Hurricane Florence was proof we are small and insignificant in our ability to control things. About 4 days before she came ashore, I was both in awe and terrified of the power that was about to descend upon us. There was something in the air. An unfriendly wind that seemed almost conscious grazed my cheeks. I felt a gathering fury, even a looming judgement.
Some have called me an empath. My dad calls me a mystic. Whatever it is, this sense of fragility grounded me to the moment. And reminded me of the absolute blessing of small things and the gift of those around us.
I am drawn to the kitchen during times of stress. It feels safe and it is there I have at least some power. Rushing to choose a favorite apron which was the closest thing I had to a super-hero’s cape, I mused that there is really no scenario in which nourishing can help heal us during life’s tragic moments. What cannot be affected and elevated by a fork and knife! I actually DO BELIEVE THIS. Even in the face of one of the biggest storms EVER.
I worked for what I wanted most: Familiar, known, established comfort food.
What is it that transforms us into smiling children when a steaming plate of familiarity is set before us? Is it the anticipation? Memory? Pleasure? Likely it is all those things. So creating the perfect bite was important. The creamiest potatoes, the most artfully executed vegetables, and the most flavorful and moist meatloaf.
I used some old standbys like Ron’s favorite 10 minute spaghetti, assembling food that was from scratch and some that came together with the help of a can, box, or package. Even using some of our emergency canned food to do a quick soup; my Hurricane Stew. I worked with the same intention as I do when making any dish, which is 'always make it beautiful and full of flavor.'
I think I succeeded. Some of these were made on a portable burner during the power outage. Some on the heels of power coming on. All made with respect and a little flair.
Sit back and be comforted!
Moroccan Meatloaf Meal
Ron's Favorite 10 Minute Spaghetti
There are several rules to follow when converting something that may taste bottled to "boy, is that good!" First, add a few sweet onion slices before browning the meat. Next, just a splash of red wine and some extra garlic when you add the sauce. Finally, make sure you cook the pasta to al dente and then add to the meat sauce. Oh! And that little sprig of fresh basil just makes you want to say, "Florence, who?"
There is prose and music in every kitchen. Those who use their culinary talents to transform a table, elevate a palate, and elicit a gasp for simply plating food deserve a little extra applause. I revere those who are geniuses in an apron. They inspire me.
And then there's the meat loaf. Oh gosh. So many things have transpired in the lives of people over a plate of meatloaf, even though it has a name that sounds like a lazy side of cow, or a deadbeat, or an ex-spouse who never paid alimony. This is what we refer to as "comfort food?" We're odd creatures indeed.
So, being the bling-cuisine geek that I am, I decided to help this dish along. Iit could also stand to have a few little twists added in addition to being presented as though it were inside a compartmentalized tin foil container. I am not changing it drastically, mind you. I just added some sriracha sauce and some complex artisanal herb salt that fell gently into the mass of ground beef like a secret being written in a diary. Only those who read it with care will find truth between the lines....or between the tines, I suppose.
I do have a few recipes for meatloaf that add raisins or cranberries, and benefit from the addition of Moroccan spices and exotic local sausage. But this time, I just added a kick. Sorely needed, in my opinion.
Now, "gravy" is another subject entirely. It's already feels comfortable. Like the sayings, "good gravy!" and "you're riding the gravy train.." or "the rest is just gravy," we can't help smiling while it's thickening.
But let's move on. This post is about meatloaf. About a brick of beef. And as you're viewing these photos you are beginning to see how serious I am about improving our little icon of everyday nourishment.
Next, it isn't comfort food without potatoes. But not just any potato! Miniature golden potatoes, roasted with fragrant thyme and lots of excellent olive oil and aged balsamic. These regal roots could even stand on their own, don't you agree?
Now, growing up, my mother always cooked her meatloaf in a loaf pan. (duh...) But it's messy and the beef ends up kind of bubbling in its own vat of fat. That's fine with other more conscious meal preparations, but we're trying to mitigate everything "loafy," yes? I say, form it into a brick on a sheet pan lined with foil. The meat cooks more evenly, (especially when you use a meat thermometer for accuracy,) it's easier to say, "Oh, wow! That is so pretty!" And clean up is a snap. You're going to want to keep licking the gravy bowl so I'm all for freeing up more time for slurping.
Overall, I think I accomplished my goal. I added a little poetry to my plate, and I am giving you the recipe so you can do it, too.
And lucky for you I didn't have thyme to make anything rhyme....
RECIPE: Sriracha Herbed Meatloaf with Beef Gravy
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.