Asian Meatloaf & Meatloaf Banh Mi Sandwiches

This is one of those dinners where the leftovers ended up being even better than the original dinner! Whenever I make meatloaf, I always make enough so that we have meatloaf sandwiches the next day. Bahn Mi sandwiches are a family favorite so I knew adding this meatloaf to the mix would be a hit. They all loved the meatloaf on its own, but the sandwiches got even more praise.

The meatloaf was inspired by my Asian Chicken Meatballs.  I thought if an Asian meatball is so tasty, why not meatloaf? I went with beef and pork for this to get the best flavor and texture. I like using organic grass fed ground sirloin for the beef. It is nice and lean and has great flavor without the fat. You don’t need a fattier meat for this because there are so many flavorful ingredients and it stays plenty moist from the added veggies. The hoisin glaze on top also adds great flavor!

Here are a  few tips I have learned along the way for meatloaf:

  1. You need plenty of salt. My rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon per pound of meat.
  2. Egg and bread crumb ratio to meat is also important. I like 1/3 cup bread crumbs and 1 large egg per pound of meat.
  3. Mix all of your ingredients before adding the meat. That way you are just combining the meat with all of the good stuff and it mixes more evenly without over working the meat. That is why my recipe has you whisking the wet ingredients/eggs together and mixing veggies/breadcrumbs together before adding the meat.
  4. Get some good disposable gloves for food handling and use them to mix with your hands! It is very difficult to mix a meatball or meatloaf together without using your hands…and handling raw meat is kinda gross.
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Mixture of breadcrumbs, milk, and sautéed veggies all ready for meat to be added. Eggs, plus other wet ingredients are also whisked together to pour over meat before mixing.

For the first night’s dinner I served the meatloaf with some green beans, baby bok choy, and jasmine rice.

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Asian Meatloaf

Makes 4 hearty servings with enough left over for 4 banh mi sandwiches

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Ingredients For Meatloaf:

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, chopped small
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or half and half
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp asian hot sauce (like Sriracha)
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (I like to use organic, grass fed ground sirloin)
  • 1 lb lean ground pork
  • fresh ground pepper
  • Optional garnish: sesame seeds and chopped green onion

Ingredients for the Glaze:

Whisk all of the ingredients together and set aside to glaze meatloaf

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • Asian hot sauce to taste (I use a couple teaspoons)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and shiitake mushrooms and cook until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and cook a couple more minutes being careful not to burn garlic. Remove from heat and add the chopped green onion (reserving some to garnish later) and the chopped cilantro. Let the mixture cool.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the sesame oil, hoisin, hot sauce, soy sauce, and salt. Whisk together until combined.
  4. In a large bowl, add the panko bread crumbs and milk and mix well to soften the bread crumbs. The milk should be completely absorbed by the bread crumbs.
  5. Add the cooked and cooled vegetables to the bread crumbs and mix well. Add all of the meat, the wet ingredients, and plenty of fresh ground pepper. Mix everything together with your hands (I like to use gloves!). Try to mix without squishing the meat together. You don’t want to compact it too much.
  6. Line a baking sheet with foil and form the meat mixture into a loaf. Top with half of the glaze. Bake for 1 hour 15 min to 1 hour 30 min. You want the internal temperature to reach 160 degrees. About 15 min before the meatloaf is done, top with the rest of the glaze and finish cooking.
  7. Let the meatloaf rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.

 

Dinner number 2: Banh Mi Meatloaf Sandwiches…

Or as my 11 year old likes to call them – Banh Meatloaf Sandwiches  🙂

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Banh Mi are deliciously flavorful Vietnamese sandwiches that are made with grilled chicken or pork, pickled veggies, and good crusty bread. They are garnished with onions, cilantro, and sliced jalapeños. Sometimes you will see them on trendy restaurant menus with tofu (which is yummy!) or pork belly (even more yummy!). The key is the pickled veggies. You just need a little extra time in advance to make the quick pickled carrots and daikon radish ahead so that they can soak up some of that vinegar-y goodness in the fridge for about an hour (longer is even better).

