Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Week 26 - Gelatin

I've never made anything with gelatin before (other than boxed Jell-O), so when the Week 26 theme came up with gelatin, I was stumped. Was I going to have to make a dessert? What else would I use gelatin for? After doing some research, I turned up some ideas involving meatloaf and meatballs, since apparently bloomed gelatin keeps those from drying out in the oven. That was a dinner I could get behind, since I love meatloaf.

My first purchased box of gelatin

I decided to try out a recipe I found on Serious Eats for a shepherd's pie meatloaf with parmesan potato crust and Stilton sauce. Except I was going to call it a cottage pie meatloaf, since a lot of commenters on that recipe seemed to take issue with something non-lamb being called a shepherd's pie. I don't really get the outrage over the difference, but I don't want angry comments (not that many people are ever going to read this). And I was going to ditch the Stilton sauce because I didn't need another component to make and I don't particularly care for Stilton (or any blue) cheese.

The ingredients for my modified cottage pie meatloaf were:

for the mashed potatoes:
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled ($1.18)
- 2 tbsp butter ($0.12)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan ($0.73)
- 1/2 cup milk ($0.12)
- salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)

for the meatloaf:
- 1 tbsp olive oil ($0.20)
- 1 onion, finely chopped ($0.50)
- 1/2 cup of celery, finely chopped ($0.20)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.08)
- 2 eggs ($0.20)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth ($0.15)
- 1/2 tsp gelatin ($0.17)
- 1 lb ground turkey ($4.99)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce ($0.12)
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard ($0.20)
- a little more than 1 tbsp tomato paste (just used as much as was left in our tube) ($0.40)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0; still working on the one we got for free from WF)
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme ($0.10)
- 21 saltines (about half a column in a regular sized box) ($0.25)
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan ($0.73)

for the assembled meatloaf:
- 1/2 cup frozen peas ($0.40)
- 3 carrots, chopped ($0.30)
- 2 tbsp butter ($0.12)

There were a lot of ingredients involved in making this meatloaf, so it should come as no surprise that this was not an especially cheap recipe at approximately $11.31. That said, it did make a lot of meatloaf, and we both ate more than we should have (and there were still leftovers).

This was a major project, and it took about 2.5 hours from start to finish. Sure, some of that was because I'm just slow in the kitchen (but I even had some help from A at certain points), but it was still pretty labor-intensive. The steps for making the meatloaf were:

1. Peel potatoes and slice into large chunks.

2. Add potatoes to pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and cook until fork tender.

3. Prepare vegetables - chop onion, celery, garlic, carrots. Grate parmesan cheese (I forgot and needed A to do this while I did other things later, but this is when I should have done it). Crush saltines (I did this at some point later, but probably could have done it at this point too).

4. Heat olive oil in skillet. Cook onion, celery, and garlic until softened, and then remove to a large bowl.

5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add 2 tbsp butter, 1/3 cup grated parmesan, 1/2 cup milk, salt and pepper. Mash potatoes and stir until done. (No need for a hand mixer like in the recipe! A spoon worked just fine. Didn't even need our masher.)

7. Combine eggs and chicken stock in medium bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the egg mixture and let stand for at least 5 minutes. (I wasn't sure if I was supposed to stir it right away since I had never worked with gelatin before and the instructions just said sprinkle on. It got a little clumpy but those eventually broke up.)

8. In the bowl with the sauteed vegetables, add ground turkey, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, tomato paste, smoked paprika, dried thyme, crushed saltines, grated parmesan, and egg mixture (once done standing).

9. Mix meatloaf ingredients together by hand (but not overly mixed).

10. Coat loaf pan in non-stick spray.

11. Add half the meatloaf mixture to the bottom and create a "well" in the middle, but leaving a thin layer of meat on the bottom and a 1/2 inch or so on either end of the loaf.

12. Add peas and carrots into the well. (I clearly had too much since I didn't do the 3/4 cup like in the recipe. It spilled over the "well.")

13. Top with the remaining meat and smooth it out so the meat is level.

14. Add mashed potatoes on top and smooth out so that it's level with the top of the loaf pan.

15. Create cross-hatch pattern on top of the potatoes, and add little bits of the 2 tbsp of butter dotted on top of the potatoes.

16. Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes. Check temperature on a meat thermometer (our non-reliable (since it says 150 degrees when it's touching nothing sometimes) meat thermometer put it over 180 degrees after 50 minutes but who knows what it really was) to make sure that it's past the requirement for whatever meat you're using.

17. Allow loaf to sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting open. (This step was hard since it was already 11:30 pm for us, but we did notice that it stayed together better the longer it sat.)

This meatloaf was a lot of work, definitely more work than the other turkey meatloaf I love so much, but it was really good and so filling because of the potato topping. The only criticism we have is that I probably should have cooked the carrots a little bit before adding them into the loaf. The recipe called for a mixture of frozen carrots and peas, and I would have gladly done that instead to save time, but we went shopping in the midst of the giant frozen vegetable recall, so our favorite mixed vegetables were not on the shelves at Costco or TJ's and all they had were those steam in bag ones at Target. The carrots were a little crunchy still after the 50 minutes in the oven, but it wasn't too bad. The meatloaf itself was good, and considering I was winging it on the time and temperature for a turkey meatloaf (the recipe used beef, pork, and veal), it wasn't dry at all. I guess the gelatin did its job. The potato crust was nice and buttery and browned, and worked well with the meat. It took a long time to make this, but it was a good finished product in the end.

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