Does anyone else do this? When I get an idea for a recipe I'd like to try, or a new cooking technique or ingredient I want to play with, I actually add it to a list so I don't forget about it. I usually think of things when I'm either in the car on my way home from work, or in bed trying to fall asleep, so I have no idea how many I may have forgotten about before they even made it onto my list. Anyhow, one of those things was a Taco Meatloaf or Taco Burgers.
After going to Carrabba's the other day and swooning over their Sangria (no, not because it was too strong for me LOL), I was transported back to high school, when I went to Spain and first had Sangria. I wanted to see if I could duplicate Carrabba's version (no such luck - yet), so I realized that would be a good time to try the Taco Meatloaf or Burgers. Given the time of year, I decided to go with the Meatloaf (besides, I'm kinda skeerd a the gas grill - lighting it anyhow).
Half way down Walton Mountain (That's wat I call the hill we live on. It's three miles from the bottom to our house - not a straight climb of course.), it occurred to me that it was Sunday, so the liquor stores wouldn't be open to get what I needed for Sangria. Imagine my surprise when I found out they are in fact open on Sunday. When did that happen??
Even stranger ... on my way back up Walton Mountain, I was listening to an interview on NPR. Does that make me old? I have my radio set to a talk station? Sniffle, sniffle. The interview was of a chef whose name escapes me. He has a new cookbook coming out, and rather than being set up by course or by ingredient, it's by cooking technique. They decided to discuss water, and he mentioned that he always cooks meatloaf using a water bath. Excuse me? I've never heard of anyone using a water bath for something like that - much less when it's formed into a loaf rather than pressed into a loaf pan. I'm used to using a water bath for custards and that sort of thing, so I assumed it involved the mixture actually touching the water to be affected by its heat. That's what I get for assuming!
The meatloaf turned out awesome, and perfectly tender. Never having used a water bath for meatloaf before, I can't say whether that or the ingredients, or a combination of the two, was responsible for the texture. I'll have to try my "regular" meatloaf in a water bath next time so I can make a comparison.
I wanted to hit on everything we normally include with tacos, so I got ground beef, taco seasoning, black olives, onion, tomato, salsa (or taco sauce), cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, jalapenos (I used a pablano since we had a fresh one that needed to be used up), and corn muffins to replace breadcrumbs or stuffing and serve in place of the taco shells. You can save the lettuce for sandwiches with the leftovers. ;)
2.5 - 3 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced fine
1 tomato, diced
6 oz can black olives, diced
1 c shredded cheese (Mexican or Pizza blend + more for garnish)
Two 1.25 oz packets taco seasoning
(I used one regular and one low sodium)
3 T fresh chopped cilantro (+ more for garnish)
2 corn muffins, crumbled
whatever hot peppers you like with tacos
(I used half a fresh poblano, but could have used more)
1/2 c salsa, divided
sour cream for garnish
Gently mix together everything but the sour cream and 1/4 c of the salsa, and form it into a loaf in a casserole dish or pan. Slather the top with that extra 1/4 c of salsa, then set that pan inside of a larger pan, and fill the larger pan about half way with very hot water. Bake at 375 for about an hour and a half.
That's another crazy thing - temperatures. My "regular" meatloaf cooks at 350 for an hour and a half. Never having used a water bath before, I looked online and found some that call for 400 degrees for an hour; 400 for an hour covered and 30" uncovered; 375 for 45-50"; 375 for 35-40", you name it. I was afraid of cracking a dish at 400, so I went with 375 for an hour and a half to be safe. It came out perfectly moist and tender, and the corn muffins turned out to be an interesting choice, since they added a note of sweetness to the mix.
I sprinkled a little more cheese on top to melt in while it was resting. I was actually shocked by how much liquid came out, so as soon as it was rested, I used two big spatulas to transfer it to a serving platter. With my luck, if I tried to pour off the liquid, I would have flipped the meatloaf right out of the pan. ;)
In keeping with the whole taco theme, I topped each slice with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of that reserved fresh chopped cilantro. For sides, I went with vegetarian refried beans topped with scallions, and steamed haricot vert (a/k/a skinny French string beans) with a pat of butter. In place of having chips and salsa with the "tacos," I made a light salad of thinly sliced tomato and avocado dressed with fresh cracked pepper, a little sea salt, and balsamic dressing.