Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Best Meatloaf & Potatoes Ever! (Meal #4)

I love Epicurious! Seriously, it's the best. You want to make something that's not part of your regular repertoire, and they've got twenty recipes to choose from. You can read other cooks' comments about a dish you're considering, learn from their successes and mistakes, and roll your eyes at the people who make drastic substitutions in a recipe and then complain that it didn't come out so well... Plus, all the most delicious-sounding recipes from both Bon Appétit and the now-defunct Gourmet are available for free on this website. And you can save your favorites into a personal recipe box. Génial, n’est-ce pas? (Yes, I'm teaching French again this semester...) So when I'm looking either for general inspiration or specific options, Epicurious is where I go.

Which brings me to our February gathering, which I had infelicitously scheduled for Super Bowl Sunday. (BTW, I see that I managed to schedule our March date for the night of the Oscars—but we can eat around the television that night, if you like...) I knew we would be a smallish group—and I didn't want to tackle anything too complicated—so when Michael Acker suggested meatloaf and scalloped potatoes, I was delighted! But I never make either of these dishes, so it was Epicurious to the rescue! I read through lots of recipes, perused the cooks' comments, and chose two that had won universal raves. And were those cooks ever right! (See the "recipes" post for details...)

Date: Sunday, February 7th (served at BFWC the next evening)
Host: Jenny Michael
Menu: meatloaf, scalloped Yukon Gold and sweet potato gratin with fresh herbs, green beans with toasted almonds, chocolate brownies, butterscotch brownies
Participants: Judith Bishop, BB Borowitz, Sandy Cate, Jenny Michael, Deborah Pruitt, Lisa Sherman, Rita Shuster
Photos: Obviously, a bit of an afterthought this time...

As anticipated, we were a smallish group: Sandy Cate and I were on our own for about an hour, and then Deborah Pruitt joined us. With the help of Sandy's mandoline, we sliced 16 pounds (!) of potatoes and got the casseroles into the oven. Then we took a break and had some wine and cheese, while I nursed my thumb, the tip of which had been sacrificed to the slicer (doh!). BB Borowitz joined us, then Judith Bishop, Rita Shuster, and Lisa Sherman, and together we got the meatloaves ready for the oven. However...

Lessons learned: (#1) It turns out that the more pans you put into a smallish oven—especially if you stack them on multiple shelves—the longer everything takes to cook! (What—you knew this already? And you said nothing?!!) In this case, we had one large and one smaller foil pan of scalloped potatoes—plus a Pyrex dish for us—and my poor oven just couldn't cope. One casserole was supposed to cook in about an hour; the three of them took more than three hours! And that was with the heat turned way up.

Fortunately, I wasn't delivering the food to the shelter until the following day, so this wasn't a crisis. But by the time the potatoes were finally done, it was getting late. No one wanted to wait another hour (or so) for the meatloaves to cook, so we got creative. It turns out that (#2) meatloaf mixture makes delicious burgers! We fried up a batch, sautéed some green beans, topped them with toasted almonds, dished up the much-anticipated potatoes, and sat down to our dinner.

The result? Raves all around for both the meatloaf (rich, moist, smoky, with a touch of sweetness) and the potatoes (rich, creamy, earthy). Which brings me back to where I started: (#3) Epicurious rocks!

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