Meatloaf Comfort Food
When I think of classic comfort food, I think of meatloaf. When I was a child, meatloaf was my favorite main dish. Top with a little Worcestershire sauce and ketchup, serve mashed potatoes and green beans on the side, and I was a happy kid.
Others must feel the same way. “Meatloaf” is one of the top five recipes people search for on the Food Network web site, and it’s categorized there as a “Comfort Food.”
Meatloaf is a challenge for a locavore in the winter because tomatoes are out of season. Most meatloaf recipes use tomato sauce as an ingredient, either mixed into the loaf or poured on top. If you home canned some tomatoes or tomato sauce during the summer, then you’re fine. Otherwise, you’ll need to do some adapting.
Tomato sauce was used as a topping in my favorite traditional (non-locavore) recipe. I browsed through some other recipes online and saw that maple syrup was sometimes used as a sauce base on meatloaf. That sparked an inspiration to create a topping using apple cider syrup instead. Apple flavors go well with most red meat, and the slightly acidic taste of the cider syrup would help replace the acidic flavor of tomato sauce somewhat, too.
My traditional recipe also called for green bell peppers. Those are out of season as well, so I substituted grated carrots. I knew that would work from a recipe I’d tried years ago for a meatloaf that rolled up around a mixed vegetable filling. To replace the peppery taste, I added a tiny bit of dried habanero pepper. It has a bite that also helps offset the lack of tomato flavors.
Dried habanero powder is becoming one of my new favorite locavore ingredients, It’s a very hot pepper, so it doesn’t take very much to add heat to a dish. In very small quantities, it also blends well with other flavors without overwhelming or adding much heat at all. It just seems to wake up the tastebuds so they are more responsive, and other flavors are enhanced as a result. I’ve also found that their heat decreases with time once they’ve been ground into powder, so the quantity I use now is more than I was using last summer when the peppers were freshly ground.
One other ingredient deserves special mention–the egg. Eggs are not unusual, of course, but this local source is interesting. Red Barn Lavender Farm, located near Ferndale at 1306 Thornton Road, offers a winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program for eggs. Here’s how it works. For $5 per dozen eggs per week, paid in advance, you’ll receive your eggs weekly (or every other week) delivered to the Bellingham Farmers Market. If you prefer, you can pick up your eggs at the farm from 3-5pm on Saturdays. This is a great deal, and you can find out more about it or sign up by calling farmers Marvin and Lynn Fast at 360-393-7057. They have different egg size options, and sell extra eggs (outside of the CSA) at the Farmers Market as well.
- 1 pound ground beef (Hillcrest Farm, Lummi Island)
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- ⅛ tsp dried habanero pepper (friend's garden, Lummi Island)
- ½ cup chopped onion (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
- ½ cup shredded carrots (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten (Red Barn Lavender Farm, Ferndale)
- 8 ounces milk (Twin Brook Creamery, Lynden)
- ½ cup bread crumbs (homemade with flour from Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill)
- Small amount of butter (to grease baking dish) (Breckinridge Farm, Everson)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- ¼ cup chopped onions (Hopewell Farm, Everson)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (Joe's Garden, Bellingham)
- 3 Tbsp honey (Guilmette’s Busy Bees, Bellingham)
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
- ½ tsp dried mint leaves (Tree Frog Farm, Lummi Island)
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Mix all meatloaf ingredients well (except topping ingredients) and place in a buttered baking dish. Shape into a loaf. Using a large spoon, make a wide indentation down the middle of the top of the loaf. You'll be pouring the topping into it.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 3 minutes until lightly browned. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Turn off heat. While pan is still hot, add the rest of the topping ingredients and stir until well-blended. Pour into the indentation you made in the loaf.
- Bake for 1 hour.
Serve with Cilantro Root Mashed Potatoes and steamed carrots or green beans (from the freezer) for a classic winter comfort food menu. To add a touch of whimsey, try meatloaf with Beet and Carrot Frizzles.
BelleWood Acres, 231 Ten Mile Rd., Lynden
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad and Chestnut, Bellingham
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. or 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham
Friend’s garden, Lummi Island
Red Barn Lavender Farm (eggs), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham
Tree Frog Farm, Lummi Island