Meat Loaf En Croute - You've never had it this way!
"En croute" is French for "wrapped in pastry". Hence, Meat Loaf en Croute is meat loaf wrapped in pastry. I had this for dinner late last week and it was a hit. The combination of savory meats, onions, and cheese wrapped in a light and flaky pastry crust is just too delicious to describe. You'll just have to make it and try it for yourself. It presents itself very elegantly at the dinner table and the great thing about this dish is its simplicity to make; you've already prepared the meat before, if you tried my stuffed peppers in a previous post. The recipe for the meat is the same, well almost. So let's get started and gather our ingredients:
1 Puff pastry sheet
1/2 pound of ground beef (20% fat)
1/2 pound of plain ground pork (do not use pork saussage or Italian or anything like that)
1/2 cup of either Panko or plain bread crumbs
1/2 white or yellow onion, minced (food processor works great)
1 medium red tomato, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, minced (you can put them in the processor along with the onion)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 whole egg
1/2 cup of finely grated Swiss, Gruyere, or Parm.
2 tablespoon of flour
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons of Tomato Paste
4 pinches of salt
4 pinches of pepper
Remove pastry sheet from the freezer a good couple of hours beforehand. Take and prepare all your ingredients. If you have a smaller food processor, it will work well to mince your onions and garlic. Otherwise, just used a sharp bladed knife. In a large bowl, add the meat, bread crumbs, onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, egg, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and using your hands, mix very well until those ingredients are incorporated. Now add half of the cheese and half of the flour, and mix well until ingredients have been well mixed with the meats. Form into a ball.
Take the remaining flour and spread it over a cutting board and begin to roll the meat out into a cylinder shape 2 1/2 inches in diameter by 10 inches in length. Make sure that when you roll it out that the meat captures as much of the flour so that the loaf has a thin coat of it all around. Set aside carefully.
In a 10 inch frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the meat carefully and saute, turning it on all sides until it is well browned and has some caramelization on the surface. I have found that if you turn it a quarter turn every 3 minutes, that tends to work fine. Touching it, there should be a nice semi hard surface and it should have a little give. Remember, 90 percent of the cooking is in your pan. The oven will simply heat it back up and finish the remaining 10 percent cooking. You just want to make sure that it's not going to be dried out. When finished, remove the loaf and set it on a plate and allow to cool.
After meat has cooled, preheat your oven to 425 and prepare your pastry sheet. Make sure your cutting board is completely clean and dry. Sprinkle flour to cover board surface and also rub flour on your rolling pin. Set the pastry sheet on the board and unfold it carefully. Begin to roll out the sheet, rolling in a single direction. Now if my memory of Geometry still serves me and your meat loaf was the dimensions I specified, you will need to roll out a rectangle of 13 inches by 7.97 inches.... so just round it off to 8 inches wide, ok? Just make sure you don't roll it too thin.
Finally, spread the remaining grated cheese down the length of the sheet, leaving an inch on the borders for your egg wash. You may sprinkle some parsley if you desire. Brush an egg wash (egg and teaspoon of water mix) on all the edges. Take the meat and set it on the pastry sheet lengthwise and carefully begin to roll the pastry while roling the loaf. Once completely rolled, pinch the ends and secure the seam. You can use a fork if you wish, leaving an imprint up and down the seam. Turn the loaf so that the seam is at the bottom. With a sharp knife, make 1 inch slits diagonally, about 1 to 2 inches apart. Brush some of the remaining egg wash over the pastry. Place on a non stick cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and is a nice golden color. Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.