Monday, June 14, 2010

meat and potatoes, picnic-style

I've been lamenting New York quite a bit lately, so I'll say one very great thing about living here: free outdoor concerts. Yes, they can be so crowded it's not even worth it. One year, we went to see David Byrne and had to sit so far back in the woods we could hardly hear him. Another year we saw Richard Thompson and got caught in a sudden downpour, thunder and lightening and mud oozing under our toes. But when it does work out, it is one of life's great pleasures. There's something wonderful about packing a picnic dinner, grabbing a blanket, and listening to live music on a wide expanse of grass as the sun sets. Preferably with some friends.

Which is what we did last Saturday, at the Allen Toussaint show in Prospect Park. I took responsibility for dinner, and our friends Mike and Jo were in charge of covert cocktails and wine ("Nothing in this bag but a blanket, sir!") and cupcakes.

When thinking about what to make, my mind
went to all the usual picnic places: chopped vegetable salads, baguette sandwiches, fresh fruit, some cheese. All nice options but I felt like making something heartier, a real dinner we could eat in the grass. After browsing Epicurious, I found a recipe for picnic meatloaf from an old issue of Cookie magazine that made me pause. The photo showed a pinky-brown slab of meat with a perfectly round slice of hard boiled egg in the center. Picnic meatloaf? 

"Is this weird?" I asked Dan. "No," he said. "It's like pâté." Now, pâté is something I can get behind.
I like meatloaf as much as the next person but I've never made it before. It's just one of those dishes I never think about. But a nice person at Strauss Free Raised recently sent me some beautiful free-range veal, and there was a pound of ground meat in my freezer, waiting to be used. The recipe called for a mixture of ground chicken and pork, plus chopped up cooked chicken sausages, but I could easily sub out the ground chicken for veal. Picnic meatloaf time!

The recipe also calls for grated apple, thyme, and onions, which I sauteed in a pan to release their sweetness. And the eggs: you nestle three hard boiled eggs down the center of the loaf before you bake it so that each slice, when cut, has a bit of egg in the center, like magic.
Although the loaf came out of the oven perfectly cooked, smelling of apples and pork, I was a little nervous to bust it out at dinner. What if everyone was expecting sandwiches? And did Jo eat meat? (Later, I found out she doesn't.) Oh, well. Picnic meatloaf it would be. Into the Tupperware it went.
To my relief, everyone was game. No one shrunk away. Jo even took a few bites, proclaiming it delicious. Served up with a roasted potato and green bean salad and some fresh corn and tomatoes, it was the nicest picnic I've ever packed. The cupcakes didn't hurt either.
Picnic meatloaf
Adapted quite a bit from Cookie magazine via
(Serves 6 to 8 people) 

Olive or vegetable oil 
1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith), peeled and grated
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup cream (or evaporated milk, any fat content is fine)
2 tsp. dried thyme 
1 lb. pound ground veal
1 lb. ground pork  
3 cooked chicken sausage links, casings removed, chopped 
Salt and ground black pepper
1 egg, plus 3 hard-boiled eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour a small amount of olive oil into a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, apple, and thyme. Cook until the onions are translucent and the apple has softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside the mixture until cool. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients but the hard-boiled eggs. Press half the mixture into the pan, then gently press in the hard-boiled eggs, end to end. Mold the remaining mixture on top. Cover with foil and bake until the juices run clear when you poke the loaf with a sharp knife, 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Take the loaf from the pan, let it cool completely, then wrap it well and chill overnight. (If you are pressed for time, I chilled the loaf for three hours in the fridge and it was fine.)


brooklynite said...

Great post - I too am always looking for something other than sandwiches and cheese for picnics...I've never actually eaten meat loaf but I'm intrigued.

Anonymous said...

Veal in a meatloaf? How upscale is that!
The true test of a good meatloaf is if
sandwiches made with the leftovers are good
the next day..unless there were no leftovers:)

Unknown said...

This is pretty much pate de campagne, right? Anyway, it looks absolutely delicious, and I am currently lamenting my black beans and rice dinner. I want some picnic meatloaf!

Lisa said...

Brooklynite: Yes, sometimes sandwiches get a little old. You might like this--feel free to sub out other types of ground meat, like chicken or beef.

Anony: We did have leftovers, but just ate them straight out of the pan. :)

Megan: Yeah, kinda. I think pâté de campagne is wrapped with bacon. Which would be kind of insane, but delicious.

Daniel said...

The leftovers were excellent. Didn't bother making a sandwich. Or using cutlery. I realize now I should've sandwiched the meatloaf in bacon! Thanks Strauss Free Raised!

Anonymous said...

It's the newer Double Down without bread or KFC!

Anonymous said...

It might be the newer Double Down without bread or KFC!

Anne said...

Oh, this sounds delicious - I'm putting it on Colin's to-cook list right away. I honestly think that so many things can be elevated with the addition of an egg, in any of its cooked forms.

Mike said...

It was all SO delicious, Lisa. You've got me interested in meatloaf again, despite many years of therapy thanks to what my mother used to make. It was almost too pretty to eat!


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