I’ve been in a funk lately. Not that late 1960s, groovy sort of funk either. I’m in that, “Man, I really don’t want to leave the sofa… ever” kind of funk.
When I get like this, I turn to comfort foods that I normally don’t eat. Let’s not start in on the whole question of how they can be comfort foods if I don’t have comforting memories of them. I love the meat and carb nature of comfort food. And, according to many a chain restaurant, there is nothing more comforting than meat made into a loaf shape.
I am not a huge lover of meatloaf. But, I can understand its charm and convenience. I found what appeared to be a delightful recipe in that 1948 gem Cooking by the Clock. I’ve cooked from it before… where that lovely couple tells you exactly when to start a meal in order for dinner to be properly served to the husband at 6:30.
I’ll spare you all of the drama of the times listed as I did a lot of modern shortcutting. But, I do need to tell you that this recipe was apparently old Mrs. Stowell’s meatloaf and the “high point” of the Thursday night church supper. I feel really, really bad for those churchgoers. Because, old Mrs. S didn’t know a damn thing about meatloaf.
The menu from the book includes, meatloaf (they insist on two words, but I will stick to the modern one word terminology), French fried potatoes, buttered carrots, hot rolls, floating island pudding, and coffee. Here are my skimps: I used baby carrots from a bag and microwaved them. I nixed the hot rolls. And, rather than deep frying the potatoes, I sliced and seasoned them and baked them in the oven with a bit of olive oil.
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 small onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 1½ lbs ground beef (I used meatloaf mix which is half beef and half pork.)
- 6 slices of white bread
- 1 t salt
- ⅛ t pepper
- 1 C water
- 2¼ C canned tomatoes
- 1 green pepper, chopped
Heat oven to 350°. Put the bacon, onion, and celery through food chopper, using medium knife. (Um, food processor? With regular blade?)
Combine with the beef and mix well. Break the bread into small pieces. Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and green pepper; mix thoroughly and shape into a loaf. This is what mine looked like once mixed (which is to say gross):
Put into a greased loaf pan. (I’m not really sure why I had to shape it into a loaf. Doesn’t the loaf pan do this for you? And, while we’re at it, what sized loaf pan did they use in the 1940s? Because, jeez Louise, this was one packed loaf pan.) Cover with tomatoes and chopped green pepper. Bake in oven for 1 hour.
There are directions for baking outside of a loaf pan that involves basting. I wasn’t about to do that.
So, this picture is of the nightmare meatloaf in the oven. Because that’s where it was a good deal after the allotted time. Let’s just say that 350° for an hour gets you to the mostly raw stage. Also, please note that I put the pan on a baking sheet as it was overflowing with meat and I was afraid (rightly so) of cooking juice spillage.
But, once I cranked it up to 375° and let it bake for another half an hour, how did it taste? Eh. How was the texture is a better question. That was weird. Moist bread (I hate that word, but so appropriate here) stuck within meat bits. It had the consistency of snot. Definite ick. Mr. Moo agreed. Paul loved it. (All I had to do was tell him it had bacon in it.)
So, you can peel and lop off the tops, then cut them into strips before boiling them in lightly salted water. Or, you can microwave baby carrots. Then, add ½ t salt, some pepper, and put butter over them. That’s it. I felt like the recipe was a bit like Paula Dean’s English pea recipe. If you care, they looked like slippery carrots in a dish:
I’m not even going to show you a picture of the fries. After having to bake the meatloaf for so long, they came out pretty crispy.
Floating Island Pudding
- 2 eggs
- 7 T sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 t cornstarch
- 2 C milk
- 1 t vanilla
Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Beat the yolks slightly. Combine 4 T sugar, salt, and cornstarch and add to yolks. Scald the milk in the top part of a double boiler. (Heat until bubbles appear around the edge.) Then, gradually pour milk over the egg yolk mixture.
Return the mixture to top of the double boiler; stir over hot (not boiling) water until it thickens—about 5 minutes. When it is creamy (so that it coats a metal spoon), pour immediately into a cool bowl to stop further cooking and to avoid curdling. (If custard is at all lumpy, strain it.) Cool and add 1 t vanilla.
Beat the egg whites until stiff, or until they stand up in peaks when the beater is lifted out. Add 3 T sugar gradually and beat until fluffy. With a large spoon, dot the egg whites on top of the cooled custard. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. It will take approximately ½ hour to make this pudding.
Well, much like its brethren the meatloaf, the custard never actually finished. So, here is a picture of it in my fridge.
The island thing didn’t dot so well. But, at least, they were truly floating because the custard never set. I don’t know if the ratio of liquid to cornstarch was off or if my cornstarch had lost its starchiness. But, this was a mini-disaster. (I say mini because it still had enough sugar to taste OK.)
So, all in all, the meal that was supposed to comfort me out of my doldrums tanked. I blame the authors of the cookbook, Jean and Clarke Mattimore entirely. Those perpetually happy cooks taunting me from the cover of the book. Look how easy! Look how perfectly lovely everything will turn out if you only follow us into our pleasantly modern kitchen! Bastards! But, at least this meal tanked so completely and so epically that it cannot (I hope) be repeated anytime soon.