As 2012 begins to pick up steam and I begin to outline my professional plans for the new year, I’ve decided to add a “recipe file” of new recipes I develop in my kitchen towards new book and writing projects and, in some cases, from cookbooks I’ve previously published. Such is the case in this post, which re-visits one of my favorite recipes from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook.
Super Food Time!
The Super Bowl demands foods that will satisfy big appetites and this Sweet River Run Farms Grass-Fed Meat Loaf from Summer Farmers Market Cookbook is guaranteed to do just that. Chunky, moist and full of flavor, it could also be formed into meatballs, browned and then baked off. I like it best in loaf form. Over chunky mashed potatoes or even grits, it is a sure winner.
Grass-fed beef makes a big difference in flavor and texture. Try and get your hands on some. I usually score at the farmers’ market at the Sweet River Run Farms booth at the Charleston Farmers’ Market when it’s in season (c’mon April!), but it can also usually be found at higher-end grocery stores, specialty shops, and often, at Costco, of all places.
Grass-fed beef tastes completely unlike the corn-fed, mass-produced, commercial variety found on grocery store shelves across the country. When cooking, the aromas of the sweet farm grasses upon which the cattle grazed during their gentle, low-stress, antibiotic and hormone-free lives fills your home. It tastes exactly like it smells: clean, pure, grassy, and even a little nutty. The texture is firmer and more elastic than corn-fed beef, too. Because it has a lower fat content, grass-fed beef typically cooks more quickly. Be careful not to overcook it or it will become dry.
Sweet River Run Farms Grass-Fed Beef Meat Loaf
2 pounds (4 cups) grass-fed ground beef
1 cup whole wheat panko (or substitute other unseasoned fresh breadcrumbs)
1 cup skim milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco or preferred hot sauce brand
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
3 cloves garlic, smashed into a rough puree
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine all of the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl and, using your hands, blend thoroughly. Press firmly into a 9-inch terrine mold or regular loaf pan, shaping to round the top slightly, like a traditional meat loaf. Cut the butter into several small squares and evenly dot the top of the meat loaf with the butter, pressing lightly with fingertips to embed. Bake on center rack until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes (or 45 minutes in a traditional loaf pan). Remove, and allow to rest about 15 minutes. Drain off any excess fat and turn out the loaf. Slice into 2″-thick slices and serve immediately.
Where’s the Beef?
If it’s grass-fed cattle, it’s grazing lazily in an open field of waving green grass, the way cows were meant to do.
Cows are healthier eating grass because that’s what their stomachs are designed to process, not the corn and soybean diets fed to commercial cattle. Grass-fed beef is healthier for the consumer because it has a healthy ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, is lower in fat and calories than corn-fed beef, and has high levels of CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, another good fat that’s been shown to prevent cancer.