Last nights dinner turned out great!
As you may recall we purchased a new range a couple years ago. We have since learned that the new "improved" technology doesn't necessarily get along so well with our area of the boondocks. Our mini region is well known in the greater area as one that is prone to power outages and brownouts. We've learned to live with that to a point, but we've found the newer electronics are rather dependant on a more steady flow of power.
While I did enjoy our new range, especially the oven for a time, it didn't take long for us to realize that it just wasn't cost efficient to keep it in working condition. Every time we had an outage, or worse, a brownout, we found ourselves having to shell out better than $100 to replace the "brain" so the oven would work again. Seeing as this happens several times a year, we finally just gave up. At least the stove top still works...
Being without a workable oven can be frustrating at times, especially for someone like me who likes to bake! Therefore, I have found myself searching for alternate ways to prepare those items I would normally pop in the oven. There are some things I'm guessing I'll never quite manage to accomplish. Sweet items are at the top of that list. Slowly but surely, I am managing to come up with solutions for other things, such as meatloaf!
I've been wanting to play with meatloaf for some time now. After our success with the Easter ham, utilizing indirect heat in our kettle grill, I figured why not try a meatloaf using the same method? And so, I did! Naturally, considering I was experimenting both with new flavor combinations, and a new to me cooking method, I was nervous about the outcome. By the end of our meal last night, I was just tickled with how successful my experiment turned out to be! The only negative was... everyone liked it so much, there was only a wee bit left over. There's just enough for the kids to each have sandwich for lunch today. That means no meatloaf omelet for me! I guess I can live with that, just this once ;-)
There were a few detours between the beginning of my latest experiment and the end though. It started out simple enough, though I did make the mistake of requesting Pa's input on the amount of one ingredient. I thought I might go with 1/4 cup of the sweet chili sauce. He thought 2 Tbsp. would be plenty. I went with his suggestion and continued on.. I had everything all mixed up, and popped it in the pan, carefully molding it to the desired shape when Pa mentioned I might want to throw some bacon underneath it. *sigh* I dumped my carefully molded creation back in the bowl, placed bacon in the center of the pan, and repeated the shaping process. I covered it and popped it in the fridge to hang out until cooking time neared.
It was fortunate I decided to do things up ahead of time as, perhaps 30 minutes later I realized I had forgotten to add the garlic! Alrighty then! Back to the kitchen. Once again I dumped the whole mess back in the bowl, fished out the bacon slices, placing them back in their rightful place in the baking pan, and added the garlic to my mixture. It was then I realized Pa wasn't watching. Ha! Opportunity! I quickly snuck the bottle of sweet chili sauce out and measured another Tbsp. into the bowl before mixing it all up again. I figured it was only right. This way it was a compromise, half way between our original ideas ;-) Back in the pan it went, carefully formed into yet another loaf shape, topped with two more bacon slices, sitting in the fridge looking pretty, until the magic moment when it came out and was lovingly placed on the grill.
I had a hard time coming up with a name for this creation. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized my inspiration came from two culinary lessons from homeschool. The first being German, the second being Asian. Of course my more American tendencies are represented as well, and so I came up with a name....
East Meets West Meatloaf
1 lb. grnd. beef
1/2 lb. mushrooms. sliced
1 onion, chopped
about 1 cup shredded carrots
OR 1/2 cup each shredded carrots & shredded zucchini
1 cup applesauce
3 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
OR 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 sleeve saltines, crushed
6 ginger snaps, crushed fine
2 slices bacon (optional)
Mix everything except bacon until well incorporated. If using bacon (recommended if using kettle grill method), cut the strips in half. Place 2 half slices in bottom of pan*, form loaf over the bacon, then top with other two slices. Bake in oven at 350º for about an hour, or til done, or bake in covered kettle grill over indirect heat about 1 1/2 hours, or til done.
Note: Naturally, if cooking this out on the grill, the cooking times are going to vary. We checked it every 45 minutes or so. Once the juices were running clear, I pulled out my meat thermometer and inserted it. It read between 170º and 180º, so I figured it was done. We used the bacon as a sort of "insurance" as we didn't want it to burn. Although the meatloaf turned out incredibly moist, it did show signs of wanting to stick on the bottom, and so I would suggest using the bacon on the bottom.
* Rather than using a loaf pan, I opted to form the loaf within a 9" square pan, with good results. If you decided to try it in a loaf pan, please let me know how it turns out!
As noted, it was wonderfully moist. However, this also resulted in a texture that was not perfect slices friendly. More of a scoop it out thing. I'm thinking a bit less moisture, perhaps cutting the applesauce back to 3/4 cup, might rectify this if you're looking for slice ability...
The flavor in this was wonderful, but, I was going for a family friendly dish, so I held back a bit with the sweet chili sauce. Pa and I ended up drizzling extra chili sauce over our portions. If you're cooking for more grown up taste buds, you may want to add 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce, rather than the 3 Tbsp. I'm also thinking a combination of half beef/half pork would be good in this.
One more thing! Bell Peppers! Unfortunately, I had none for this experiment, as I used it up on Sunday, but I really think it would be a great addition. Red, green, or both!