There’s fire and then there’s smoke!
Most people know that I love fire. I am so happy to watch the flames dance in my handsome wood-fired oven and I adore the sounds of snap, crackle and pop. Eventually, the brilliant drama subsides and the floor of my wood-fired oven registers 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The interior is white, the coals are glowing and a flame from the dry hardwood logs licks the ceiling of the oven. This is when the heat saturated bricks are ready to receive our beautiful Neapolitan doughs. Because I am so passionate about fire and pizza, people sometimes don’t realize that I also have a great fascination with smoke. Slow burning fruitwood, especially cherry or applewood produce a sweet smell that enhances most slow cooked meats and vegetables. Last year, Val and I decided to follow the call of many great barbecue enthusiasts and go to Barbecue University at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs to study with live fire master cook and author Steven Raichlen.
For three fantastically hot and smokey June days we barbecued whole pigs, pork loins, bacon, prime ribs, short ribs, brisket, whole chickens, chicken wings, chicken thighs, lamb bellies, salmon and eggs. We grilled lobsters, lettuce, peppers, pound cake and potatoes. We cooked almost everything over live fire using the most expensive grills and “set it and forget it” smokers. The only thing we didn’t smoke was meatloaf…which is why I worked so hard once I got back to Maine to develop this porky meatloaf. It is amazing when slathered with a rich homemade barbecue sauce and allowed to cook slowly in a smokey environment.
Meatloaf, composed of ground meats, and assorted binders and fillers, takes more time to prepare than a huge chunk of meat, but meatloaf can be prepared in advance, it cooks relatively quickly, it’s wonderful reheated and some say it’s best when cold, sliced and slapped between two pieces of toasted bread. The meatloaf recipe I’m demonstrating on 207 is especially luscious because of the fatty burger blend (70% meat, 30% fat, most of which comes from smoked bacon that has been ground into the beef) and because of the chicken stock which adds flavor and moisture.
Southern Maine has a few great butchers who know their craft and who use only the finest, humanely raised meats from Maine farms. I must give a special shout out to the great Jarrod Spangler in Kittery, Maine. Jarrod’s store “Maine Meats” is filled with the most gorgeous cuts of grass-fed pork, beef and chicken. Carnivores will swoon when they see the display counter. Thank you, Jarrod, for turning me on to your bacon burger blend. It’s so smokey and delicious that there is no need to add strips of bacon on top of the loaf. If you don’t have access to this type of burger blend, do try to find a blend that is at least 80% meat and 20% fat and then go ahead and layer a few strips of bacon over the top of your meatloaf.
You don’t have to make your own barbecue sauce from scratch, but it is so worth it. Steven Raichlen borrowed this tangy sauce recipe from the Kansas City Barbecue Society. I tweaked it a little, but not much. The sauce is enhanced with dark rum and is perfect with this meatloaf, but of course, you could use it on ribs or brisket or pork shoulder. If it’s not smokey enough for your taste, add more liquid smoke, if it’s not hot enough, toss in a few dashes of tabasco. I like to serve this meatloaf with twice baked potatoes and a rainbow slaw dressed with creamy chipotle dressing.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion grated on large holes of box grater
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 cup Mike's Hot Honey
- 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 2 cups Ketchup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pound beef burger blend (70% meat 30% bacon)
- Preheat smoker or oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat oil over medium in a small skillet. Cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until soft, and most of liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
- Meanwhile make barbecue sauce by bringing dark brown sugar, cider vinegar, molasses, hot honey, Worcestershire sauce, dark rum, yellow mustard chili powder, liquid smoke black pepper, granulated garlic, ground allspice, ketchup and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce to blender; add chicken stock and cilantro and blend until smooth. Set remaining barbecue sauce aside.
- Add green broth mixture, eggs, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper to onion and garlic; mix to combine.
- Add beef and mix well with your hands to combine. Transfer meatloaf mixture to 14 x10 oval casserole pan and form into a long log (about 12 x 5), smoothing surface. Spread some of reserved barbecue sauce over top. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 165 degrees, about 75 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 10 minutes before slicing.
- I cook this recipe in my Memphis Grill smoker and use applewood pellets. But if you don't have a smoker, never fear. This dish can be cooked in the home oven at 350 degrees for 75 minutes and it will not be quite as smokey tasting, but it will still be absolutely delicious.