Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The turkey meatloaf

The first time I cooked with ground turkey I was reluctant and skeptical. I had good reason for doubt. As I learned the hard way, if you make a regular burger out of ground turkey and cook it through, which you must for reasons of both health and palatability, it will taste like some very dry yuck and you will throw it away and call for Chinese takeout.

But I'm glad I didn't give up at that point because turkey burgers and meatloaf can both be great if done right. Turkey is not just a healthier alternative to red meat. It's also a fine base for traditional ground beef or ground pork dishes, as long you add enough additional moisture to compensate for turkey's lack of juiciness. So to turkey burgers (more on those one of these days) I add olive oil and lime juice and to turkey meatloaf I add apples and slather it in a sweet and sour glaze.

I admit that the reason for trying this kind of dish in the first place was health above deliciousness, but I wouldn't keep making it every few weeks if I didn't think it was damn good. The apples are magic. Choose some with some bite, ones that will not completely turn to sauce in a hot pan. Golden delicious would be the wrong kind. Granny Smith are nice. I used McIntosh this time and they were great. They seem slightly underripe, and this gives them a sour note that is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the sugar and the glaze.

The turkey meatloaf
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1 medium onion, diced
2 tart apples, in 1/2 inch dice
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 tbs cooking oil (I used peanut, you use what you like)
2 eggs
1/2 cup matzo meal (or breadcrumbs)
spicy seasoning mix (see below)
several big squirts of ketchup
several hard shakes of Worcestershire sauce
several tight squeezes of honey

spicy seasoning mix (approximate number of pinches):
paprika 4
ground cumin 4
ground coriander 4
ground black pepper 1
oregano 3
thyme 3
cayenne pepper 1

I preheated the oven to 400 Fahrenheit and heated up a skillet. I peeled and diced the apples and onions and minced the garlic and then sauteed them in the oil until they were beginning to brown and were all nice and soft. To this mixture I added salt, the spicy seasoning mix, and sugar, and I transferred it all to a plate to cool down.

When it was cool, I combined the mixture with the ground turkey, eggs, and matzo meal and mixed well. Why matzo meal? Because I always have some in the pantry to make matzo balls, mainly. If I happened to have stale white bread laying around I would have made it into breadcrumbs and used it, but I didn't happen to have stale white bread laying around.

The best part of this dish is the glaze. I whisked together ketchup (Heinz, always), honey, and Worcestershire sauce. I tasted it. I added little bits more of some of the ingredients. It should be sweet, sour, spicy, and thick.

Next I sprayed a 9X5 loaf pan and a baking sheet with Pam. The loaf pan is merely for shaping, not for baking. I pressed the meatloaf mixture into the loaf pan and whacked it hard on the kitchen table a few times to flatten it out and get rid of any air. Then I inverted it onto the sheet pan and covered the surface of the meatloaf with glaze, spreading it very liberally, carefully covering every exposed patch. The loaf this recipe makes is rather flat, which is how I like it. Flatness increases the surface-to-mass ratio and this has two virtues: faster cooking and more glaze coverage.

I baked it for about an hour, with my probe thermometer alarm set to go off at 170 degrees. Every twenty minutes or so, I brushed on some more glaze. The best pieces are the ends like the piece above, covered on four of their six sides with the glaze.

For lunch today we had some as you see above, with a side of smashed potatoes. You might call this sort of thing comfort food, but I don't see it that way. I find comfort in lesser things; from food I get a higher form of pleasure.

(To make those potatoes, boil up some peeled Russet spuds until they're cooked through, drain all but about 1/2 cup of the water, add salt, pepper, half a brick of Philly cream cheese, and a few handfuls of frozen corn and peas, and smash this whole mess with the back of a wooden spoon until you have your desired texture. There should be some big and some medium chunks of potato surrounded by a smooth puree.)


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