January 21, 2011

Lamb Loaf with Indian Spices

The current issue of Fine Cooking features an article about meatloaf.  More specifically, it discusses how to make a close-to-endless array of customized meatloaf recipes by mixing and matching a range of different ingredients.   The article starts by breaking down ingredients into certain classes - meats, aromatics, herbs and spices, flavor boosters, glazes and so on - and then gives suggested ratios and amounts of these different ingredients to use in making a meatloaf.   I found the article itself quite interesting, and I was intrigued by some of the suggested meatloaf varieties.  

One that really caught my eye was for an Indian-Spiced Lamb Meatloaf.   I had some ideas how to do it a bit differently than suggested in the article, but the article seemed a good place to start in developing my own recipe.  In the end, I ended up going with a slightly different ingredient ratio than that suggested by the article.  I also included a bit of one of my favorite flavor enhancers - tomato paste - which wasn't mentioned in the article at all.   Still, credit where due to Allison Ehri Kreitler.  Her article has gotten me thinking about meat loaf in whole new ways, and I expect I'll be going back to that article for ideas a lot in the next couple months.

More credit where due:  One of our favorite ATK recipes is the 30-Minute Meatloaves one originally published in Cook's Country.  I love how they are cooked on a broiler pan, which allows excess fat to drip away from the meatloaf, so I used a variant of that technique here, and it worked great. 

This meatloaf was wonderful - tender, flavorful and a bit spicy, and it held together well and wasn't the slightest bit soggy or greasy, due to being cooked on the broiler pan rather than in a loaf pan.  The honey glaze was a nice touch, adding a bit of sweetness without being cloying or overpowering.   The various flavors balanced and complemented each other nicely, but despite some strongly-flavored ingredients, the meat flavor remained the dominant one. 

The next meatloaf I make will be an Italian-inspired one, and I'll probably experiment with some other types of meatloaf over the next several weeks, but this version is a winner, and we'll definitely be making it again sometime. 

We served our Lamb Loaf with Curried Skillet Cauliflower, from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Third Edition.   Also Indian-inspired, the cauliflower went nicely with the meat loaf.  We'll be making it again as well.

Lamb Loaf with Indian Spices

yield = 6-8 servings

2          tablespoons canola oil
1          medium yellow onion, chopped
3          medium carrots, peeled and minced
1          jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2          tablespoons tomato paste
2          teaspoons minced garlic
2          teaspoons garam masala
2          teaspoons ground cumin
2          teaspoons peeled and grated ginger
1/2       teaspoon cumin seed
1/2       teaspoon black mustard seed
5          ounces (4-5 slices) stale white bread, torn into small pieces
1/2       cup whole milk
2          pounds ground lamb
2          eggs, lightly beaten
2          tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1          tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2          teaspoons kosher salt
1/2       teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
2          tablespoons honey

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, for three minutes.  Stir in the jalapeno and continue to cook until the onions and carrots are soft and the onions have started to brown.  Add tomato paste, garlic, garam masala, ground cumin, grated ginger, cumin seed and black mustard seed and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a large bowl  and allow to cool. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a broiler pan by lining the inside of the pan with foil and spraying the top rack with nonstick cooking spray. 

Arrange the bread pieces in a shallow dish, then add the milk.  Soak the bread in the milk for a few minutes, stirring it occasionally so the bread is uniformly soggy, then squeeze a handful of bread at a time to squeeze out some of the milk, leaving the bread wet but not drenched.  Crumble or finely chop the bread, then set aside.

When the vegetable mixture has cooled, add bread, ground lamb, eggs, cilantro, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt and black pepper to the large bowl.  Wet your hands and use them to gently mix all the ingredients until just combined.  Do not tightly pack the mixture. 

Transfer meat mixture to a sheet of waxed paper and shape it into rectangle approximately 10x4 inches.  Transfer to the broiling rack, reshape if necessary, then brush the top and sides of the meat mixture with honey.

Bake approximately 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center of the meatloaf reads 160 degrees.  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before transferring to a cutting board.  Cut loaf into inch-thick slices and serve.

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