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Cajun Meatloaf

I'm not much of a meatloaf fan but most of the males I know sure are. I adapted this recipe from one I came upon in an old Cajun cookbook. Although somewhat different, (less hot pepper, more garlic, olive oil instead of butter, stock instead of canned milk, no ketchup), the flavors are all there – fresh meat, a little heat, and of course a classic Trinity. Remember to season to taste. If you enjoy a hot and spicy dish, then you will probably want to double up on the cayenne pepper or even add your favorite Cajun seasoning blend.

Serve with garlic mashed potatoes or my Cajun Roasted Potatoes for a new twist on a Classic American Dish. Serve with gravy or a thin, tangy BBQ sauce.

Makes 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian Parsley
3 cloves minced garlic (about 4 teaspoons) or to taste
2 medium bay leaves (whole)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoons cayenne, or to taste
1 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup beef stock
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste**
2 pounds ground beef*
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cups very fine dry bread crumbs*

Method

Preheat the oven to 350º. Position the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the seasoning mix in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften. Add the green onions, parsley, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and the seasonings. Sauté 5 - 6 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan frequently. Don't let the vegetables and seasonings burn!

Stir in the stock and tomato paste. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow mixture to return to room temperature.

Place the ground beef* in a large bowl and add the eggs, the cooked vegetable mixture (don't forget to remove the bay leaves) and the bread crumbs. Mix by hand until thoroughly combined. If the mixture is too moist, add a few additional tablespoons of bread crumbs (too many bread crumbs and the meatloaf will be too dry). Turn out the meatloaf mixture into the center of a 13X9X2 baking pan and shape into a loaf that is about 2" high, 6" wide and 10 -12" long.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, then raise the heat to 400 degrees and continue cooking until done, about 20 - 25 minutes longer or until the internal temperature of the meatloaf is 180 degrees F. Check internal temperature with an instant read meat thermometer at 40 minutes and again at 50 minutes, etc. until it reaches the desired internal temperature.

Remove the cooked meatloaf from the oven and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into 1/2 inch slices.

Tangy Meatloaf Sauce

Although not Cajun, I make a tangy sauce with 1 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Creole mustard, a little tomato paste, a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. I whisk it all together in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the sauce has been reduced by 1/3. Everything is added to taste – so adjust as necessary.

Cook's Notes
*I like the meat finely ground – so I use my food processor to blend in the ingredients. Work in batches because if the processor bowl is too full, the meat won't grind evenly.

Add about 1/4 of the meat, breadcrumbs, cooked vegetables, and eggs to the bowl of a standard size food processor that has been fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse a few times to distribute ingredients evenly and to grind the meat a bit more. Avoid over processing (mixture will turn to paste!). Transfer processed mixture to a bowl and continue processing the remaining 3 batches. When all of the mixture has been processed, combine the batches together (hands work great for this), turn out into a 13X9X3 baking pan and continue as directed above.

**I use tomato paste but you can use ketchup if you like

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