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Meatloaf with Browned Onion and Madeira Gravy

March 13, 2011

The amount of dollars in my wallet dwindled to alarmingly low levels and payday was still a week away when I was having friends over for a Saturday night dinner.  I could get by with eating some humble and basic meals on my own but l couldn’t really feed my friends tuna fish sandwiches. Even though my tuna fish sandwiches are really good (hint: add capers and Dijon mustard to the mayo).  So, how do you feed folks on a wee budget? I chose to tackle this dilemma with Meatloaf.  Being frugal and a bit greedy (can those two coexist?), I knew if I made this meatloaf I’d have more than enough for dinner. That meant kick ass sandwiches with the leftovers the next day.

Some people don’t like meatloaf, thinking it’s dense, dry and has no flavour. Actually, my friend who was coming over for dinner (unbeknownst to me) had this same opinion of meatloaf, thinking of what his mom used to serve him.  I’m happy to report that he has since changed his tune after tasting this recipe. The bacon and prunes mixed into this meatloaf mixture add moistness and tons of flavour.  Please don’t skip the prunes. They don’t add a prune-y flavour just a richness to the overall taste.

This meatloaf is amazing with the Browned Onion and Madeira Gravy and a side of mashed potatoes. So good. Scroll down to get the don’t-miss-recipe for the gravy.

From Gourmet Magazine, February 2008

1 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs (from 2 slices firm white sandwich bread)*
1/3 cup milk (but not skim milk)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices), roughly chopped
1/2 cup pitted prunes, roughly chopped
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/2 pound ground pork (not too lean)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

*Roughly tear the bread and blitz it in a food processor until you get fine breadcrumbs.

Preheat oven to 350°F; place a rack in the middle.

Soak the breadcrumbs in milk in a large bowl. You’re going to add the rest of the meatloaf ingredients to this bowl so make sure that it’s big enough.

Meanwhile, cook the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking until carrot is tender, about 5 more minutes. Remove it from the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and allspice. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add it to the breadcrumb mixture.

Blitz the bacon and prunes together in a food processor until they’re finely chopped then add to onion mixture along with the beef, pork, eggs, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands (hands are best for this!), mix everything together until well incorporated.  If you’re not sure if the mix is seasoned well, you can fry a small piece and taste it.

Pack the mixture into roughly a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.  Bake the meatloaf for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F.   Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Browned Onion and Madeira Gravy
From Real Food by Nigel Slater (Fourth Estate, 1998)

A few words before you begin. This gravy is delicious.  Actually, it’s awesomely delicious.  But it takes time to coax all of the flavour out of the onions to make the sauce as delicious as it can be. You don’t need to hover or keep stirring while the onions cook.  You just need to check in occasionally to see how they’re doing and to give a stir.  I recommend you find something else to do while you make the sauce so you don’t end up feeling impatient and rushing the onions. That low and slow cooking of them until they’re completely soft and truly brown is what gives the sauce so much yummy flavour.

Very thick slice of butter, about 75 grams
4 medium onions
1 ½ tablespoon flour
1/3 cup Madeira wine (you can also use Marsala or red wine)
1 ¾ cups chicken stock
Worcestershire sauce to taste

Peel and thinly slice the onions. This will look like a huge pile of onions but they will cook down to a less intimidating amount.

In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter. Turn down the heat to low and add the onions.  Stir to coat them in the melted butter.  Cook them until they’re golden and soft, stirring occasionally. This will take about 25 minutes. Put a lid on the pan and continue cooking the onions, again stirring occasionally, until they’re a rich brown and so soft they can be crushed with the back of your spoon. This will take about another 40 minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium; stir the flour into the onions and cook for a few minutes until it has lightly browned. Then pour in the Madeira wine and chicken stock.  Season with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Turn down the heat so that the sauce just bubbles. Continue cooking for about fifteen minutes, stirring from time to time.

The sauce will keep a couple of days in the fridge.  Reheat the sauce gently over low heat.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anya permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:25 am

    This sounds delicious! I can’t wait to try it. Any ideas for what to do with the leftover gravy? Is it something that can be frozen?

    • March 14, 2011 6:15 pm

      I doubt you’ll have leftover gravy! It’s so good you’ll probably finish it off in the first go around. But if you don’t, I used the gravy on fried sausages before (with mashed potatoes). in the preface to the original recipe, Nigel Slater says that it’s good with potato cakes, liver, and braised vegetables. I’ve never tried freezing it so I can’t say if it will freeze well. I want to say it shouldn’t be a problem?

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