Some food, some drink.
My cast-iron skillet: Making meatloaf magic.
Abstract: When you live with um, er... “particular” eaters, you have to steel yourself for the possibility of rejection. This however does not mean that experimentation is out. Once when my wife was unavailable for culinary comment, I took a chance and made meatloaf for dinner. Since then, it's become one of the most requested dishes in the house. Because this meatloaf is cooked in cast iron as opposed to a loaf pan, the grease drains off, the loaf bastes itself and in the process creates a lovely crust that folks will fight over on the way back for seconds.
Purpose: It's grilling season. So, why the hell am I writing about meatloaf? By way of a cast-iron skillet, we shun the loaf pan, and get some flexibility with respect to our cooking methods. If you have a reliable gas grill or that certain type of pellet-fed grill that is quite popular among the who's-who in HaysUSA (I don't have one), outdoor meatloaf is totally doable. Although the weather was rotten and I ended up using the oven during this last go-round, know that if you can control your grill temperature fairly well, this 'loaf does as beautifully on the grill as it does in the oven.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Preheat an oven to 325F or a grill for indirect heat at the same temperature. Lightly olive oil a 10-12 in cast iron skillet.
For the loaf, whisk the egg with the tomato sauce and add the stuffing. Let the mix stand for about five minutes to let the stuffing soak up the tomato and egg. In the meantime, combine all the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl and stir until integrated.
Back to the loaf - Work beef into stuffing mix with your hands (don't over-mix). Shape into a loaf in the skillet while leaving a well to hold the sauce. Pour sauce over the loaf and cook for 1 hour or until the internal temperature is at least 160F. Garnish with French-fried onions & let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
lookie what we have here; a recipe that calls for packaged stuffing.
This is a dish born out of necessity. If I woulda had panko on-hand
at its inception, things might have been different. However, I had a
hunch that instant stuffing was usable and the manufacturer's
website confirmed it, so that's what I went with.
I know most meatloaf recipes ask for two types of meat. We are not big meat-eaters in our house, so two pounds of 'loaf isn't practical. Plus, my wife isn't all that crazy about crossing the streams where ground critter is concerned. If you want to work with a second pound, even if it's just to double the recipe, there's plenty of room in a twelve-inch skillet. Just take care to shape properly to promote even cooking. On the subject of shape, I like the 'trench' running down the middle of the 'loaf. It keeps the sauce from running all over the place, promotes even cooking, and works to keep everything under that crust moist, even if you overcook things a bit.
As for the sauce, I know that those ingredients look a lot like a barbeque sauce, and I'm inclined to agree. Just don't tell my wife, as it's the only barbeque sauce she'll eat. The thyme adds a nice twist to the flavor profile that pairs well with whatever it is that they put in packaged stuffing. Back on that subject - use whatever flavor you like. Like instant ramen, I'm not at all sure you could really tell the difference once you throw it all together.
Results: If you
appreciate an even texture in your meatloaf, this recipe is for you.
The finicky folk out there seem to shy away from anything with
big ol' chunks of foreign vegetable matter in there. All the same,
we get a wonderful tangy and savory flavor because we put a little
extra love into the sauce, which brings the seasoning back up to
par. If you buy good beef, you can still taste it here, as it
doesn't get overwhelmed by things like bell pepper or that
not-quite-cooked bit of carrot. Save the vegetables for the
side-dish, and let this mahogany-crusted beauty take center-stage.
Everyone's got their own meatloaf, and everyone thinks theirs is the best. That's cool; no one's trying to raise a ruckus. I'm the first to admit that this recipe is pretty pedestrian. All the same, I encourage you to take your favorite recipe to the cast iron skillet. Using a turkey baster to skim off 'loaf grease is a bitch, and keeping around a specialized pan just to de-grease meatloaf is a bit ridiculous. Not only does a cast iron skillet provide more surface area for browning (the best part), but also frees you from the oven when its just too nice to be inside.
Notes: I should add that if you're looking to do your cast-iron meatloaf on the grill, make sure you're using indirect heat, just as you would in the oven. For my gas grill, 325F indirect means both outside burners are set to medium-high, while the two inside burners under the skillet are in the off position. It's also usually windy as hell here so your mileage will likely vary