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Pickled carrots and daikon radish

This sandwich is a serious flavor party. I’m actually sort of drooling over my own photo as I type…and I just ate these yesterday. You may want to make this meatloaf just for this purpose.

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Here is my version of a Banh Meatloaf Sandwich:

  1. Make some quick pickled carrots and daikon – Mix 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar with 1 cup water, 1 tbsp kosher salt, and 2 tbsp sugar in a mason jar or glass bowl. Add 1 large carrot cut into matchsticks (or packaged, shredded carrots) and 1 medium daikon radish cut into matchsticks. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to a week.
  2. Use good crusty rolls or cut up a baguette into sandwich size pieces (one baguette will make 3 good size sandwiches). Toast for a few minutes in your oven or toaster oven. Slice through the bread part of the way through so that the halves are still connected and tear out a little of the inside of the bread so that you have plenty of room for filling.
  3. Spread some Sriracha mayo on both sides of the bread (good mayo mixed with Sriracha to taste).
  4. Give your slice of meatloaf a quick sear in a hot oiled pan. Add it to the sandwich along with sliced cucumber, your pickled carrot/daikon, chopped green onion, sliced jalapeños, and some cilantro sprigs.

Sandwich perfection!

 

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Baked Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

If you read my last post on  juicy favorites, you already know that I LOVE spaghetti squash! I am so happy that it is in season and showing up in my local markets. I also love a “stuffed” vegetable. Peppers, zucchini, eggplant…there is something comforting about it.  For this dish I roasted the spaghetti squash and filled it with some ricotta cheese, a zesty meat sauce, and topped it with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses before popping it back in the oven to melt the cheeses. It was a huge hit with my family and surprisingly simple to make. Now if we could only get some fall weather to go with the fall produce, I would really be a happy girl! I made this last weekend on a baking hot day and it was all I could do to snap a few photos with my iPhone, so I apologize for the lack of photographic creativity. I did, however, have the forethought to take pictures of the spaghetti squash prep for those of you who are intimidated by this lovely fall squash. It is a bit of a pain to cut it open, but oh so worth it! Hopefully the tips below will help!

The first step in prepping your spaghetti squash is cutting in in half lengthwise. This is NOT easy since it is about as hard as a pumpkin and it wobbles around! Using a folded dish towel on top of your cutting board helps it to steady it. Next you want to take a smallish knife and score the squash all the way around. Just cut a little bit through the flesh so you have a guide line.

1) Score the squash with a small knife.

Spaghetti Squash scoring

Then you want to use a large knife to cut all the way through. Use one had to steady the squash on the stem side while you cut through using your scored line as guide. Once you work your knife all the way through, you can stand it up and sort of “pull” it apart. You won’t be able to cut through the stem, so when you pull it apart into  2 halves, it will break on either side of the stem.

2) Use a large knife to cut all the way through.

Spaghetti Squash cutting

3) Scoop out the seeds.

You want to remove all of the seeds and “slimy” strings…just like you would if you were carving a pumpkin.

Spaghetti Squash seed removal

4) Season the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Spaghetti Squash seasoned

I like to line a cookie sheet with foil to roast the squash… nothing to wash when you are done!

5) Flip the halves over (flesh side down) for roastingSpaghetti Sqash ready to bake

Then all you have to do is wait! It takes about 45 minutes in 450 degree oven to get it all roasty and tender…yum!! Let your squash cool for a while so you can handle it without burning your fingers. All of the spaghetti squash prep/roasting can be done ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to use it.

Spaghetti Squash roasted

Using a fork, loosen all of the little “spaghetti” strands from the skin and fluff them up a bit.

Spaghetti Squash forked

Next spoon a few dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the squash.

Spaghetti Squash with ricotta

Then top with your meat sauce. I cheated on the meat sauce and used one of my Juicy Faves…Rao’s jarred marinara sauce. Hey – it was 90 degrees out, it was all could do to even turn on the oven. I just browned some good grass fed, organic ground beef with a little onion and red pepper flakes and added the jarred sauce to it. It was delish!

