Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Comfort Food: Meatloaf and Merlot

Meatloaf is misunderstood. I know, because until Doug came along, I wouldn't have touched the stuff with a ten-foot pole. But, in his quest to make me a little less rigid when it comes to food preferences, he encouraged me to try his meatloaf. Here's the secret they don't tell you (or at least I never put it together): if you do it right, meatloaf is one big meatball. It can be tender and juicy, lightly bound by egg and bread crumbs, spiced with oregano and garlic salt, and with that hint of sweetness from the ketchup. 

Let me also say the classic version is still the best. Recently, it was my job to make the meatloaf and I looked over some recipes online before turning back to Doug's recipe, tweaked bit by bit over the years. Sure, I could soak bread in milk for the binder (but if you've ever seen me in the kitchen, you know I'm not willing to do those kinds of time-consuming tasks). I could make a red sauce to replace the ketchup. But, why not stick with the tried and true? It tastes just as good.

If meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food, merlot might be the ultimate comfort wine. The last two times we ate meatloaf, we served it with a merlot from Vincent Arroyo. (If you've been following along, you know that we fell in love with this winery on our honeymoon and get a shipment of their wine every fall.) Their merlot is velvety and oh-so-balanced, with a hint of earth and something floral on the nose. You know what it tastes like? Red wine. Good, satisfying red wine. No fuss, no pretension.

If you are looking for something to dress up your meatloaf and merlot, let me suggest mushrooms. We made a mushroom gravy of sorts (well, a hybrid mushroom dish that had elements of gravy and elements of bourguignon) to serve over egg noodles. I found out another important comfort food secret - merlot and mushrooms are just meant to be together. (In fact, mushrooms are regularly part of the flavor profile attributed to merlot.) The mushrooms over egg noodles elevated the meatloaf in a way that mashed potatoes never do. And, the wine with mushrooms...well, that was just spectacular.

Adapted from Doug's mom (the by-line for all good comfort food)
Serves four
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp spicy mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine*
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of oregano
  • pinch of onion powder
  • dash of garlic salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients together. Lightly grease loaf pan. Add mixture to pan, patting down slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
*Both times I've made this, I wished I had sautéed the onions first. They can be quite sharp otherwise.

Vincent Arroyo Merlot (2008)
Napa Valley

Vincent Arroyo Merlot (2006)
Napa Valley
* The 2006 vintage is no longer available through the winery. We took it out of our cellar, with the hopes of learning something about the difference in vintages and the role of bottle aging. We weren't that successful.

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