I grew up in an era when packaged foods were preferred to fresh. My mother, the Great Spam (do click on the link) Queen, thought that only little old immigrant ladies stood over the stove all day, stirring and sniffing and tasting. Why would anyone do that when the freezer's stocked with frozen waffles?
Then, sometime in the eighties,the food world shifted on its skewer. Suddenly, we were all making pesto (Who would have known what pesto was a mere ten years before? That old woman at the stove, that's who.), and cooing over baby arugula, which led to the whole foodie cult(ure). I can't exclude myself from it, either. I have frozen curry leaves in the freezer and Maldon sea salt on the table. But I also have a box of Lipton Onion Soup Mix in the closet. I bet you do, too.
Have you ever used it to make soup? I didn't think so. It's either the dip, which all people of good will admit that they have never stopped loving, or the meatloaf. Looking idly at the two recipes on the back of the box the other night, I had a "your peanut butter got on my chocolate" moment. Why notmake an onion-soup dip meatloaf? Okay, I'm sure you can think of plenty of reasons. I'm went ahead anyway. It emerged from the oven moist, tangy, and sublimely oniony.
I used about a pound and a half of ground meat, mostly beef, with some veal and pork mixed in. You can use all beef, of course. Then, in goes 1/2 packet onion soup mix (shake it to make sure it is well blended), a 1/3 or so cup chopped onion, 2 eggs, 6 or so tablespoons sour cream, a dash or two of hot sauce, ditto Worcestershire sauce, and a squirt of ketchup. Salt and pepper, of course. Now, squish it all together with your hands. Add dry breadcrumbs, until the mixture almost holds together. Let stand for about five minutes, during which the breadcrumbs will swell somewhat and absorb more moisture. At this point, you can take a spoonful of the meatloaf mix and fry it, then adjust the seasoning. Not necessary, but if you like fiddling about in the kitchen, go right ahead.
Form into a loaf. Or a ring. That worked for me once or twice. Ends for everybody! I like to glaze it with a blend of ketchup and hot sauce, but that might be too downmarket for some of you, not that it isn't downmarket enough already.
Bake at 350 for about an hour. Let rest for a few minutes before serving. Draw the curtains.
As some of you doubtless know, 2011 (damn those odd numbers, never good) was not one of my better years. It had its moments, though, including waking up in the ghost town that was Chadwick Beach on the morning of Hurricane Irene's arrival. (Why were we the last? As we told the very nice firemen, were well into happy/grilling hour and had no intention of packing up our hamburgers and hitting the road. Also that hitting said road at sunset with vodka coursing through one's bloodstream is, I've heard, a bad idea.)
So, here we are in an even-numbered year, and I'm ready to throw myself back into the kitchen, and this blog. Note to self: Remember that you do not mean throw literally; you are barely healed from the CD rack incident.
By my lights, the NY Times Magazine's food articles had reached a nadir several years ago, with the
dreadful woo-and-coo barf fest offered up by Amanda Hesser. I think it was
followed by some guy trying to feed his kid, but I never stopped to
check on my way to the crossword puzzle. Perhaps it was Mr. Latte. However, I've been truly inspired by the mag's new approach to the weekly food article, conceived and written by Mark Bittman. The stories often careen into Mad Hatter charts, allowing you to map your way to any number of astonishing combinations for, say, canapes. Bittman offers both recipes and jumping-off points, and is sometimes deliberately vague, leaving you to find your own way, which is the best way of all.
This week, Mark features pork and apples, a classic combination from Normandy to Nova Scotia. I was instantly drawn to Apple-Stuffed Pork Loin with Moroccan Spices. However, there was a problem: The recipe serves six to eight people, as do all others on the page. Either Mark knows a lot of large families, or NYT readers give dinner parties at a mad clip
So, following directions, I sauteed the onions and apples, using the full amount, which I was going to attempt to stuff into a pint-sized (1 1/2 pound) pork loin. I figured that if it was yummy, I could use the remainder later. Or eat it directly out of the pan. If you look at the picture of the finished dish in the Times, you can see that the suggested stuffing cavity is rather small and elegant. Yet Bittman said, "...make the hole as wide as you can." So I did, first using the spoon, then stuffing my fist into the little sucker. Far less tasteful, but far more tasty.
Stuffing hot onions and, worse still, hot apples, into the hole made for an X-rated vocabulary in the kitchen. In the end, though, it was well worth it: juicy, succulent, and full of complex flavors.
For better or for worse, I'm back again. You can consider that while I go slice myself a hunk of fruit-filled pork.