Spaghetti Squash with sauce

Top with the meat sauce, some shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese, then bake.

spaghetti squash biteCheesey, zesty, saucy, spaghetti squash goodness! And no pasta gut bomb when your done…total bonus! I served these right in the squash – 1/2 of a squash per person. It looks like a lot of food but I gobbled it up no problem, and so did my 12 year old. I suppose if you don’t have quite the same gluttonous hearty appetite that I do, you could serve it in a bowl and make the portion smaller.

Baked Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 small to medium spaghetti squash- halved and seeds removed
  • olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground meat of choice)
  • 1-28 ounce jar of prepared marinara sauce (I use Rao’s)
  • splash of red wine if you have it (and you should, since it is only logical that you are drinking a glass of wine while you are cooking)
  • 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil for garnishing

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Coat your prepared spaghetti squash halves with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place the squash cut side down and roast for 45 minutes. While the squash is roasting, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot and saute the chopped onion until it is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and ground beef. Cook the beef, breaking it up with your spoon, until it is cooked through. Add the marinara sauce and mix well. If you have some red wine open, add about a quarter cup. Simmer the sauce with a lid for about at least 20 minutes or up to an hour on very low heat.

Once your squash is done and cool enough to handle, fluff up the “spaghetti” strands with a fork. Top each half with small spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese. Spoon about a cup of sauce (or more if it fits) into each half of squash. Reserve any left over sauce for serving if you have it (or serve it with some pasta if you have a non squash lover in the family!). Top with with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Put the filled squash back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with fresh basil and serve!


Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs

Grilled Meatballs 1Just let me put it out there…I LOVE meatballs! I’m not a huge carnivore, but I will eat a good meatball any day of the week. Meatballs are so versatile and I love that all of the hard work can be done ahead of time.  These meatballs have a wonderful Greek flavor profile. Lots of fresh oregano, dill, parsley, and a little mint give them amazing flavor. They are tender and juicy thanks to some plain Greek yogurt and feta cheese. There is a lot of love that goes into these, and it shows through in every bite!

I know we have entered fall and grilling season is behind us, but I lagged just a teeny bit on finishing this post so you are getting it now. Here in southern California, you would NEVER know that summer is behind us. One might think that we are in the DOG DAYS of summer here. Every time I check the forecast, it’s 80’s (and some 90’s) as far as the eye can see. So there is a good chance that plenty of you out there are still in grill mode. If not, be sure and pin this recipe to your “Summer Grilling” board on Pinterest!

Raw meatballsI make these ahead of time and put them on a cookie sheet lined with foil and cover them in plastic wrap so that I can keep them in the fridge until dinner. My husband has mastered the art of grilling these to perfection, which is great because all I have to do is drink wine while he cooks them. I served these babies with with some home made tzatziki (I use Ina Garten’s Tzatziki Recipe…It’s my fave!), my Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad, some toasted pita bread, and my Mediterranean salsa! I will post the salsa recipe soon!! If you are melting in this heatwave like we are, this dinner won’t have you sweating in the kitchen.

Meatball dinnerThere are tons of fresh herbs in these, so use your food processor to make quick work of all of the chopping. You will also need it for the pine nuts. Yes, pine nuts! You will grind them up in the food processor so that you have a sort of pine nut paste that adds even more yumminess to the meatballs. I suppose you could leave them out if you are opposed to pine nuts, but I can’t guarantee that they will taste as fabulous. The blend of beef, pork, and veal (aka: The Holy Meat Trilogy) is also key in these. I also think buying organic, grass fed beef and good quality ground pork (whenever possible) makes a big difference.

