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November 15th, 2009:

Martha Stewart Favorite Comfort Food: Loafing Around

All-American meat loaf

PlatedLoafFavorite Comfort Food promises a broad range of comfort food, and it delivers. Macaroni and cheese, apple pie, French toast, corn chowder, matzo ball soup, tuna melt, pierogies, chocolate chip cookies… The list goes on. All recipes are laid out with classic Martha Stewart detail and perfection.

I was not a big fan of meat loaf CrustlessBreadgrowing up, so this isn’t actually one of my comfort foods. My mom was a great cook, but her meat loaf didn’t do it for me. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was the texture or the flavor; I don’t know if my tastes had not yet matured or if her recipe just wasn’t that great. So I haven’t made meat loaf before now, but every so often my husband has wished for it a bit. And when I CarrotRoundswas going through the books for November’s list I saw that both Martha Stewart and Alton Brown had meat loaf recipes. I thought, this is a classic. Two of my favorite cooks, with recipes that are sure to be the best possible; I’ll make both and we’ll see which I like better — if indeed I like either at all.

So I started with Martha’s. No OnionChunkspackets of soup mix here! I started by cutting the crusts off three slices of white bread and whirling them into crumbs in the food processor. I emptied the crumbs into a mixing bowl, and returned to the food processor with some chunks of onion, carrot, celery, garlic and parsley, which I minced and added to the bowl as well. I then mixed in some ketchup, dry mustard, CrumbsNVegschopped fresh rosemary, beaten egg, salt, pepper and Tabasco, plus three kinds of meat: equal parts ground beef, ground pork and ground lamb. (The last was actually supposed to be ground veal, but I think I made a Freudian slip at the meat counter at Whole Foods when I asked for lamb instead; I have serious qualms about veal, though kind of doubt that lamb is much better.) I MeatsToMixmixed this all together with my hands, then shaped it into a loaf on top of a piece of parchment that I’d laid on a metal rack. This is one of the first improvements Martha offers over conventional meat loaf: The meat is exposed to the air of the oven, not encased in a loaf pan, which ensures both that the surfaces brown better and that excess fat renders out more effectively.

HandMixingI then sliced some red onions into rings and browned them in some olive oil. I slipped up here, too: I was supposed to add some water to the pan to more effectively soften the onion rings. Oops. They were caramelized but not limp. In the meantime, I mixed up a glaze of ketchup, dry mustard and brown sugar, which I spread on the loaf. I then spread the onions on top and put it into a RedOnionsBrowned400-degree oven. After about half an hour I sprinkled on some more rosemary leaves, and after about 55 minutes of baking time I brought it out of the oven to rest before slicing.

Martha recommends serving the meat loaf with mashed potatoes and spinach, but I was getting everything started rather later than I had meant to and didn’t GlazeOnLoaffeel like going to the labor of mashing potatoes, so I cut up some Yukon Golds and some Brussels sprouts and roasted them instead. They went quite nicely with the meat loaf.

And how was the meat loaf itself? Am I a new convert? I am. It was tasty, juicy, and nicely textured. No toughness, either within the loaf or at the glazed edges. It was CookedLoafmoist without being greasy. And the flavor was rich and lively; the Tabasco gave it a kick, and the rosemary accentuated the savory flavors of the meat.

Verdict: Success. So next weekend we’ll see how Alton Brown measures up.