Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meat Loaf on a Bed of Potatoes

On June 14, in between my summer travels, I made meat loaf in the crock pot.  Basically, I came back from spending time at home after my best friend's wedding, and realized that the bag of potatoes I had purchased before I left was starting to sprout.  Since I was going to be leaving in another week for the ordination of some of my friends from my M.A. program, I began searching my crock pot cookbooks for a recipe with which I could use up the potatoes, and I quickly found one in my other favorite crock pot cookbook: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  This cookbook definitely has some more interesting recipes than the one I used in my previous posts, but I don't use it as frequently because often the recipes are more complicated: you cannot just throw the ingredients in when you wake up in the morning, turn it on before going to school, and then have dinner when you get home.  Also, there are no pictures.  :)

The cool thing about this about this recipe is that you're cooking your main dish and a side at the same time in the same crock pot (of course, I still covet this one... and apparently there's one where you can do three recipes at a time as well).  The recipe calls for you to use olive oil to grease the bottom of the crock pot--I used nonstick cooking spray.  Then you just fill the bottom, neatly, with the peeled and cut potatoes.

You make the meatloaf in the same way that you'd normally make meatloaf.  Now, this recipe is not the way that I'd normally make meatloaf, and I did adjust the recipe a bit.  It's possible that some of the problems I had with serving the meatloaf (see the end of the post) would have been taken care of in the original recipe, but I cannot say that for sure.

The recipe is basically just ground beef, eggs, some form of bread crumbs (the recipe called for saltine crackers, I used bread, as you can see in the image above), ketchup, salt, and pepper.  Normally I don't add salt to my recipes, but I did this time.  You just mix all the ingredients together with your hands, then form it into a loaf in the shape of your crock pot, before placing it over the potatoes.

The recipe also calls for a topping, something that I normally don't do with my meatloaf either (I generally make meatloaf the way my mother did: ground beef or turkey, egg, bread, and onion).  The topping is only ketchup, light brown sugar, and Dijon mustard mixed together.  I was interested to see how it would end up making the meatloaf taste, because I don't usually think of sugar in my meatloaf.

Of course, when you mix it all together, it really just looks like ketchup.  You place the topping on top of the meatloaf and then, to illustrate my previous complaint about this cookbook, you have to cook it on high for one hour before switching it to low for another 6-7 hours.  What I did to make this before heading off to school was that I got up and the first thing I did was make the meatloaf and turn the crock pot to high.  Then, I was able to shower and get dressed and switch the temperature to low before heading off to school.

This is what the meatloaf looked like when I first turned it on.

And this is how it appeared after cooking for eight hours.

Now, the difficulty with the meatloaf came when I tried to take it out.  When I make meatloaf in the oven, using my mother's recipe, the meatloaf is relatively solid and can be sliced easily.  Trying to get the meatloaf out of the crock pot with this recipe was much more difficult.  It was soft and, as you can see from the picture on the right, no matter how much I tried, and even with the help of my roommate, I could not get the meatloaf to come out in one piece.

The cool thing about this recipe, however, was that I already had most of the ingredients: I was trying to use up the potatoes, and I had eggs, bread, ketchup, salt, pepper, brown sugar, and mustard already too (as those items are generally staples of any kitchen).  Thus, the only cost for the meals that I ate all that week was the ground beef.  I splurged to be sure to get the extra lean and paid $9.47 for approximately 2 lbs.  Even if I had needed to purchase the potatoes and had chosen to buy saltines, the total cost for this recipe was under $15.  The recipe says that it serves 6 to 8... I shared it with my roommate the first day (and had seconds because I was hungry) and had it four more times after that, so I got seven meals out of this (that's less than $2.25 per meal, not counting that I made a salad for myself each time too).  The meal is actually only about 400 calories per serving too.

However, I wasn't a big fan of this meatloaf recipe.  I like the idea of doing meatloaf over a bed of potatoes, and the potatoes were yummy.  This meatloaf was too mushy and too sweet for my taste.  Were I to make this recipe again, I'd just follow the meatloaf + potatoes idea, but use a different recipe (my mothers, perhaps?) for the meatloaf.

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