Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Porcini, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Sour Cream Meatloaf

No food posts recently: the last few weeks have been a blur at the height of our busy season and I am still looking for a much needed day off. November and the slow season are upon us now and I will have a chance to rest a bit now and hopefully cook a bit more at home. I took last night off trying to rest a bit and even though I was super-tired, I still managed to force myself to cook, when all I wanted to do was zone out on a chair. I needed something easy and no-brainer to make for dinner and when Ann and I couldn't negotiate something, I decided to make meatloaf.

Porcini, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Sour Cream Meatloaf
Why meatloaf? I'm still asking myself that question. I'm not a meatloaf person. It wasn't in my mother's repertoire and I do not recall eating it as a child. It's not in my culinary lexicon either: this was the second meatloaf I have ever made, the first being a few weeks ago at the request of some good customers, who were most enthusiastic about the results, "meatloaf mas fina!" I do recall having eaten meatloaf a couple of times and remembering that it was junk, probably in the chow hall at college though I couldn't say for sure. Suffice it to say that I just don't make meatloaf and it doesn't just come to mind when I am looking for something easy to make for dinner. But it did pop into my mind last evening.

Even though I don't really have any experience with making meatloaf, my meatloaf is top quality because I make a ton of charcuterie each year and handling forcemeat is second nature. Below is a recipe and some lessons learned over 35 years of making charcuterie.

Porcini, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Sour Cream Meatloaf

1 pound bacon
1 large yellow onion
1-1/2 cups sour cream
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 cup panko
1 cup porcini powder/bits*
1 cup grated pecorino romano
3 pounds ground pork

*To make a rough cup of porcini powder, I start with about two cups of dried porcini bits from the bottom of a bag of dried porcini and I knock them down in a spice mill in batches until I have mostly powder with no bits bigger than a dime left.

Dice the bacon and onion and cook over moderate flame, stirring from time to time, until the bacon is almost rendered and the onions are browning nicely. Remove the bacon and onions to a bowl big enough to hold the meatloaf forcemeat. Let cool for a minute or two so you don't risk cooking the eggs.

Add the sour cream, eggs, and salt to the bowl and mix well. Then add the dry ingredients (panko, porcini, and grated cheese) and mix well.

Using your hands, break up the ground pork as fine as you can over the wet mix, then mixing as little as you must with to evenly distribute the pork and the seasonings, bring the forcemeat together into a coherent uniformly colored mass. When in doubt, mix rather less than more.

Shape into a freestanding loaf on an oiled sheet tray and place in a low oven, about 325F, until a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 140-145F, about 90 minutes. Remove to the counter for 20 minutes to allow the final temperature to come up to 155F and so that the exterior cools enough to slice.


Ground pork makes the most succulent meatloaf. Ground beef makes the most rubbery. Veal is very good when you can get it. I opt for straight pork for best price performance.

Fat is key. I generally grind my own pork so that I can control the fat, 20-25% by weight, but if I don't then I buy at a store that grinds whole shoulders and I sort through the packs to find the ones that look the fattiest. And then I add cream or, in this case, sour cream just to ensure a high fat content. A dry (i.e. low fat) meatloaf sucks.

Mix the wet ingredients first to evenly distribute all the seasonings.

Use your hands to pull the meatloaf together, rather than stirring with an implement or a mixer. Wear gloves if you are squeamish. Gently does it. Just get all the ingredients equally distributed and no more. The more you work the forcemeat, the tougher the meatloaf.

Low and slow in the oven is the rule. You get more even cooking and less shrink, meaning more yield and more tenderness.

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