A Most Unusual Meat Loaf (26 October 2002)
My name for it is exactly right, but it is called “Polpettoni” in Trieste. The city is in the northeast corner of present-day Italy and it has had some trials in its time. I hope you like my version of the recipe, but I expect most Triestans would turn their noses at me. Inspiration came from Saveur.
1/2 pound each, ground beef and ground pork
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage (remove casing if present)
4 thin slices prosciutto, minced (2 ounces)
3 ounces mortadella, minced
3 ounces pepperoni, minced
3 medium eggs
1/2 cup parmegiano regiano, finely grated
1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 pint crushed tomatoes with basil (page 255)
In a large bowl, mix above ingredients together thoroughly.
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
1 tablespoon rosemary
2 teaspoons summer savory
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne chile (to taste)
Fresh-ground 4-colour peppercorns to taste
Sauté onion, garlic, carrot and celery together briefly, until becoming transparent, then add spices and herbs. Sauté for another minute, then remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, add to meat mixture and mix in completely.
1 large carrot
6 thin asparagus spears, trimmed of hard bits and peeled
3 hard-cooked eggs *
1/3 to 1/2 cup asiago cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup carrot/asparagus poaching liquid
1/2 cup pinot grigio wine (I used Italian Pasqua – Verona)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Parboil carrot and asparagus until soft, about 3 minutes, then shock in ice water to stop cooking. I made the eggs one day earlier, but it’s irrelevant.
For the next set of instructions, imagine you are creating a “stuffed meatloaf.”
Lay out two pieces of aluminum foil that are about 12-inches long. Divide the meat mixture in half on the two foil pieces and spread it into even-thickness about 8-inches by 10-inches, and 1/2-inch thick. Quarter the carrot lengthwise and lay the pieces into the center of each rectangle along with the asparagus. Peel the eggs and quarter them, then divide the eggs evenly down the center of the two rectangles of meat. Last, spread the cheese evenly down the centers of each rectangle.
Roll the foil pieces carefully to encase the carrot, egg, and asiago cheese in the center of the meat loaves, then tighten the foil into rolls about 3-inches in diameter and 10-inches long. Fold the ends of the foil and lay the rolls seam side up in a large glass baking dish. Poke tiny holes in each meat loaf roll to allow flavours of poaching liquid to penetrate. Pour in poaching liquid and wine to almost cover meat loaves.
Bake for about 1 hour, or until 170° F internal temperature. Be forewarned that the cooked meat will be quite pink because of its ingredients. Slice into 1/2-inch thick pieces to serve.
Serve with a green salad and boiled potatoes.
* Note: To hard cook the eggs, place them into a pot and cover with cold water; bring the water slowly to a simmer, and let the eggs cook for 10 to 12 minutes (slow simmer); turn off the heat, then drain the pot of hot water and immediately cover the eggs with cold water, let sit for a couple of minutes, then drain it; fill the pot with cold water again, but while doing so, crack the eggs against the side of the pot by shaking it from side to side; finally, let the eggs sit for about 5 minutes in cold water, then drain, peel the eggs, and refrigerate them in a tightly sealed container.
My thanks to Jacques Pépin for the correct methodology for preparing almost perfect hard-cooked eggs.