Finding the right answer to reader requests sometimes sends me on a culinary treasure hunt.
One reader wants to find a “truly gourmet meatloaf that guests will rave about.” Meatloaf just doesn’t seem to fall into the gourmet category, but if you know of one that does, please let us know.
When I think of meatloaf, the Blue Plate special comes to mind. What makes a meatloaf gourmet? My first priority with anything I cook is flavor. Some cooks seem to think that a beautiful presentation is more important, but I can remember times when a dish looked great, but after one bite I set it aside.
The following meatloaf is country music star Miranda Lambert’s all-time favorite. She recalls her mother, Bev, pulling a stool up to the kitchen counter when Miranda was a small child and making this tasty delight. It also was the favorite “birthday dish” for her and her brother when they were small.
That says a lot, because most youngsters don’t seem to like meatloaf. Think about it — if, as a youngster, you were asked to choose a favorite dish, would it be meatloaf? Personally, I can think of many foods I would pick over meatloaf.
To add an adult touch to this simple meatloaf, how about some bourbon mushrooms? I thought about adding some of the mushrooms to the meatloaf, but changed my mind because some people might not like them. Having them plated around the meatloaf would be best for those who might want just a taste of the mushrooms. By the way, these mushrooms would be a good side dish for almost any kind of meat.
I didn’t find gourmet meatloaf on my treasure hunt, but I did find many “special gems” like the following recipes in the interesting cookbook written by Kelly Alexander, “Southern Living ... No Taste Like Home,” published by Oxmoor House in 2013. It is a wonderful book to have in your collection.
BEV’S FAMOUS MEATLOAF
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground pork sausage
18 saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup ketchup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first eight ingredients with 1/4 cup brown sugar just until blended. Place in a lightly greased 11 x 7 inch baking dish. Shape into a 10 x 5 inch loaf. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and drain. Stir together the ketchup and remaining brown sugar. Pour over meatloaf. Bake for l5 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 160 degrees. Remove from oven and let set about 20 minutes. Remove from baking dish or pan before slicing.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 olive oil
2 lbs. assorted mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bourbon or chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Cook mushrooms with salt and pepper in butter and olive oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender and almost all liquid is evaporated.
Remove from heat and stir in bourbon or chicken broth. Return to heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Reduce heat to low and stir in garlic, parsley and thyme. Cook 1 minute longer.
— Prudence Hilburn of Piedmont, Alabama, has won more than 30 national cooking awards and written several cookbooks, including, “Simply Southern and More.” Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.prudencehilburn.com.