It’s springtime in Wisconsin, which in a good year means the tulips are poking their heads through a light blanket of snow. But this year has been absolutely amazing. Eighty-degree weather in March brought out the most beautiful and long-lasting blooms that just keep on giving through April. Fortunately the days and nights are still quite cool because I am apparently not yet ready to trade in my comfort food cravings for grilled meat and cool summer salads.
I came across a recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine that stirred up my craving for both comfort and spice. Or perhaps it was my recent trip to New Mexico that left me longing for some good southwest flavors, something I didn’t get from the hotel food I had while subjected to daily meetings. At any rate I adapted this chipotle meatloaf somewhat for the ingredients I had on hand, along with my own personal flavor preferences. Fortunately for me I am no longer living by the former ingredient restrictions I placed upon my life a year ago, so I was able to use store-bought panko breadcrumbs, which I think held the loaf together much better than homemade breadcrumbs would have.
With flavors so amazingly blended to spicy perfection in the meatloaf, it leaves me to wonder if the secret is really in the sauce as the original recipe suggested? I guess I’ll let you be the judge of that.
2 strips smoked bacon, chopped finely (I prefer Neuske’s)
1 pound ground chuck
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup half and half
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Cooking spray to coat the loaf pan
For the sauce:
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon finely minced or pureed chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (including the sauce)
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion and celery. Sauté for about 8 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for one minute longer. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, combine the meats (bacon and chuck) in a large bowl along with the panko breadcrumbs, adding the fresh cilantro and parsley to the meat/breadcrumb mixture. In a smaller bowl, combine the rest of the spices (thyme, rosemary, salt, ancho chili powder, and smoked paprika. Add the sautéed vegetables when cooled.
Now is a good time to coat your baking pan with cooking oil.
Beat together the egg and half and half, and add it to the meat mixture. Blend well with your fingers until the mixture can be formed into a loaf. Press meat mixture into loaf pan.
This is when I decided to cover the mixture and let it rest in my refrigerator for 30-45 minutes to let the flavors blend together. I believe that made a significant difference in the end product. Kick your feet up, have a beer, read a magazine. It’s worth the wait.
Preheat your oven to 400°. Combine the ketchup and pureed chipotle pepper so that it too can meld in flavor.
Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until it temps to about 150°. Remove the loaf from the oven and cover it with the chipotle sauce. My loaf pulled away from the sides of the pan, so make sure the sauce drips down the sides too. Return the loaf to the oven for another 10 minutes to allow the chipotle sauce to caramelize a bit.
Remove from the oven and allow the meatloaf to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.
Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and cornbread. And just try to stop yourself from going back for seconds. Lunch tomorrow… meatloaf sandwiches with a little guacamole and more of the chipotle sauce!