We have had company for the last several days, so I wanted a Sunday dinner that was not hours of preparation. An American standard meal of meatloaf, potatoes, and green beans seemed like a good idea. Of course, I could not make it that simple I had to get spontaneously creative.
Meatloaf is a recipe I got from my mother. While I have fond memories of this dish, I have changed the recipe a lot since I wrote it down in the ‘70’s. Normally, I would have added onions and garlic, but daughter Miriam is “off” these savory ingredients at the moment. Spice is needed to keep this dish from being bland and mundane.
Look at my spice rack I found a bottle of Ras el Hanout that wife Jan had bought me—for a make your own blend of this complex Moroccan spice mixture see this post. I could have just stuck with a beef meatloaf, but this spice led me to crave adding some ground lamb. I knew that most of my diners miss the garlic and onion, so I have been working on making an onion gravy to be added at the table—this is the best one I have come up with yet.
Karl’s Moroccan Meatloaf with Onion Gravy
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup milk
2 Tbs. butter
2 stalks celery, finely diced
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup green cabbage, minced
¼ cup water
1 Tbs. roasted beef base
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Ras el Hanout
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 lb. beef, ground
½ lb. lamb, ground
2 Tbs. butter
1 cup onions, finely diced
Pinch Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup water, separate uses
2 Tbs. beef paste
~½ cup pan drippings
½ tsp. corn starch mixed with 1 tbs. water
1. Put the bread crumbs and milk into a small bowl and mix them together.
Tip: You want most of the milk absorbed by the bread. This produces a panade that both helps to hold the loaf together and keeps the meatloaf moist.
2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and cook the celery for 3-4 minutes, until translucent.
Tip: Many recipes simply through the raw onions and celery into the raw meat. I prefer to sauté them a bit first which add a bit of flavor through the Maillard reaction and also ensures that the vegetables get completely cooked.
Note: If you are not working under my restrictions of no garlic or onions, feel free to add some to the sauté pan and brown them to your liking.
3. Add the cabbage to the pan and sauté for another 2-3 minutes, until the cabbage is tender.
4. Deglaze the pan with the water and stir in the beef base, soy sauce, and spices.
Tip: I had bought some Better Than Bouillon® for a dish that I made some time ago. Recently, I I thought to use this flavorful beef paste to make a mitzvah beef stew for my daughter’s friend. Since you cannot really brown the meat in a meatloaf—except the browned outside of the loaf that is exposed to the heat of the oven—I thought to make up for this loss of flavor with this umomi rich extract.
Note: In many recipes spices and sauces are dumped on top of raw ground meat and then worked in. I have found two problems with this technique. If the mixture is under worked the flavor components are not evenly distributed throughout the loaf. If you over work the meat to get a good blend, you can turn the meat into a heavy, dense, unappealing mass. I have found that mixing any seasoning and sauce with the vegetables first gives you a better distribution and a better idea of when to stop mixing.
5. Put the beef, lamb, panade, and vegetables mixture into a bowl.
6. Blend the ingredients together until thoroughly mixed.
Tip: I find that using two knives to cut and separate the meat as you mix in the other ingredients works well to start. Hand mixing should be kept to a minimum.
Note: Like most people I have worked meat together squeezing it through my fingers. While this process gives you a good blending of ingredients you are forcing the proteins of the meat together where they will linkup and form tough bonds. This is good if you are making sausage, but bad if you want a tender, moist meatloaf.
7. Form the meat mixture into a loaf and place it on a greased/Pam-ed casserole that is larger than the base of your loaf.
Tip: I form may loaf by pressing the meat mixture into a bread pan. I then take a knife and separate the meat from the pan, so that when I turn the pan over on the casserole the meat falls out in a well formed loaf.
Note: My mother simply put the meat in a bread pan and then just baked it in the pan. This technique only allows the top of the loaf to brown. By turning out the loaf, you now have five of the six sides exposed to the ovens dry heat and a lot more flavorful browned surface. A second advantage is that the excess grease and juices collect in the open space between the loaf and that pan. This flavorful sauce can then be used in your gravy—an added bonus.
8. Put the casserole in a preheated 375º F oven and bake 50-65 minutes.
Tip: How long you need to cook the meatloaf depends on its thickness, bake until the internal temperature reaches 160 º F.
Note: While the meatloaf is cooking prepare your gravy.
9. Melt the butter in a small pot and add the onions and salt.
Tip: The salt draws out the moisture of the onions and helps them to brown more quickly.
10. Sauté the onions until well browned, 10-12 minutes.
11. Pull the onions to the sides of the pot and sauté the garlic in the hole in the center until fragrant.
12. Add ¼ cup of water and the beef paste to the pan.
Tip: Use the liquid to deglaze the pot.
13. Simmer the mixture for 2-3 minutes.
14. Transfer the mixture to a standing blender and process to a smooth puree.
Tip: This is the third time I have tried to make an onion gravy. My diners did not like a chunky gravy, they preferred something that was flavorful but smooth and silky.
15. Return the mixture to the pot.
Tip: Use the remaining ¼ cup of water to rinse out the blender.
16. Towards the end of roasting the meatloaf spoon out most of the drippings around the out edge of the casserole.
Tip: A turkey baster is very useful for doing this.
17. Thicken the gravy with some cornstarch mixed with cold water.
Tip: How much cornstarch you use depends on the volume of liquid you have.
Note: Keep the gravy warm until you are ready to serve it.
18. Remove the loaf from the oven and cover it with aluminum foil to rest.
19. Slice the meatloaf into ½-¾ inch slices and serve the gravy on the side.