Judith Jones: A Small Meatloaf with a French Accent

From The Pleasures of Cooking for One, pp. 58-59.

Judith Jones is my kind of cookbook writer: a sensible, good writer who takes seriously those home cooks, like herself, who live alone. Her recipes do not equate cooking for one with simple preparation. That’s what I like about her, but that’s also what might put some people off. Jones assumes that cooks who live alone are as apt to plan their meals ahead as are cooks with partners or families. The recipes in this slim volume suit the kind of cook who anticipates her meals with pleasure a day or so in advance.

I try to eat meat no more than twice a week. In this case, as you may notice when you look closely at the photo, I doubled the recipe so that I could have three even four meals. I froze half of it, but will be sure to eat it within a month.

Start the meatloaf a day before you plan to eat it:

1/3 pound ground beef

1/3 pound ground pork

1/3 pound ground veal

Shadowcook: I can no longer bring myself to buy veal. Instead, I divide the meat evenly between beef and pork.

2 plump garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt, or more as needed

2 shallots, or 1 small onion

4 or 5 sprigs fresh parsley, preferably flat-leaved

1 teaspoon dried porcini (no soaking needed)

Shadowcook: No soaking needed more or less true, but I would increase the dried porcini not quite by half and shred or crumble into small pieces.

1/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Shadowcook: I used fresh herbs. Herbes de Provence strikes me as very old-fashioned, because I rarely use dried herbs. But maybe there’s reason.

1/4 cup red or white wine

Shadowcook: Try the white wine.

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 bay leaf

1 strip bacon

Vegetable accompaniments

Olive oil

Salt

2 new potatoes, cut in eighths lengthwise

2 young carrots, peeled

1 young parsnip, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, or another root vegetable similarly prepared

The night before you’re planning to have a meatloaf dinner, put the meats in a bowl. Smash the garlic cloves, peel and chop them fine, then, with the flat of your chef’s knife, mash them into a paste with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Chop the shallots and parsley, and crumble the porcini. Add all these seasonings to the meats, along with the herbes de Provance, the wine, several grindings of your pepper mill, and the remaining salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands, squishing the meat with your fingers. When thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let macerate for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Shadowcook: Just do as she says. However, the smell of meat and wine clung to my hands for hours no matter how hard I scrubbed them. Rubber gloves?

The next day, remove the meat from the fridge and pull off a tiny piece. Cook it quickly in a small skillet, then taste it to see if it needs more seasoning. If so, add whatever is needed.

Shadowcook: Great idea. I didn’t do it, but it’s a great idea. This is the sort of direction that shows how Jones assumes the person cooking for herself takes food preparation seriously.

Form the meat into a small loaf. Break the bay leaf into three pieces, and arrange them on top of the loaf; then lay the bacon strip, also cut in thirds, on top. Transfer the loaf to a medium baking pan. Rub a little olive oil and salt over the vegetables you want as an accompaniment, and distribute them around the meatloaf. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 45-50 minutes, turning the vegetables once.

Everything is done when the meat looks lightly browned, the bacon a bit crisp, and the veggies tender (the internal temperature of the loaf should be about 150 degrees). Let rest for at least 5 minutes, then cut three or more slices, and arrange on a warm plate, with the vegetable surrounding the meat and the juice poured over.

Shadowcook: Another example of how essential a meat thermometer is to successful cooking.

Second round: Leftover meatloaf is good cold — but not overly chilled. Eaten with a dab of Dijon mustard, little cornichons, and a glass of red wine, it will taste almost like a French country paté.

Food Alone: Chocolate-Ancho Chili Chuck Roast

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Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine, March 2009 (not yet available on-line as of this post).

Seventy-five pounds of cut-and-wrapped frozen pork, as I mentioned here, are arriving next weekend. The job of creating space in my freezer is proceeding apace. About 1 1/2 quarts of chicken broth, four pint-sized tubs of tomato sauce, four packages of lamb chops, two half-gallon bags of frozen cubes of Meyer lemon juice, and about four long slabs of chuck roast must give way before then to the bundles of pig. I’m working as fast as I can. Last night, I decided to take a rub for flank steak that I saw in the latest Gourmet and turn it into a braise.

Chocolate and chilies together have recently joined forces to form a culinary meme. One or two friends have mentioned to me that they now add cocoa powder to beef stews. Boutique chocolates often have the flavor of hot chilies. It’s as if everyone is trying to achieve the Mexican mole effect without the effort. I’m all for it. The combination of spices that the Gourmet recipes calls for struck me as a promising alternative to making a mole sauce from scratch.

Here’s what I did…

1/3 – 1/2 lb piece of chuck roast

1 Tblsp ancho chili powder (according to Diane Kennedy, ancho chilies are sometimes called pasillas, which is the name I found it under in a Latino supermarket)

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa (make sure it’s really dark, like Valrhona’s cocoa powder)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 cup red wine

Parchment paper

Preheat oven to 300 F. I use a deep pyrex pie plate for my single serving braises. Mix together all the spices and rub the piece of chuck roast with most of the spice mixture, depending on how much beef your using.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper that is slightly smaller than the pyrex pie plate.

