Some days a girl just can’t get it together. Sunday was like that — weekends are pretty much the only time I’ve got to do any real writing these days. The Corporate Job is full time nine-to-five so I’m trying to shoehorn my entire creative life into those two days a week. Some weeks it’s fine. Some weeks, well, I just don’t get anything done. Sunday was like that. I was rattling around the house trying to get down to work but mostly just frittering my day away. I did get some laundry done, but that was about it. I couldn’t concentrate and the famous Livingston wind had kicked up — blowing steadily 30-40 miles an hour with gusts up to 60 (it’s still going three days later).
So I gave up about four and decided to make a meatloaf. Since the Mighty Hunter has been out bringing home new meat for the year, I’m trying to use up what’s lurking down there in the freezer. I’d thawed some elk and some lamb burger, and I went looking for a recipe. Mario Batali was here a few weeks ago and he made these great meatballs, so I went looking in his new cookbook, Molto Italiano, for a meatloaf recipe. And did I find a meatloaf recipe … the perfect recipe to burn up an entire afternoon when a girl can’t manage to get her head in the writing space … “Stuffed Meatloaf” on page 397. Normally, it would never have occurred to me to make
something like this. It seemed too elaborate, too much like restaurant food. I don’t want to cook restaurant food at home — if I want something with a gazillion ingredients, or stacked into a tower, I’ll go to a restaurant. At home, I want homey food — but I have to admit, even though this was slightly elaborate, it was totally homey.
You start by making a basic meatloaf recipe. Because this was cooked on the top part of the broiler pan, I used the bottom as a template. I lined the inside of the broiler pan with waxcd paper, which you then dust with a mixture of bread crumbs and flour. On top of that you spread out the meatloaf meat into a big flat rectangle. Then comes the stuffing — Mario’s recipe calls for spinach, but since I had some arugula left from the garden, I used that. You blanch it quickly, then spread it out across the meat. I had to make a couple of other substitutions as well — I didn’t have enough prosciutto in the house for the recipe, so I sauteed a chopped onion and a couple of red peppers from the garden with pancetta, and spread this out on top of the spinach. Then the carrots — three carrots sliced lenghtwise and boiled until tender — they went lenghtwise down the middle. Mario called for an Italian cheese I didn’t have on hand, but the recipe said “or another semisoft cheese” so I used some leftover Brie with the rind cut off, and then I crumbled some goat cheese on for good measure.
Then the rolling. I was glad I’d spread the whole thing out on waxed paper because I don’t know how you’d roll it otherwise. It was a tiny bit tricky, but it wasn’t difficult. It was all skills I already had, and while this wasn’t a weeknight recipe, because it did take a little time, it was actually pretty easy. The rolled-up meatloaf went on the top of the broiler pan, and then you put a couple of sprigs of rosemary in the bottom with a cup of water (I added a little more water and some wine as well). You drizzle olive oil on the top and into a 400 degree oven for an hour or so.
It came out great. As he walked in the back door, the MH said “Well, it sure smells like Mario.” Turns out the MH doesn’t like meatloaf, but he liked this one. It got all nice and crusty on the outside, thanks to the combination of olive oil, cheese in the meatloaf mixture, and bread crumbs. It held together pretty well too. Of course, there was enough for 10 or 12 people, so I now have 10 pieces of meatloaf wrapped in foil in the freezer for those nights when I just can’t deal with cooking at all.
So, I didn’t get any new pages written, but I did make something. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the kind of house where if you were bored you were given paints or clay and told to go make something — so if I’ve made something, even if I didn’t get any writing done, it feels like the day wasn’t a total loss. And this was one of those recipes that’s actually kind of a master recipe — once you’ve got the basic technique, and proportions, it seems like this is something I could play around with a lot. It feels really flexible, which is something I love in a new recipe.