I totally meant to post last week. I really did. But the one thing I cooked turned out to be too disappointing to bother writing about. It was a recipe courtesy the lovely and photogenic Giada de Laurentiis. I love her show but almost never cook from it. Last weekend an episode I watched became too tempting to resist. She made pork chops which she topped with caramelized onion "maramlatta." Essentially it was just slowly caramelized onions with marmalade in it. I thought it sounded good, but when I started cooking, the onions took forever, nearly 2 1/2 hours and were only sort of okay. As for the chop, I over cooked it, as I tend to do with pork.
To go with the pork, I made a pot of beans, a recipe I got out of Nancy Silverton's fussy and time consuming book The Foods of Campanile. I'd recently been to her and Mario Batali's joint venture, the marvelous Mozza, where I had fantastic starter of white bean puree on crostini, drizzled with the most flavorful olive oil I've had since my trip to England. Being a enthusiastic champion of the lowly bean, I was excited to try her recipe at home. Sadly, like Ms. de Laurentiis's underwhelming chop, the big pot of beans took forever to cook and the results sort of made me feel as though I'd just wasted the last three hours of my life. Oh and also? The beans were STILL undercooked, not at all velvety like the ones at Mozza.
Normally after a culinary mishap like that, I feel the need to turn to something I know will restore my confidence in cooking, something reliable, dare I say foolproof? And yet, this past weekend I found myself thinking about a meatloaf recipe I'd seen in a months old issue of Donna Hay magazine. Now I'm sure you might be thinking that a simple meatloaf recipe does indeed seem foolproof, and yet, this interesting variation was in my opinion, a bit risky. First of all, there are no eggs, no tomato sauce or ketchup and no breadcrumbs. Instead there are handfuls of fresh herbs and intriguingly, couscous, then the whole thing gets wrapped in thin salty slices of prosciutto. It seemed that the odds were that it could be dry and leaden just as much as it could be moist and flavorful. I decided to give it a shot anyway.
1/2 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup chopped fresh oregano
6 scallions, chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 to 12 slices of prosciutto
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
First prepare the couscous. Bring the stock to a boil in a small saute pot. Turn off the heat, add the couscous, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and then let cool. You should wind up with about 1 1/2 cups of cooked couscous.
Meanwhile prepare an 8.5 inch nonstick loaf pan. Line the interior with the slices of prosciutto, making sure to let them drape over sides by about two inches.
In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, pork, couscous, and the chopped basil, oregano, and scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Be careful not to over mix the meat but know that it will seem somewhat dry compared to a more classic meatloaf recipe. Press the meat, herb and couscous mixture into the loaf pan. Flatten the top and fold over the prosciutto slices that draped over the edges of the pan.
Lay one last slice across the top of the whole loaf. Place the loaf pan on a small baking sheet with sides, in case it bubbles over while baking. Place the meat loaf in the oven and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes on a wire rack, to cool a little.
Turn the pan over and flip out the meat loaf onto a cutting board. Slice and serve.
The meatloaf is hearty but not heavy. Unlike other meatloaves I've made and eaten, this one is not very greasy at all, of course I suppose it depends on the fat content of the meats you use. The pork I used was quite lean, but the beef was not. The herbs also give the meatloaf a very flavorful light taste. Very fresh. You could totally switch out some of the herbs for whatever you might like. I should that that rosemary and thyme would be great in it. The prosciutto that shrouds the top gets nice and crisp, not so much on the sides and bottom, and gives the loaf a welcome variety of texture. An obvious substitution for the prosciutto would be pancetta or even bacon and the results I can imagine would be amazing, because really, what doesn't benefit from being wrapped in bacon? Let's be honest. However it might make the loaf a little greasy.
I served it with some of Giada's leftover caramelized onion maramlatta, which was quite nice and it's great, slathered with some tangy dijon mustard. In keeping with the loaf's Italian twist, in lieu of the obvious mashed potatoes, I did garlic and rosemary creamy polenta but made it without the milk and cream as well as some simple green beans tossed with lemon juice and zest and garlic softened in olive oil. They went perfectly. After the previous week's letdown, this was just what I needed to revive my faith in my abilities. Ah the magical healing power of meatloaf.
Serves 6 to 8