We'll be hosting 8 adults and 2 children (well, 3, technically, if you consider the few bites that Huxley will munch on), including Lynne Harty (the photographer behind all of my books with Lark), her husband Steve Cohen, and the Rattigans, proprietors of the legendary French Broad Chocolate Lounge, including Dan's mom and sister. My mom and grandmother ("Gigi" and "Nanny" respectively) will be in attendance as well. Everyone is pitching in with a dish or two, while Hubs takes care of the big bird. It should be a grand time.
I don't know if it's because last holiday season was such a blur, as I recovered from the birth and got used to being a new mama, or if I'm just feeling really festive lately, but I've been yielding to the holiday lure in a big way. I've already had eggnog (several times! with fresh nutmeg! and bourbon!), have been burning this heavenly candle, and have even enjoyed some classic holiday tunes. I'm planning to make my own snow globes, have foraged pine cones from my yard and mother's to put on handmade wreaths, will be back in the saddle with my annual cookie exchange out here on December 4th, and have picked up some snowball-shaped candles I plan to do a "frosty" decorative treatment on. The thrill is in the air, folks, I tell ya!
But, before I plow ahead with Yuletide festivities and Thanksgiving tomorrow, I thought I'd share with you a recent dish Hubs and I cooked up for dinner. Using local grass-fed pastured beef from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, we created an apple and bourbon pan meatloaf. Many a meatloaf is rendered dry, bland, and tough on account of overcooking, under-seasoning, and inadequate moisture. Here, eggs, milk and fresh apples provide ample moisture, while fresh herbs and a sweet & savory glaze take this loaf to the meatloaf hall of fame.
We used some of the apple butter I recently made in the glaze, and a touch of bourbon throughout to inject it with an added layer of flavor. Suffice to say, it's good. Stick-to-your-ribs-warm-your-toes-tickle-your-fancy good. While turkey is getting all the attention this week, consider this meatloaf once you've had your poultry fill. We spread it out in a baking pan, as opposed to shaping it into a loaf, as we discovered that, in keeping it wider (versus higher), the loaf cooks more uniformly throughout.
Apple Bourbon Pan Meatloaf
For the loaf:
-2 1/2 pounds ground grass-fed sirloin
-2-3 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and cubed
-1 tablespoon butter
-2 ounces bourbon
-3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (or 1 cup dried)
-1/3 cup milk
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped fine (or 1 teaspoon dried)
-1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine
-2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried garlic granules
-2 teaspoons sea salt
-Several grinds black pepper
-Olive oil, for baking sheet
For the crust:
-1/2 cup catsup
-1/2 cup apple butter
-A splash of bourbon
-1/2 tsp garlic granules
-A pinch of salt
-Several grinds of black pepper
-A few drops of hot sauce, if desired
1) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking sheet (the size of the baking sheet isn't important; we used a 9"x12" sheet pan, but what matters is the thickness that you shape the loaf into).
2) Saute the apples in the butter and bourbon over medium heat for about 10 minutes until they start to break down.
3) Remove from heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the meat and stir to fully combine.
4) Add the breadcrumbs to the meat and apple mixture.
5) In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and salt together. Add to the meat mixture and stir to combine.
6) Add the soy sauce, herbs, pepper, and garlic.
7) Mix well (clean hands are best for this task!).
8) Form a flat loaf on the greased baking sheet, about 1 1/2-inches thick.
8) Mix all of the ingredients for the crust in a small bowl. Smooth the mixture evenly across the top of the loaf.
9) Cook at 375 degrees for one hour (we put some sweet potatoes into the oven at the same time to bake while the meatloaf cooked).
10) Place under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, until the crust starts to brown a little.
11) Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
I've been hugely inspired by the livestock grazing practices of Allan Savory of the Savory Institute. Winner of the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Institute Challenge, Savory is literally changing the landscape of our planet for the better with his holistic land management. The video below shares his philosophy and practices. Hickory Nut Gap has been inspired by Savory and we're immensely fortunate to have access to such sustainably raised beef in our area.