Pork and Pickles

These are a few of my favorite things


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Picky Eater Meatloaf

I’ve got a picky eater. He hasn’t always been this way – this is the kid who, as a toddler, would eat all the cherry tomatoes off the plant regardless of ripeness, ate a mushroom he found growing in the yard, and devoured an entire (quite bitter) cucumber at the farmer’s market.

OMNOMNOMNOM

OMNOMNOMNOM

But once he turned four or so, it became a real challenge to get him to eat. He has some sensory processing issues, which are undoubtedly one of the root causes of the pickiness, but he’s also just a very stubborn kid who resists doing anything that isn’t something he really enjoys. He’s 7.5 now and in the last few months has been showing some willingness to try new foods. I suspect that part of it is due to peer pressure at school – everyone else in his class gets hot lunch so he wants to too, and in order to survive the day he *has* to eat the things he doesn’t like.

A couple Christmases ago we were given two different versions of this Star Wars cookbook and he’s pulled them out from time to time and asked us to make something. Usually it’s a dessert, but a couple weeks ago he had it out and asked us to make the “Han-burgers”. Well, if the kid asks for hamburgers for dinner we’ll certainly oblige! We made them with ground bison, because that’s what’s in the freezer, and he wolfed his down. Turns out he not only likes hamburgers, but he likes them rare and with a little garlic in them. Good kid.

Not to be outdone in getting special meal requests in, my daughter (nearly 10) asked for meatloaf the other night. Again, I can’t say no to that! When I was a kid, meatloaf was one pound of ground beef, one egg, and one package of Lipton onion soup mix, all mixed together and plopped into a loaf pan. It was just fine, and I loved it, but I make my meatloaf a bit differently. I like some veggies in my meatloaf – sauteed onions, garlic, and grated carrots and blanched and chopped greens, and I mix the beef or bison 50/50 with ground pork to improve the texture and add some fat. There’s an egg and bread crumbs or crushed crackers to bind it together, and a ketchup glaze on top just because.

No, it's not photogenic. But it IS delicious.

No, it’s not photogenic. But it IS delicious.

So I made this meatloaf and while it was in the oven Arlo started asking for food. He insisted he didn’t like meatloaf, but Chris sat him down and told him that it was a lot like a hamburger. He was skeptical and wanted a bun for his slice, but since we didn’t have any he eventually ate it without bread (but with a lot of ketchup, since he’s 7). I was pretty shocked to see that slice disappear in short order, and a few bites of mashed potatoes as well! Grace devoured two slices and no potatoes, but she’s generally a good eater so I don’t tend to make much fuss when she eats whatever it is I cook.

I’ve been eating this cold for breakfast for a couple days and it’s pretty good that way. I’ll make some hash with it for lunch today, probably, since we still don’t have bread for sandwiches (though bread’s on the agenda, I think).

Picky Eater’s Meatloaf

  • 1 lb ground beef or bison, at room temperature
  • 1 lb ground pork, at room temperature
  • 2 TB lard, bacon fat, butter, or cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1 bunch kale, spinach, or other hearty green, blanched, squeezed, and finely chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs or crushed saltines
  • 3 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle (this amount just adds a little smoky flavor, add more if you like heat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • ketchup

Preheat oven to 350°

Saute onion in fat until translucent, then add garlic and carrots and cook for a few more minutes, until the carrots begin to soften. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in greens, bread crumbs, and seasonings. Once the veggies have cooled, mix in the ground meats and the egg until you’ve got a fairly homogeneous mixture. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and form into two loaves, about 2″ high and 3-4″ across. Brush with ketchup and put into the preheated oven. Bake until internal temperature reaches 160°, about 45-50 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before cutting, then dig in!

For a delicious variation, wrap the loaves with thick-cut bacon after you brush on the ketchup. If the bacon starts to get too done in baking, cover lightly with greased tinfoil for the remainder of the baking time.

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Bison Pasties

That’s “pasty” with a short a like in “happy”, not with a long a like the nipple covers that an exotic dancer might wear.