Meatball dinner 2Don’t skip the tzatziki! Buy it already made if you must (Trader Joe’s is pretty good), but don’t skip it – it is so good on the meatballs. It’s their perfect sauce! The Mediterranean salsa I made was really good on the meatballs as well. That recipe is on its way! This recipe feeds a crowd. I had enough for 8 servings with a few left over. The leftovers made the most amazing little sliders!

meatball sliderI cut the left-over meatballs in half and heated them up in a pan. I put them on a toasted dinner roll with tzatziki and some of my Mediterranean salsa and they were SO delicious! My kids went nuts for them! I think these would be perfect game day fare. No need to wait for left-overs…just make your meatballs slightly smaller and give them a little “smash” before grilling. These sliders would be great to serve up to all of your hungry football watchers!

Grilled Mediterranean Meatballs

For a printable version of this recipe, click here

Serves 8 – 10 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves (small handfull)
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh oregano leaves (no stems) OR 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh dill  (remove thick stems) OR 1 tablespoon of dried dill
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs (I use panko)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a medium pan, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and tender. Set aside to cool to room temp.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the greek yogurt, salt & pepper, and whisk them all together until smooth.
  3. Add the pine nuts to the bowl of a food processor with a chopping blade (I use my small one, but any size will work).  Pulse until they form a thick, course paste (don’t over process them…you don’t want them as smooth as peanut butter). Using a rubber spatula, scrape all of the ground pine nuts from the bowl of the food processor into the mixing bowl with the eggs and yogurt.
  4. Add all of your herbs to the food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add all of the herbs to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the beef, veal and pork to the mixing bowl along with the bread crumbs, cooled onion and garlic, feta, and parmesan cheese. Break up any large chunks of feta with your fingers.
  6. Time to mix! I like to use my hands for this and I wear these disposable gloves. They are perfect for this! You want to gently combine all of the ingredients and incorporate the 3 meats together without over mixing. Your hands really are the best way to get this done. Keep the gloves on after mixing…you can use them when you form the meatballs!
  7. Once everything is thoroughly combined, form into large meatballs (somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball). Keep the meatballs on a cookie sheet or a baking dish in the fridge until you are ready to grill.
  8. Before grilling, drizzle some olive oil over the meatballs and use your hands to make sure they are coated with the oil.
  9. We cook these on a gas grill. Preheat the grill on high and prep your grill by cleaning your grates well and then rubbing them with a  paper towel coated in oil. Put the meatballs over direct heat to sear on all sides –  DON’T turn your meatballs until they pull away from the grill easily. Once they have a nice crust on all sides, turn the grill down to medium heat and move the meatballs off the direct heat to finish cooking. The goal here is to get that crust on the outside to “seal” the meatball and keep it moist on the inside. You want to cook them all the way through, but not let them get too charred. Depending on your grill this can take anywhere from 20 – 30 min. If you have a thermometer, the proper internal temp is 160 degrees.

Grilling Note: If you are a grilling novice (like me) and you are worried about cooking these directly on the grill, you can use a grill pan like the one below to insure they don’t stick to your grate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Asian Braised Short Ribs

A little sweet, a little spicy, and loaded with flavor!

IMG_2273Last week we had our first real fall weather. As soon as the weather changes I start day dreaming about all of the cozy warm dinners I can make. I love fall and winter comfort food. It’s my favorite to eat and my favorite to cook! Of course now that I am getting around to posting this, it is in the 80’s here!

These short ribs are pretty simple to prepare, but they do require plenty of time. There is something about cooking something slow, low, and long that I love. It’s as if I accomplished some great achievement because I turned a relatively cheap, tough cut of meat into something so tender and flavorful. I always have to pat myself on the back a little when I do this. Even though it’s not hard and really anyone can do it, somehow I think I’m some sort of culinary genius when I do it. I don’t eat much red meat, but I would always choose tender slow braised beef over a steak on the grill. Guess I’m a cheap date that way.

IMG_2268I have made short ribs many times, but usually I do them braised in red wine like in my Short Rib Stroganoff (SO YUMMY!). This flavor profile is totally different, but still so delicious. These babies are braised in mirin, beer, rice vinegar and soy sauce with garlic and ginger. I like serving them over Batsmati rice with some sesame green beans or snow peas.

