You know that curmudgeon of a Scottish father-in-law I told you about? The one who can’t eat a single meal without a potato in it, and gives me a death stare anytime I dare serve him a plate of pasta? He’s hard to cook for. As in, I kind of go into a state of panic whenever it’s my turn to crank out a family supper, and when I’m in panic-mode, it doesn’t bode well for anyone. Case in point being when I used my in-laws’ touchy stove-top to fry some chicken breasts and set off the smoke alarm, which is of course rigged to notify the friggin’ fire department immediately, which made several handsome men in uniform come barreling through the door a whole four minutes later to make sure we weren’t burning to death (good on ya, Vancouver Fire Department!), scaring the daylights out of me and my chicken.
It was embarrassing. Even worse than that time during the holidays when I fell down the stairs in the middle of the night and woke up the whole house. (Socks + carpeted stairs + rum and eggnogs = a recipe for a bruised tailbone.)
But back to the dinner conundrum: after a whopping 11 years spent in the Anderson Clan fold, I’ve realized the best route to go for family dinners is a good ol’ meat and potatoes meal. Preferably with a gravy of some sort… or a cheese sauce to drown whatever helpless vegetable we’re having in. So I figured I better scour my recipes and cookbooks for a real crowd-pleaser…. And what I found was the meatloaf to trump all meatloafs.
For those of you that don’t know who Tyler Florence is, he’s another Food Network Star turned cookbook author who knows how to do comfort food right, with quality ingredients that take some of the guilt away. Anytime I need a “wow” dish that won’t break the bank or break my patience, Tyler’s recipes are the first place I look. I’ve made a few variations on his recipe, just to please my own weird little palate, but the relish really takes this meatloaf to a new level. It’s so moist and delish, you’ll be whipping it up and wolfing it down with your family for many Sundays to come. Also, try the same relish with roasted chicken or pork tenderloin on another night, or even grilled salmon.. unless my father-in-law’s around, in which case, no salmon. Ever.
For the Relish:
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
half a bottle of good quality ketchup (preferably something organic, since we’re using a lot)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
For the Meatloaf:
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
3 slices whole grain bread
1/4 cup milk
about 1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
half a package of good quality bacon,
salt and pepper
WHAT TO DO:
Start your relish: heat the extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the red peppers, onions, and garlic for a few minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add the tomatoes and cook another few minutes. Add the vinegar, letting it burn off for a minute or two. Add the worcestershire sauce, honey, ketchup, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Bring it all up to a bubble, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 2o minutes.
Preheat the oven to 35oF.
Get a baking/cookie sheet ready. Spread some foil over the top (easy clean-up, you’ll thank me later) and grease it lightly with a little olive oil.
Cut the crusts off the bread. Break up the slices into mid-size cubes or crumbs, and soak them in the milk. Drain them and squeeze out the excess liquid, then place them in a large mixing bowl. This seems weird, I know, but it keeps your meatloaf nice and moist. Mix your breadcrumbs up with all the meat, the eggs, the thyme, salt and pepper, and about a cup’s worth of relish. Once it’s all combined, dump the whole kit n’ kaboodle on the foil lined baking sheet. Form the meat mixture into a meatloaf-style log. Spoon a few spoonfuls of the relish over the top and spread it out evenly. Cut your bacon in half once vertically so the strips fit over the top of the meatloaf. Lay the strips of bacon from one end of the meatloaf to the other.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the bacon’s nice and crispy. Let it rest for ten minutes before slicing it so the juices redistribute. Serve with extra relish at the table… and mashed potatoes, of course.
SERVES 8 ANDERSONS