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Doesn’t everyone eat this loaf-o-meat? No, but we should!
Growing up in home where the Mama (who did all the cooking) wasn’t from the U.S., I wasn’t lucky to have meatloaf be a dinner staple as it was in many of my friends’ homes. However I always had a curiosity about something that was essentially a block of ground meat. How could it possibly be as good as everyone made it out to be when they showed up to the lunch tables with their sandwiches made from leftovers? Around the time I was in high school, my mom began experimenting with making this classic American meal. To be honest I remember mostly liking the ketchup on top, neither liking nor disliking the loaf itself.
But then during my college years, I ate at a handful of restaurants in San Francisco that specialized in Meatloaf Dinner plates. The juicy mound of meat topped with tangy seasoned ketchup, served along side buttery mashed potatoes and steamed green beans opened my eyes to joy of classic America Food.
However, the typical combination of ground pork and ground chuck (usually containing 15% fat) is something I couldn’t in good conscious prepare for my husband or friends. So, I had to figure out a way to get in as much flavor, juiciness, and MEATiness as those heart clogging slices of loaf that I remembered from college.
How does one reduce the fat (remembering the axiom “fat is flavor”), while maintaining the taste and texture?
Mushrooms not only provide immense moisture to the leaner ground turkey, but more importantly they give the loaf it’s meaty texture for a mouth-feel that isn’t disappointing to those who crave the traditional pork-beef mixture. They also impart an “umami” flavor that is found in red meat dishes. Its just that little “something” that makes meatloaf meaty.
The Spice Mix:
Ras el what? Ras al Hanout (Kind of pronounced Raz-El-Hanoot). This Moroccan spice blend is one that every lazy cook should have in their pantry. Forget those pre-made McCormick “Chicken” spice blends that you throw on your chicken, quick week night veggies, fish, or whatever you need to prepare in a hurry. This melding of what many of us consider “sweet” spices, along with more typically savory ones makes a versatile seasoning we all need in our kitchens. . . and lives!
Its fragrant notes from cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg are only enhanced by spiciness from ginger, pepper, and mace. Sound interesting? If so, your next thought is probably, “Where would I even get something so exotic?”
Of course you could make your own by selecting the best whole spices ranging from cumin seeds, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, and of course Tellicherry pepper berries, among others. Then after toasting them carefully, you could pop them into your spice grinder (of which we all have, right? Wrong.) Then Voila! Simple right? No. Not simple enough for me.
Phew! I can buy it.
Luckily, nowadays you can buy Ras al Hanout (as well as Harissa, which I’ll get to) in places like Cost Plus-World Market, Whole Foods, and numerous other grocery stores. But I personally prefer to get it from my favorite spice purveyor, The Spice House in Chicago. (Purchase online HERE.)
Don’t worry about only buying it to make this particular recipe and having it go to waste. Its so versatile you can toss raw root veggies in it with some olive oil before roasting, sprinkle it over chicken breasts before cooking them on the BBQ, or use it to coat garbanzo beans for a quick high fiber side dish. The list of uses for Ras goes on and on.
“A Dab’ll Do Ya!”
As for Harissa, its a spiced paste mixture with a bit of kick! Again it originates from Morocco, but is a staple all over North Africa, Spain and surrounding countries. Luckily its made it way here to the U.S. by way of Middle Eastern grocery stores. Its become so common you can purchase it at most grocery stores, again at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, some Targets, and here on Amazon.com of course.
With this flavorful, yet “hot” chili paste, its best to abide by the “a dab’ll do ya” rule. Start off with just enough to flavor whatever you are making, but not overpower other flavors with its spicy kick. This is important especially if you are feeding kids with delicate pallets. But, trust me when I say that you are going to be putting this on everything from pizza to toasted baguette slices!
I have time today, but not tomorrow.
Make Ahead: To make this ahead of time, follow the instructions below labeled “If making ahead”.
Are you a veteran to using these North African flavors? What are your favorite dishes to make with Harissa or Ras? (Comment below.)
MOROCCAN SPICED “MAKE-AHEAD” MEATLOAF; UNDER 300CAL WITH ALMOST 30G PROTEIN
- 3 large eggs, hard boiled
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 small shallots (or 1/2 small onion*)
- 2 cup diced baby portabella mushrooms
- 1/3 cup (not packed) cilantro
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp panko crumbs
- 1 tsp Ras al hanout
- 2 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Harissa
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 1 1/2 tsp harissa
- 2 1.2 brown sugar
- 1/8 tsp Ras al hanout
*Chef’s Note*: Often at the grocery stores shallots can be rotted and beyond salvage. Check out “How to choose, prepare, and store shallots” for advice on how to pick a couple good ones.
*Chef’s Tip*: Take a look at my post, “How get a Hard Boiled Egg without the Ugly Grey Ring Around the Yolk.”
Preheat oven to 375°.
- Over medium high heat, add 1 tsp olive oil to a non-stick pan. Sauté the mushrooms and shallots until the mushrooms are fully cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Line a sheet pan (baking sheet) with foil and spray or brush with coconut or veg. oil. Set aside.
- To the mushrooms add in the cilantro, panko, harissa, and soy sauce, and the 1 raw egg that has been lightly beaten. Stir to combine all of this with the mushroom mixture. Add in the turkey and mix well, but gently. The more, and rougher, you mix the turkey the tougher it will get.
- Onto the prepared sheet pan, shape 1/3 of turkey mixture into roughly an 8″x 4″ flat rectangle. Lay all three eggs across, and cover with the remaining turkey mixture.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to cook it, up to 24 hours.
- Topping: In a small bowl stir together the ketchup and next 3 ingredients (through Harissa). If making ahead: cover and refrigerate.
- To bake immediately: Heat oven to 375°, slather the top with sauce and cook, uncovered. Begin to check the internal temperature around 30 minutes. When the thermometer reads 165 steadily, remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. slice and serve! If making ahead: When ready to cook, heat oven to 375° and bake meatloaf for 45-60 minutes. When the thermometer reads 165° steadily, remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. slice and serve!
Need a side dish?
This goes great with some simple cauliflower mash. Steam a bag of frozen cauliflower, and using an immersion blender combine with a little butter, salt, fat free half and half, and garlic powder.