There are two main factors that contributed to my decision to make meatloaf in the middle of the summer:
1. The overabundance of kale in my garden.
2. The meatloaf pan my father-in-law gave me for Christmas.
I really wish I could just leave it at those two (odd) reasons, but I feel that I should provide you with somewhat of an explanation.
As for the kale, I feel it (mostly) explains itself. The stuff grows like weeds. Try as I might, I just cannot keep up with it. I’ve eaten kale with cheesy polenta. I’ve eaten kale in a raw kale and apple salad. I’ve thrown kale on a pizza. I’ve used kale in pesto. I’ve taken to giving away bags of kale to my friends. And, still, the kale keeps on comin’…
So, it should go without saying that I’m always on the lookout for clever kale recipes. When I stumbled across Good Stuff NW‘s recipe for Kale and Fennel Meatloaf, I felt like I hit the recipe jackpot. Not only did it incorporate kale, but it gave me a chance to use my meatloaf pan.
This brings me to the second reason I made this meatloaf: the fact that my father-in-law bought me a meatloaf pan for Christmas and I had yet to blog about meatloaf! I think this makes me a bad daughter-in-law (I kid, I kid). To be totally honest, I’ve made meatloaf a few times since receiving the meatloaf pan, but I hadn’t gotten around to actually posting any meatloaf recipes. Let’s be honest…while meatloaf is one of the tastiest comfort foods of all time, it isn’t exactly pretty to look at or photograph. Since meatloaf is so very un-pretty, I haven’t exactly been inspired to blog about it. Until now, that is.
But, let’s rewind a second. You’re probably still wondering what on earth a meatloaf pan actually is.
I wondered the exact same thing the first time my father-in-law told me about one. He told me (in no uncertain terms) that every chef must own a meatloaf pan. I’d never heard of such a thing, much less purchased one. And then he gave me my very own meatloaf pan for Christmas and my eyes were opened. Essentially, it is a pan within a pan. Let me show you:
(Image courtesy of HarrietCarter.com)
As you can see, the inner pan rests inside a larger outer pan. The inner pan has handy holes which allow the grease to drain out of the meatloaf and into the outer pan. This ensures that the meatloaf cooks evenly and quickly, and the end result is a moist meatloaf that isn’t overly greasy.
However, like the great Alton Brown, I am not a proponent of single task kitchen gadgets. I hate things that take valuable drawer space and only do ONE thing, i.e. strawberry hullers, garlic presses, etc. So, I can’t in good conscience go tell you all to go buy a meatloaf pan. It is quite singular in its purpose. For the sake of argument, though, I will say that the outer pan could easily double as a bread pan (when it isn’t catching your meatloaf drippings). And, this was the best darn meatloaf I have ever eaten, and I feel I owe it all to the magical meatloaf pan. So take it for what you will.
So, a big thank you to my father-in-law for the gift of a meatloaf pan. And thanks to Kathleen from Good Stuff NW for giving me a fabulous meatloaf recipe to try (and tweak). I could not have been happier with the end result.
Fennel and Kale Meatloaf with Bacon
(Adapted from Good Stuff NW)
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 fennel bulb, finely diced
2 c. kale, sliced into chiffonade
2 lbs. ground beef
6 strips bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh minced herbs: I used fresh oregano and dried basil (use whatever you’ve got on hand!)
1 Tablespoon pork lard/fat*
*Note: traditional meatloaf recipes call for a mixture of ground beef and ground pork or sausage. I didn’t have ground pork or sausage so I substituted bacon and pork fat. It worked out wonderfully.
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large frying pan or skillet, cook bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon from pan, set aside to cool. Pour off excess bacon fat into a container, set aside for use in the meatloaf. Leave 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan.
Return pan to heat, and cook onion, garlic and fennel bulb in bacon fat for 2-3 minutes. Add in kale and continue to cook, until vegetables are soft and the kale is wilted (5 minutes). Remove from heat, and allow mixture to cool.
Combine ground beef, egg, milk, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and herbs in large mixing bowl. Add in bacon pieces and stir in reserved bacon fat. Gently using your hands, mix in the fennel and kale mixture, until everything is combined. Gently press into a meatloaf pan or bread pan (or form into a loaf and place on a baking sheet).
Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until a thermometer inserted in thickest part reads between 140-150°. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Serve with mashed potatoes (or whatever else you want to eat it with!). I doused my slice of meatloaf with just a dash of Lucille’s BBQ sauce.