Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Best Meatloaf Ever — With Roasted Purple Carrots

I never thought I would choose to start my blog with something like a recipe for meatloaf. Growing up I hated meatloaf, and I haven't had it in years, or made it...ever. But it all makes sense when you hear why I chose to make it: 90% lean ground beef was REDUCED FOR QUICK SALE at the grocery store, priced right at $1/lb. $1 for a dinner for two, with leftovers for at least two lunches, is an unbeatable deal...but what to make? I almost always choose ground turkey over ground beef, and often chickpeas over turkey, so I wasn't sure what to do. But fate had it's own plans and tonight I stumbled across what may or may not be...

The Best Meatloaf Ever! with Roasted Organic Purple Carrots on the side
(Scroll past photos for full recipe. Meatloaf recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

What makes this meatloaf the best ever? It is a wonderfully crumbly, moist loaf full of savory umami flavors and a lovely contrasting sweetness from the carrots and the glaze.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.
First, prep the carrots. You will need 1 bunch of (preferably purple!) carrots.
How are purple carrots different from regular carrots, you ask?
Well...they're prettier, for one!
Remove the tops from the carrots.

Purple carrots have a thicker skin than regular carrots - almost like the skin of a beet. They're a lot... hairier, too. Peel off any bits that are covered in fuzzy roots, and give all of the carrots a good scrub to remove any dirt.

Set two fully peeled carrots aside for the meatloaf. Then, cut the carrots into even pieces - about three inches long by a half inch wide.

Toss the carrots in a small roasting pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Ready for the oven!
Add a heaping half cup of breadcrumbs to the loaf pan you will be using for the meatloaf, and put it in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn't burn.

Dice two slices of bacon (to make it easier, cut the slices so they are half as long, then stack). Place in saute pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fat has rendered out and meat is becoming crispy.  Dice the two carrots you set aside and add them to the pan. Add one half of a diced yellow onion, and three minced cloves of garlic.

Season with pepper and just a wee pinch of salt. Saute for 8-10 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Add 1 TBSP tomato paste and raise heat to medium-high. Cook 1-2 minutes, then add about 1/2 cup wine and deglaze the pan. I used Sauvignon Blanc, which was probably whack, but it ended up tasting good so who cares! Cook until liquid has evaporated and turn off the heat.

In the meantime, remove the toasted breadcrumbs from the oven and place them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 1/4 C milk, 1 lightly beaten egg, 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley, and 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme.

Add 1 LB ground beef, bacon/onion/carrot mixture, 1/2 tsp dried basil (fresh if you have it on hand), salt and pepper.
Mix lightly — you want the mixture to be fully combined, but NOT stirred into a mush. A picture would be helpful here, no? Yeah. well....I forgot to take one. It's a lot easier to remember to take pictures of pretty purple carrots than a bowl of raw meat. 

Loosely place the ground beef mixture into a non-stick loaf pan. Don't smash it down and pack it in! Keep the mixture loose and light in the pan for optimal texture once it's been cooked. 

Prepare a glaze. I sort of wung it (winged it?!?) and mixed about 1/3 C organic ketchup, 2 TBSP brown sugar, 1/4 tsp dried mustard, and 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar, but feel free to play around with the flavors until you get something tangy, savory, and sweet. 

Spread glaze evenly over meatloaf.
Then place meatloaf, and roasting pan of carrots, into the oven.

Cook for 35 minutes, turning carrots half way. 
Add 1/4 cup of water to the carrots, cover, and cook both dishes for 10-15 more minutes, or until carrots are tender. 

Let the meatloaf sit for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the roasted purple carrots and a handful of mixed baby greens (I used a spicy mix of two kinds of organic baby kale and wild arugula.) 

Now ENJOY what is, in my mind, the BEST MEATLOAF EVER!

Full Recipes

For the Meatloaf:
1/2 C bread crumbs, heaping
2 slices of bacon, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 C wine
1/4 C milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 LB 90% lean ground beef
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/3 C organic ketchup 
2 TBSP brown sugar 
1/4 tsp dried mustard
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

For the carrots:
1 bunch purple carrots
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 C water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. 
Place 1/2 C breadcrumbs into a loaf pan and place in oven. Cook 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and remove from oven. Set aside.

Add diced bacon to medium saute pan. Cook over medium heat until fat is rendered out and meat is getting crispy at the edges. Add diced carrots to the pan and cook 1-2 minutes, then add onion and garlic. Season with pepper and a tiny bit of salt, then saute 8-10 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Add 1 TBSP tomato paste and raise heat. Cook 1-2 minute, then add 1/2 C wine and deglaze pan. Continue cooking until all liquid is absorbed, then remove pan from heat.

In a medium mixing bowl, add toasted breadcrumbs, 1/4 C milk, 1 lightly beaten egg, parsley, thyme, basil, the sauteed mixture, and 1 lb ground beef. Season with salt and pepper. Mix gently until combined. The key is to keep the mixture light, not dense and sticky. 

Place beef mixture into loaf pan. 

Create a glaze by mixing 1/3 C organic ketchup, 2 TBSP brown sugar, 1/4 tsp dried mustard, and 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar in a dish, then spread over meatloaf.

In the meantime, cut washed and peeled carrots into evenly sized sticks about 3 inches long by 1/2 inch wide. Toss in a small roasting pan with 1 TBSP olive oil, 1 tsp thyme, salt, and pepper. 

Bake meatloaf 45-50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 F. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing. 

Cook carrots for 35 minutes, add 1/4 cup water, then cover and cook until tender, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with mixed baby greens. 

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