Monday, May 1, 2017

A Meatloaf in Every Oven by Frank Bruni & Jennifer Steinhauer

Readers, I love meatloaf. But I didn't grow up eating it. In truth, my childhood memory of meatloaf consists mostly of sitcom jokes about the dish. (Apparently my dad wasn't overly fond of it, so it wasn't something that my mom ever made for us.)

My first taste of meatloaf was actually the first meatloaf I cooked. The recipe was from a fund raiser cookbook compiled of donated "family" recipes - it featured a layer of cheese sandwiched between two layers of meatloaf mix, and seemed like something my budding teenage kitchen skills could handle. And it was tasty!

My love of meatloaf had begun.

It's a dish I find almost irresistible on any restaurant menu and one that I try various versions of every time I come across a new recipe. And so you can definitely see why discovering Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer's A Meatloaf in Every Oven: Two Chatty Cooks, One Iconic Dish and Dozens of Recipes - from Mom's to Mario Batali's piqued my interest to the point of being a necessity for my cookbook collection.

The book is divided up into Classics, Around the World, Lamb, Cluck Cluck Gobble Gobble (poultry, obviously), Meatless Loaves, Guilty Pleasures, Political Postscript (recipes from a handful of DC folk), and Sides. Most of these chapters speak for themselves, but each contains multitudes of meatloaf wonders. Amongst these pages you'll find delights such as "Leslie Bruni's Sweet Nostalgic Loaf" (courtesy of Frank Bruni's mother), "South African Bobotie Loaf," "Jerusalem Loaf with Sumac and Couscous" (based off of a lamb meatball recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem), "Jerk Chicken Loaf," "Melissa Clark's Salmon Loaf with Mustard and Capers," and even a "Frito Pie Loaf." Just to name a few, of course.

Of the recipes I've tried so far (an almost embarrassing plethora) a few have risen to the top as kings of the meatloaf mountain: "Alex Guarnaschelli's Mom's Meatloaf" - a moist and flavorful wonder that has sour cream as one of its ingredients, and surprisingly "Michael White's Chicken Eggplant Loaf." I say surprisingly because while I expected it to be tasty, it was beyond that! The combination of eggplant, ground chicken, fennel, and cheese was incredibly flavorful and surprisingly moist - even though I opted to use white meat in spite of the direction to use dark; it's what I had on hand.

I of course haven't had a chance to try all of the recipes just yet. Bruni's mom's recipe is on my list to try as is tonight's planned "Spicy Turkey Loaf with Sriracha" a recipe that actually comes from Erin McDowell at one of my favorite food sites, Food52.com. I expect that means it'll be fabulous.

I've also tried my hand at quite a few of the sides included in the book: "Winter Salad of Fennel, Celery Root, Lemon and Pecorino" (also from a contributor to Food52) and might I say, fennel is a heavily underutilized ingredient. It's one of my favorite new veggies, which means I'm drawn to any recipe that includes it! The "Quick and Easy Super-Snappy Green Beans" proved to be the perfect pairing to the aforementioned chicken and eggplant meatloaf, and yet another Food52 addition (I promise, I didn't seek them out - it just happened that way!), "It's Maaaa-gic! Moroccan Carrots" were a hit as a meatloaf dinner pairing for company. ("Jonathan's Roasted Broccoli" seems like a good choice for the spicy turkey loaf tonight.)

This cookbook really begs the question, how much meatloaf is too much meatloaf? I pondered this as I flagged recipes to try - and again when I found myself making two different meatloaves two nights apart. I haven't found the answer to that question, readers, but I suspect the it is that you can never have too much meatloaf!

As you can see, this is a cookbook I'm clearly smitten with. If you like meatloaf even a tiny bit, this is the cookbook for you. The recipes vary in complexity, additions, and even meat (or meatless) base but each and every one I've tried so far has been yummy!

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