How did I arrive at the ripe old age of...however old I am...never to have made a meat loaf. Really. Before last night I had never made a meat loaf. That great staple of American comfort food completely slipped out of the radius of my vision for home dinners. Maybe I didn't think that meat loaf was very exciting. I now know that I was seriously over looking its potential. My epiphany is thanks to Allison Ehri Kreitler of Fine Cooking magazine, who has broken down the process of meat loaf-making to a mix and match formula of ingredients paired with a template of techniques. And really, like any good cooking, it is all about good ingredients.
That being said, if you are thinking of picking up a package of "pink-on -the-outside-gray-on-the-inside," hormone, antibiotic and corn stuffed beef that you get on a styreofoam tray at the supermarket, I implore you to reconsider. Every March I tip the scale of balanced nutrition towards more meat laden dishes. Perhaps it was all that Lenten meat deprivation I had growing up. ( Just kidding, Mom!) As you can see I didn't exactly opt for a Sunday eggplant roast. So now, let's talk turkey for a minute. If you live in or near New York note that Dipaola's Turkey farm in New Jersey is probable the only reason I eat turkey on a day that isn't Thanksgiving. Did you get that? Dipaola's Turkey. It will change the way you think about turkey. You will find no over stuffed, dry, bleach white turkey breasts here. For this recipe I chose their sweet fennel, Italian style turkey sausage.
Then there are the flavor boosters, i.e. well chosen aromatics and spices that can really make this dish interesting. Once you have all those flavors packed a perfectly shaped rectangular brick, you need to hold all those juices in so the meat does not dry out. Kreitler recommends wrapping it in bacon or glazing it with honey or ketchup.
Turkey and Fennel Sausage Meatloaf
1 red onion chopped fine
1/2 a leek (green parts included) chopped
1 small fennel bulb chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 slices of bread (in this case I used 3 slices of whole grain and one sourdough which just happened to be what I had available)
1 cup of milk
2 lbs. loose ground Dipaola's sweet Italian turkey sausage
1/3 of a cup olives pitted and chopped
1/2 a cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese (I may have went over. I am always a little heavy handed when it comes to cheese.)
1/2 a teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt (I used a finely ground sea salt because more often than not that is what I have available.)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons honey
- Heat your olive oil and sautee` your aromatics, meaning your onion, garlic, fennel and leek. Stir until they sweat, soften and then become translucent. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
- In a shallow dish, soak your bread slices in milk, flipping once. Lightly squeeze out excess milk. Chop the bread fine and add to the bowl with the cooked aromatics.
- Position your oven rack in the center and preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Add meat and eggs to a large bowl and proceed to add all remaining ingredients including bread and sauteed aromatics.
- Thoroughly mix by kneading the ingredients together with wet hands. Wet hands will keep the the mixture from sticking to your fingers.
- Line the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish with parchment paper. In the center of the parchment you want to mold the meat into a rectangular brick shape approximately 10 inches by 4 inches.
- Using a basting brush, glazed the meat with honey.
- Bake until the center reaches 160 degrees. To check use and instant read thermometer and place in the center of the meat. should bake approximately 45 to 55 minutes.
The result of this recipe was seriously delicious. If I were to do it again I think I might swap out half of the turkey sausage misxture for plain ground turkey (from Dipaola's, of course.) to let some of the other flavors shine. If you try that before I do, let me know how it turns out.