31 August 2009


Unlike such 1950s-era staples as salmon patties and tuna noodle casserole, meatloaf wasn't a Mason family staple growing up. Despite my dad's nostalgia for the infamous "burploaf" of his youth, I guess Mom's red meat averse ways prevailed and nary a loaf graced our table. Until Dad morphed into the Great White Hunter a few years ago, that is, and we all had to deal with an over-abundance of ground venison. A few pounds of the stuff even came with me on my move to Austin for grad. school and I enjoyed a few semesters' worth of venison meatloaf experimentation.

I've come to discover that meatloaf has a lot going for it, indeed. Versatile enough to anchor a simple meal with a few sides, to top pasta in lieu of meatballs, or sandwich between slices of crusty bread for lunch, it can be made in advance, reheated, and even frozen in single portions for busy times ahead. Basically this picky little former vegetarian girl has turned into a full-fledged meatloaf fan. So much so, in fact, that finding myself out of venison, I went out and bought a pound of ground bison yesterday and a new iteration was born...the buffaloaf!

Much like venison, bison is a lean meat, and one that I feel comfortable eating knowing that it once lead a charmed grass-fed, feed lot free life. Aside from fat content, I think it cooks up pretty much just like beef and lends itself well to anything that would normally feature a giant hunk-o-cow. If you can't get your hands on some buffalo, I think ground turkey or, of course, regular old ground beef would be just as tasty.

The recipe that follows, adapted from
Gourmet, yields a relatively mild loaf, traditionally seasoned with parsley and Worcestershire sauce. Although this first attempt came out with pretty tasty results, I'm looking forward to future buffaloaf experimentation and some more adventurous flavor combinations. A few possibilities that come to mind: a roasted Hatch or poblano chili version, a more flavorful Italian version with porcini and more fresh herbs, and an Asian take with fresh ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic-chili sauce and a little corriander.

serves 4-5 hungry folks

1/2 cup diced onion
1 diced celery rib
1 smallish carrot, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil (I used olive)
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs (preferably freshly made)
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 egg
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt (you may want a little more--I did but I like salt)
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb ground bison (or venison, turkey, etc.)
6 plum tomatoes, cut into wedges* optional
a few sliced shallots* optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Cook onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in 2 teaspoons oil in large skillet over moderate heat until onion is softened. Transfer to a large bowl, let cool a bit, and stir in breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper (to taste). Add meat and stir (or mix with your fingers--way more fun!) until just combined. Form mixture into an oval loaf and place on baking sheet or into a loaf pan. If you want, mix tomatoes and shallots with the remaining oil and some salt and pepper and scatter on top of loaf. Bake in the middle of oven for about 1 hour or until thermometer inserted into center registers 160 degrees F. Transfer to a platter and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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