Most Tuesday evenings find me sitting in my FOUR HOUR class for the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad administration program (someday someone affiliated with this program is going to read this blog and I'm going to get dooced right out of the class, my job, and possibly my ectoplasm and all other proof of my existence). Most Tuesdays, G is working till late out on Long Island, plying his trade. He picks me up from class, and we get home at about 9:00 pm. So most Tuesday nights, we have soup for dinner. It's good soup; it's homemade soup; it's soup that I've usually made on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of terrible, tiring Tuesday night. A few weeks ago we had minetrone; then there was mulligatawny. Last week it was black bean made on a ham bone. This week I made split-pea/barley/chicken/vegetable.
But since, oddly enough, class was cancelled tonight for Halloween, we're not having the soup. I'm not particularly scared of teenagers playing pranks, but then I actually work in public schools. Some folks are scared of that kind of stuff. Thus it was decided that in order for us all be home snug in our beds or helping our little ones harass the neighbors for candy, we should cancel class. So tonight, I decided to cook a real dinner (on a weeknight!) as I wait for G to come home from his Tuesday travails.
I longingly perused Laurie Colwin's Halloween menu: the John Thorne pumpkin tian that Lindy mentioned recently in the comments on this post; something called a Wensley Cake; and meatloaf. But pumpkin/squash tian and Wensley Cake would have required a trip to the store. Having gotten home early for a change, I really wanted to make good use of time by slothfully lying around on my bed for a while, having a little snack, reading the rest of the novel I've been toting around lately and playing on the Internets. But I could still make meatloaf, something we haven't had for quite a while, it occurred to me. I had everything in the house. And what's even better, meatloaf would give me something with which to make a plane sandwich for upcoming trip to L.A. I need something sustaining on those long flights, more than Blue Chips and a bevvie, thank you very much. The meatloaf would also provide some of G's meals while I'm away. Usually he makes something he likes to refer to as "The Sandwiches of Abandonment" or "The Soup of Sadness" or even "The Ramen of Loneliness" when I call from far away and ask what he's eating. At least the abandonment sandwich will have some meatloaf in it this time.
But what to have with the meatloaf, if no tian is in the offing? Salad is certainly a safe bet. And then it hit me. We'd had lovely baked garnet yams a few nights ago, and there were some leftovers sitting in the fridge. What could be more festively Halloweenish than sweet potato home fries, bright orange and crisp-edged?
And alas, no Wensley cake. But there are still financiers and World Peace cookies ( I know you're sick of hearing about those cookies. Just try them), so I took the liberty of decorating one as a reverse Jack-O-Lantern. I'm a little nervous to think what Pierre Hermé or Dorie Greenspan would say about my putting peanut butter on a Korova cookie, but I'll bet it tastes pretty good. I can't really tell you, since we haven't had dessert yet.
I can tell you, however, that the salad was green and fresh, and that the yam home fries turned absolutely lush and molten under their crisp exteriors. And the meat loaf? Well, as Laurie Colwin herself said, " [Meat loaf] is nice, homey food, and usually a hit with young and old...it always seems to be good. I have never run into an unlovable meat loaf, but I have loved some better than others." This one is very lovable, I assure you, for Halloween or for any other occasion.
Halloween Meat Loaf
from More Home Cooking
I'd really rather give you the recipe in Ms. Colwin's own inimitable words. I don't have many compunctions about doing so, since it's already been published online on a much-trafficked culinary site. Here it is, then:
"A few years ago I ran into a really delicious meat loaf at Caldwell’s Corner, the premier breakfast and lunch place in West Cornwall, Connecticut. This meat loaf’s winning feature is its texture, which is light and velvety. Naturally I attempted to prize out of David Caldwell (an agreeable, bearded former coffee buyer and father of twins) the secretof his success, which actually may be that of his wife, Alice. The trick is to soak two 1-inch-thick slices of homemade bread (crusts discarded) in 1 cup buttermilk for 20 minutes and stir the mixture into 2 pounds ground chuck with 2 large eggs. The Caldwells make their own bread, but any good, grainy loaf, such as levain, will do. Perfectionists can buy a round loaf – about 7 inches in diameter and about 3 inches high – and cut 2 slices from the middle. (In a pinch, 2 slices of the best packaged bread you can find will do.) It doesn’t matter how you season the meat loaf: Every cook has a different method. I use 1 large garlic clove, minced; 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard; 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce; and 1 tablespoon ketchup. Sometimes I add a couple of tablespoons of a nice thing called Ortolina, which tastes rather like a concentrated form of V8 vegetable juice. You can buy it in a tube or a jar in specialty food shops. Bake the meat loaf in a loaf pan, 9 by 5 by 3 inches, at 350 degrees F. for about 1 hour."
I did a bit of adaption to Ms. Colwin's recipe since, as she says, you must season it as you see fit. Her seasoning is remarkably like what my mother used to use in meat loaf. I mostly did what she suggests, although I used 3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced, and a large minced up shallot as well. I used the ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire, but had no Ortolina, which I've never come across. I added a few big shakes of Penzey's Old World Seasoning and about a tablespoon of smoked chipotle Tabasco sauce.