Saturday, February 8, 2014


Not your mom's meatloaf.
When I was a kid, meatloaf was a favorite family dinner. Baked in the oven with potatoes and carrots alongside, my mom’s meatloaf was nothing fancy—no garlic, maybe a pinch of thyme—but it was juicy and satisfying. An economical meal of ground beef to feed four kids, meatloaf was definitely not something you served to company!

I’ve come a long way since then (I was a kid in the 1950s, in the Midwest)!
I recently served meatloaf at a dinner party and it was a great success. It wasn’t exactly “mom’s meatloaf.” Or, a Castillian mom’s version—spiced  ground lamb braised in a wrap of chard leaves with a surprise in the middle—nuggets of hard-boiled egg. Pine nuts and raisins complement the lamb and make it a very special meat loaf.

The original recipe (it came from Castilla-La Mancha, but I’m not sure of the source) called for the wrapped meat roll to be coated in beaten eggs, dredged in flour and fried, then simmered with wine in a covered pan. (That recipe appears in my cookbook, COOKING FROM THE HEART OF SPAIN—FOOD OF LA MANCHA.) 

Ready for oven-braising--ground lamb wrapped in chard leaves.

Here, I’ve simplified the recipe by eliminating the frying step and oven-braising the meatloaf. The meatloaf can also be made with a mixture of lamb and ground beef or chicken. And, instead of the “sweet” spices—cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg—it can be flavored with thyme and rosemary. A layer of roasted red peppers can be spread in the center, either instead of or in addition to the egg.

I cooked whole carrots with the meatloaf to serve as a side, along with Potatoes Mashed with Green Garlic (that recipe is here ).

Sliced meat roll shows nuggets of egg.

Lamb Roll Wrapped in Chard Leaves, La Mancha Style
Rollo de Cordero con Acelga a la Manchega

Serves 6 to 8.

¼ cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of chard (8-10 leaves)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 pounds ground lamb
2 cloves crushed garlic
¼ cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup diced pancetta or bacon (optional)
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup seedless raisins
Pinch of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander seed
Freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 hard-cooked eggs, halved lengthwise
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
½ cup diced carrot (or whole carrots)
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup white wine
1 tablespoon flour

Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a small skillet and fry the pine nuts until they are golden. Remove and reserve them.

Cut off chard stems and discard (or save for another use). Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the leaves just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain the leaves.

Soak the breadcrumbs in water to cover until softened. Squeeze out the water and put the softened bread in a mixing bowl. Add the ground lamb, garlic, parsley, bacon, minced onion, raisins, toasted pine nuts, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper and beaten eggs.

With a large wooden spoon (or hands) mix the meat thoroughly with the other ingredients.

Spread half the meat on a layer of leaves.
Spread a dampened kitchen towel on a work surface. Lay half of the chard leaves, shiny-side down, in an overlapping layer on the cloth. Divide the meat in half. Pat one-half of the meat into an oblong (about 9 inches). Place the cooked eggs, cut-side down, in a row down the middle. Pat the remaining meat on top of the eggs. With the hands, shape the meat into a loaf, sealing in the eggs.

Fold the chard leaves up over the meat roll. Cover with remaining chard leaves and tuck them under the roll, completely enclosing the meat roll. Pat the roll to firm it. It is not necessary to tie the roll.

If cooking the meat loaf in the oven, preheat to 350ºF.

Heat the remaining oil in a deep skillet or casserole big enough to hold the roll. Put in the roll, the coarsely chopped onions and carrots. Add the tomatoes, water, sugar and wine. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the casserole and either simmer on top of the stove or place in the oven.

If braising the meatloaf on top of the stove, after 35 minutes, carefully turn it over (not necessary if the meat is oven-braised). Cook the meatloaf, in total, 70 minutes, whether on top of the stove or in the oven.

Remove the meatloaf to a cutting board and allow to set for 10 minutes. Use a serrated knife to slice it. Place whole carrots, if using, in a serving bowl and keep warm. Place all of the liquid and vegetables remaining in the casserole in a blender with the flour. Blend until smooth. Return to the pan and simmer until gravy is thickened.

Slice the meatloaf and serve with the gravy.

Use pan juices to make gravy.

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