In a small saucepan, heat the wine until it comes to a full simmer. Immediately pour it around the meat, not on top of it. It should reach a little less than half way up the sides of the beef. Place the parchment circle on top. Put the pyrex in the oven.

Braise the beef for about 3 hours, depending on the amount of beef. Half way through the cooking, turn the beef over to expose the side that’s been touching the wine. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, add more hot wine.

The connective tissues in chuck roasts will dissolve and make the meat more tender. The beef should yield easily to a fork prying it apart when it’s ready.

After you’ve removed the pan from the oven, remove the meat and keep it warm. Spoon off most of the fat and pour into a small saucepan to reduce. I added more wine, a little butter, and reduced it for 5 mins.

What you serve the braised beef with is up to you. I was not happy with the orzo, Israeli coucous, baby garbanzo bean dish I served myself. Nor did polenta strike me as suitable. If you figure something else, let me know.

Ruth Reichl’s Oven-Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic

from The Gourmet Cookbook, p. 421.

This is a recipe to conjure with — except for those vegetarians of you out there. As presented in the book, it is striped down to its essentials. Make it once and a world of possibilities opens up.

My friends and I have been experimenting quite a bit with slow-cookers. How do you avoid all the liquid that’s produce by 10 hours of slow-cooking? That’s the fundamental problem with slow-cookers. Too much liquid accumulates and the surface of meat exposed to air doesn’t crisp. We have come to the inescapable conclusion that braising in slow-cookers requires more work than the manufacturers or even most recipes that call for them admit to. But that’s okay. I’m willing to leave a slow-cooker on my counter for hours at a time, whereas a slow eight- to twelve-hour oven braise, even at 250 degrees, does not free me from the anxiety of leaving my house while the oven is on.
I have a choice of few methods, although depending on how much liquid a particular kind of meat produces I might have to employ both. If you use a slow-cooker, you have to accept that the price of four hours of freedom of movement is the time it takes to reduce all that liquid in a saucepan afterward. And I have found that popping the slow-cooked meat into a moderately-warm oven (350) for 20 minutes will dry the surface of the meat and make it crisper. You can do that while you reduce the liquid.

It’s possible to dry and crisp the surface of meat braised in a slow-cooker for eight hours similar to what a long oven braise in the oven achieves. Periodically during the eight hours of cooking — even only once every four hours — remove with a baster most of the liquid that has accumulated while you’re cooking beef or pork. Don’t let liquid accumulate higher than halfway up the meat. The tricky part is removing the liquid without releasing too much of the heat when you lift the lid. Work quickly and, if you can, hold the lid close.

Rosamaria and I have become good at slow-cooking pork butts in delicious spice mixtures of chipotle, achiote paste, garlic, lime juice, dried oregano and freshly toasted and ground cumin.

So, let’s begin with Ruth’s pot-roast — let’s face it, that’s what it is and oh boy I’ve never had such an inviting aroma wafting through my house quite like this one!

Serves 6

1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice

1 (3 to 3 1/2 lb) boneless beef chuck roast, rolled and tied

1 head garlic, separated into cloves but left unpeeled

salt and freshly ground pepper

Accompaniment: cooked orzo

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 300 F.

Coarsely chop tomatoes, with their juice, in a food processor. Put roast in an ovenproof 4- to 5-quart heavy pot or a casserole dish with a lid, pour tomatoes over it, and scatter garlic around it. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover and braise in oven until very tender, 3 to 4 hours.

Remove string and discard. Cut roast into 1/4-inch thick slices and serve with sauce, orzo, and garlic.

How I did it:

Since I’m cooking only for myself, I bought a beautiful 1 1/2 lb chuch roast, but I did not tie it. Why? I used one can of whole tomatoes prepared as called for. Put everything into the slow cooker at 10 am.

Over the day, the liquid did not rise higher than half way up the beef, so I let it be.

About half an hour before the eight hours were up, I tested the meat. It still held its shape, but a fork could pull it apart with no effort. I ladled out most of the liquid into a saucepan and reduced it by half.

Meanwhile, I put water on for the orzo. I cooked 3 oz orzo for 7 minutes. Once I drained it and put it in a warmed pasta dish, I took out my best olive oil and sprinkle just a little over the orzo and then mixed it together. With tongs, I extracted a chunk of beef with some tomoto clinging to it and placed it on the bed of orzo. I drizzled a bit of reduced sauce over it.

Final thoughts:

I see no point in tying up a roast like this, even if it’s smaller than what’s called for. It will hold together sufficiently. Mine did.

I stuck a warm plate in a 200 oven to warm it. That’s now my standard practice. What a difference it makes!

Make sure to salt the chuch roast well. It can take it. Don’t be shy.

In a slow-cooker, the beef will brown just a teeny bit, if you’re careful to not let the liquid rise too high.

My pal Rosamaria serves this over polenta.