This was my quandary a few nights ago as I conjured up a meal from ingredients I had in my freezer, fridge & pantry. This is something I do often as I generally have enough food in my home to cook for a family of 4 for a week. I didn't want to go to the store this night and challenged myself to suck it up and get creative. Not wanting to go to the store is a fairly common event in my life as I am a self admitted food hoarder. I buy things because they look good, are on sale, are interesting or because I think that I might be out of them and God forbid I run out. At one point I had 5 jars of julienned sun-dried tomatoes from Trader Joe's in the pantry. I think this is when I realized I had a problem.
My half hour drive home from work definitely has its benefits...I can unwind, enjoy the solitude and conjure up what to make for dinner. This particular morning I defrosted a package of bone in country pork ribs (stocked up when they were on sale!) and thought about a dozen different ways to make something tasty...and then it hit me. Pork Meatloaf. With bacon in it. (Pork fat rules!!) And some other stuff mixed in . And maybe gravy. Got green beans (yay!). And then I hit a wall.
Thanksgiving on the brain helped, because as my thoughts went from meat & gravy to starch and to my plate at the table...and what is always dressed in a little in gravy at the table in late November? My moms awesome stuffing! I mentally patted myself on the head because I had a beautiful loaf of Challah left over from a recent shopping/hoarding expedition that I had yet to put to use.
Mental inventory of the kitchen revealed the lack of sausage, which is a key ingredient in stuffing in my house.
So my thoughts turned then to a bread pudding type side dish with no sausage (sniff), but with the fresh eggs from my Papas chickens, wild mushrooms and caramelized onion cheddar. Can you say winner winner???
For the meatloaf....first I trimmed out the meat from the bone, it was about a pound and a half piece, good for 2 people :) Then we hauled out the Kitchen Aid mixer with the grinder attachment and ground up our meat. If you are grinding this yourself, it is best if the meat is chilled to the point of being almost frozen when grinding.
Take the trimmed bone, add water enough to cover it (about 3 cups), chop up a small onion, 1 carrot & 1 celery stalk. Simmer for about a half hour - an hour, skimming any fat off the top. Strain and set aside.
Then we cut up:
1 small onion, fine dice
1 carrot, fine dice
1 garlic clove, minced
3 strips thick cut bacon, chopped fine
Saute in olive oil until tender, add 1/2 cup red wine and simmer until almost all the wine is evaporated. Let cool and add to the ground meat.
Add 1 egg, 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 1/2 T salt or salt based seasoning (i.e. garlic salt, Lawrys...whatever your preference) and crack some fresh pepper in to it.
Mold in to a log and bake for 45 minutes at 375. The loaf should read 160 degrees internally when you bring it out. Let the loaf rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
For the Puddings....
Dice up 1 1/2 cups stale bread-can be egg bread, challah, sourdough or whatever you have hanging around.
1 large egg
2/3 cup Milk (can be any % fat you want, it will just be richer with a higher content)
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used the caramelized onion cheddar from Trader Joe's)
About 1 T salt
dash of white pepper
1/2 cup chopped wild mushrooms (re hydrated and squeezed dry or if fresh, saute for a few to release the water)
Drench bread in the milk mixture and let it sit for a few minutes to let the bread absorb everything. Stir around if needed. Butter 2-4oz ramekins and scoop bread mixture in the ramekins. Bake with the meatloaf for about 30-40 minutes. They will hopefully look like this!
And then the gravy.....
Homemade gravy is not really that hard to make and sure beats the heck out of any package mix I have ever opened.
If you have fat drippings from the meatloaf (you should have a little), scoop or drain that in to a small sauce pan. Add about 3 T butter and 4 T Flour. Stir together over low heat until it is all blended and starts to smell a little like peanut butter (I am not crazy, I promise, it will). Start adding your homemade stock a little bit at a time, whisking the mixture to blend it and make it smooth. It should thicken up as it hits a boil. Season with salt and if it is too light (pork gravy tends to be), add a little Magi seasoning to make it more "meaty".
And the gravy absolutely goes on the bread pudding...decadent yes, but oh so tasty. I do hope you enjoy!