IMG_2284The green beans are super easy. Just blanch some trimmed french green beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, shock in some ice water for a few minutes, then drain. Pat them dry and saute them in a hot pan with a little sesame oil. Top with salt, pepper, and some sesame seeds. Even Mr. Picky likes these!IMG_2278I actually had my first “Asian-y” short ribs at my 40th birthday party and they were prepared by the AWESOME caterer that I had (Amy from Delish Dish for you Orange County peeps). They were just dreamy and I was trying to duplicate them. These got close, but I may need Amy back in my kitchen to make hers again soon. I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Food Network by Dave Lieberman. I made a couple changes, like adding the mushrooms. They add something that I really like, but I wouldn’t be heart broken if you wanted to leave them out and save yourself a step. While this recipe does take a LONG time to cook, the hands on time is relatively short and it is so worth it! In fact, I bet you could throw it all in the slow cooker after browning the meat and it would be great. I just never think quite that far ahead!

IMG_2290There are just a few important tips that you want to follow when you cook meat like this. Once you get them down, you can be creative with the flavors.

  1. You need a good Dutch Oven for braising. I love Le Creuset, it’s beautiful and functional! You need something that is heavy for even heat and heat retention and you need a tight fitting lid. It should also be able to go from the stove top directly to the oven. Enameled cast iron is really your best bet.
  2. Make sure you brown the meat first over medium high heat. This is an important part of getting the end result. Even if you use your slow cooker, brown your meat first. You will want to do this in batches so you don’t over crowd your pot or pan, and make sure your meat is well seasoned with salt and pepper before browning. You want that nice “crust” to form when you brown. Think of it as the flavor sealer!
  3. Make sure you have the right amount of liquid. Whether it is wine, beer, or stock, you need enough so that whatever you are cooking is getting a nice little bath. Not completely covered, but enough to keep it moist. With a stew you want more liquid, with a braise it’s less.
  4. TIME! You need a good 2-3 hours to properly braise a tough cut of meat. Keep the temp low and even, and keep the lid on. You can do it on your stove or in the oven, but just make sure it stays at a simmer and not a boil.

Asian Braised Short Ribs

Click here for a printable version of the recipe

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Makes about 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 1/2  pounds boneless beef short ribs, most of the fat trimmed off – *see note below
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  •  vegetable oil for sauteing
  • 6-8 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking Sake found in the Asian food section)
  • 12 ounces good ale (like Sierra Nevada)
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce
  • 8 ounces of shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Saracha (or more to taste)
  • chopped scallions for garnish

*Note on short ribs: You can use short ribs with the bone in, just increase the amount to 3 or 3 1/2 pounds. Short ribs with the bone are even more tender and delicious when braised, but they have a lot more fat on them than the trimmed, boneless short ribs. You will also end up with a lot more fat in your braising liquid that you will use as a sauce, so make sure you skim some of that off.

Directions:

Season the ribs generously with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot with a lid (Dutch oven) over high heat. Brown the ribs on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove the ribs and pour off all but a couple tablespoons of the rendered fat.

Return the pot to the stove, lower the heat to medium and saute the garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes. Add the ribs back to the pot. Deglaze the pan with the mirin. Add the beer, the vinegar, and the soy sauce. Stir and then cover and simmer on low for 2 1/2 hours. Check the meat every 20 min or so to make sure they are cooking at a simmer.

Once the short ribs are close to being done, saute the shitake mushrooms in a frying pan in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until tender.


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Remove the ribs from the cooking liquid and strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. If there is a lot of fat rising to the top, skim some of it off and return it to the Dutch oven. Add the cooked mushrooms to the Dutch oven along with the short ribs. Combine the hoisin sauce and Saracha in a small bowl and pour over the ribs, move the pot to the oven, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Serve in a bowl over rice with some of the braising liquid and garnish with the chopped scallions.