The women’s group in the church I attended as a child made the most amazing pasties a couple times each year. Ever since I moved away from home I’ve had an eye out for pasties, but I’ve never found any that stack up to the Ashland UMW’s recipe (though Potter’s Pasties comes closer than anything I’ve ever had). I really ought to just sweet talk someone into getting the church ladies’ recipe for me, but in the meantime I’ve started developing my own.

My first attempt was based on the recipe in this Heavy Table article. The dough came out *extremely* dry, to the point where I had to add another 1/4-1/3 cup of water to make it workable. And even then, it was really difficult to work with. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my pie dough skillz are lacking, but usually I’m not quite this terrible at it.

Serious failure. This was before I added more water, but the after wasn’t much prettier.

Once I got the dough to a point where I didn’t want to pitch it in the trashcan, I wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge for a timeout and got on to the part I felt MUCH more confident about – the filling. We went in on a quarter of bison with a friend last year and still have some of the ground meat in the freezer, but ground beef or lamb would also work quite well in this. I browned the bison in some lard, since bison is quite lean. And also because I love lard – have you met me?

Mmmmmmmeat…. *Homer drool*

Once the meat had lost most of the red color but before it was anywhere near done, I took it out of the pan and threw in the vegetables: a diced onion, several cloves of garlic, a diced rutabaga, 2 small potatoes, peeled and diced, and 3 shredded carrots.

Rutabaga, aka Swede, aka yellow turnip

A word about rutabaga: this one’s in the same category as celeriac for a lot of folks, and for the rest of us it’s in the category of things we only ever ate at Grandma’s house. I have had mixed luck cooking these things, to be honest. They’re good boiled and mashed with potatoes (mostly rutabaga with one or two potatoes thrown in). I’ve tried roasting them but they end up tasting like farts (hello sulfur compounds!) – clearly I’m doing something wrong there, because I have friends who rave about roasted rutabagas. Anyhow. They have a fairly thick skin and they’re an extremely hard vegetable – be very careful when cutting them up and make sure your knife is very sharp. A dull knife is way more likely to slip and cut you than a sharp one. This I know from personal experience.

All of the veggies went into the pan with some more fat and some salt and pepper and cooked until things had started to soften, which took quite some time since I got carried away and overfilled the pan. You’ll want to use less of everything or split your ingredients over two pans.

Just about done.

Once the veggies were done to my satisfaction, I dumped the meat and accumulated juices back into the pan and added about a cup of red wine, then let it cook for a few minutes to get rid of the boozy taste. Next time I think I’ll add some stock as well, to make this more saucy. And maybe a bit of flour to help things hold together a little bit more…

At this point I took the pan off the heat and just left it to hang out while I fought with the dough. After a failed attempt to roll the entire piece of dough out, I divided it into six equal pieces and rolled them out individually. I was shooting for circles but, well, they bore more than a passing resemblance to amoebas instead.

In an attempt to make this easier, I rolled out the dough between two sheets of parchment. It was not easier.

Yes, I could have trimmed these into circles, but sometimes I just get stupid when I’m cooking. Don’t judge. I think I got about 10″ rounds here, but may have forgotten to measure. I may also have been partaking in some of that red wine.

Fill and seal!

I put about a cup of filling onto the dough rounds, brushed half of the edge with beaten egg, and sealed them. I just now realized that this isn’t the way the church ladies closed them, but I’ll just have to do it the right way next time.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and pop into a 375° oven for 30-45 minutes, until they’re GBD (golden brown and delicious). If you want to freeze some (and you do, because pasties make THE BEST freezer meals), par-bake them until the crust is set, maybe 25 minutes or so, and then let them cool to room temperature. Freeze them, then wrap tightly and try not to eat them all in the first week.

For the ones you’re eating today, serve them with some ketchup – homemade if you’ve got it, and pickles. I happened to have pickled radishes on hand, and they were nice with the pasty. But I don’t recommend taking a bite of rutabaga and pickled radish together – they’re both rather sulfurous, if you catch my drift. Save the pickles to pair with the crust and you’ll be happier.

Om nom nom nom nom

I apologize for the lack of a recipe here – I’m not completely satisfied with my end product and don’t want to give you a recipe that will disappoint. The dough in the Heavy Table recipe is a great start, but I need to try again. For science!