raw russet or Idaho potato per person and thinly slice almost but not all the way through—hard to do and I cut through a couple of times. Drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. You can add garlic powder, or as I did, some herbal seasoning. Bake at 425 for 40 min. The potatoes come out beautifully golden and crusty. When Mary took the last bite, an end piece, she said, “This is going to be noisy but so delicious.”

To do these two dishes simultaneously, you really need two ovens because of the varying temperatures. At 350, potatoes don’t brown; at 425 meatloaf dries out.

I served a salad that night, but here’s the dish I’d round that meal out with:

Sauteed zucchini
Shred about one small zucchini per person.
Melt 2 parts butter to one part olive oil in skillet—go light because you don’t want a greasy vegetable when it should be crisp.
Sauté minced shallots or scallions until soft; then add grated zucchini.
Season with salt and pepper. I didn’t do this but I think a hint of lemon would have been the perfect final addition.
Optional: stir in some crème fraiche or heavy cream and simmer until absorbed—but who needs the calories? Besides, I liked the crisp cleanness of the zucchini.
This is a variation of a Julia Child recipe.

 Enjoy a hearty meal…and love those leftovers.

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