Mexican-style Meatloaf

This has become one of my favorite recipes for a comfort-food meal!  This recipe was born of my (& Barry's) love of Mexican food.  It's moist, fragrant and embraces the flavors in Mexican cuisine; what's not to love about that?.  A surprise ingredient is nopales (cactus-a staple in Mexican cuisine) that adds moisture and whose texture reminds me of okra. (I highly doubt anyone will ever guess that this meatloaf contain cactus!)  Best of all, the house will smell like a Mexican restaurant while it bakes, and I love that!  Serves 4

Meatloaf:

1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican preferred)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground Ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 canned Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, then smashed with the back of a fork until it becomes a paste

1/3 cup ketchup

1/3 cup salsa

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup finely-diced onions

1/2 cup finely-diced Poblano pepper

1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded, membranes removed, finely diced

1/2 cup canned or jarred nopales (cactus-find it in the Mexican section), or 1 cup fresh, spines removed,  finely chopped

1 Tablespoon finely-minced garlic

1 1/2 pound ground chuck

1/2 cup very-finely crushed tortilla chips

Glaze:

1/3 cup each ketchup & salsa

1 T. honey

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside..

Assemble meatloaf:

Combine the seasonings in a large bowl. Add the eggs, ketchup, salsa, onions, peppers, nopales, garlic and combine well.  Break the beef up into chunks and place in the bowl; sprinkle the crushed tortilla chips over the top.  Using your hands, gently, squeeze, turn, stir, and generally "smoosh" the mixture until it is well combined.

Place the meat mixture on the sheet pan and shape into an even loaf (not too flat, as you want nice-sized pieces to serve). 

Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well-combined.  Set aside.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then remove and spread the glaze evenly over the top of the meatloaf.  Return to the oven and bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 160-degrees, another 15 minutes or more.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Favorite Pizza Crust

Pizza made with my Favorite Pizza Crust

Pizza made with my Favorite Pizza Crust

Pizza!  Who doesn't love it, and I would categorize it as a go-to meal in any situation, wouldn't you?  Great pizza begins with the crust; crispy outside, sturdy enough to handle lots of toppings, yet tender inside with great flavor.  This dough can be mixed, allowed to rise, then refrigerated for up to 24 hours to use later.  I often freeze half of the dough to use later; just defrost in the refrigerator for about 8 hours.  I use this recipe for all of my pizzas, including the Breakfast Pizza from the November edition. (Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.)

Equipment needed: Kitchen Scale Stand mixer     Pizza pans

This recipe makes: 2-1/2" thick 14-inch round pizzas, 2-3/4" thick 12-inch pizzas, 1-3/4" thick Half-sheet pan Sicilian-style pizza, or 1-1 1/2" thick 9X13" pan pizza

2 teaspoons instant yeast

8 ounces warm water

7/8 ounce olive oil

13 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for sprinkling and adding as needed)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer, using a kitchen scale, hitting the tare button after each addition so that the next ingredient can be weighed.  Mix with paddle attachment until mostly combined, then switch to the dough hook and mix for about 4-5 minutes on low speed, adding a bit of flour if needed so that the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. The dough will still be a bit rough and not satiny smooth; that is what you want.

Lightly grease a large bowl, add the dough and turn it over to grease the top. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow it to rise till it's very puffy, 60-90 minutes.

(To make pizza later, place the dough in a large, greased container with a lid.  Let it rise for 45 minutes, then refrigerate for 4 and up to 24 hours, or freeze.  Defrost overnight if frozen before using.  Allow refrigerated dough to warm and rise for 2-3 hours before shaping.)

Decide what size, shape, and thickness the pizza will be, then shape roughly.  Cover the dough and allow it to rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile lightly spray the pans with non-stick spray (to prevent sticking), then coat lightly with olive oil (for flavor).  Place the dough in the pan(s) and press and stretch the dough over the pan.  If the dough starts to shrink back, just walk away for 10-15 minutes, covering the dough so it won't dry out.  Finish patting out the dough to fit the pan.  Cover and let the dough rise until it's puffy, about an hour to 90 minutes.)

Toward the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 450-degrees.  Bake the pizza crust(s) until it looks and feels set on top, and is just beginning to brown around the edge of the crust, but is still pale. (Baking time will depend on the thickness of the crust.)

(The crust(s) can be cooled completely on a rack at this point, wrapped in plastic, and stored at room temperature for use up to two days later.  The par-baked crusts can also be frozen for up to a month).

To bake immediately, arrange toppings over the crust and bake on the upper rack of the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.  Move the pizza to the lower rack if the top is browning too quickly.  Both the top and bottom of the crust should be browned. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

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