Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beet Loaf and Sorrykraut

A local celebrity chef is a periodic guest on KUOW, our public radio station, and about every two months, he does a "What's-in-the-fridge" show. Basically, callers to the show say a couple of ingredients that they have around, and the chef explains a recipe they can use them in for dinner.

It's almost a game, but it can be quite successful in helping create a focus on some core, effective techniques and flavors. I have long used it as a guide in helping me branch into new recipes and ingredients. Ten years ago, I would type two virtually random ingredient into the search box on epicurious, and just scroll through to see what would come up. Sometimes I had the ingredients on hand, other times, I was just looking for new recipes to store in my file.

Another iteration of the game is Clean-out-the-fridge, which is what I decided to play in crafting this turkey meatloaf. But the game actually started a few weeks previously, when I began fermenting cabbage in our basement for homemade sauerkraut.

Will and I have long been intrigued - if not a little intimidated - by the Juniper and Mustard Sauerkraut recipe in Tony Hill's Spice Encyclopedia. Good sauerkraut can be so uniquely delicious, and so unexpected from its humble cabbage roots. But fermenting a vegetable in a towel-covered crock for weeks has long been outside my comfort zone.  I finally decided to take the plunge and give it a try, and sadly have no good news to report. I'll spare you (and me of reliving it) the details, but basically in the first few days, I don't think there was enough liquid and the cabbage oxidized. Then, my brine was just way too salty so even though the cabbage did not become moldy, it also didn't really ferment, it just pickled in super-salty brine. I might give it a try again, but before I do, I'd love more clarification on whether sauerkraut means pickled cabbage or if it means fermented cabbage. Or maybe it means both? Or maybe it means either? And in the meantime, this is good news for the neighborhood German pub where Will and I are planning to satisfy our kraut cravings.

Meanwhile, back to the beet loaf.  Knowing that kraut would soon be upon us, I started thinking what I wanted to serve with it. Sure, I could pick up some brats at the grocery store, but maybe someone more interesting and more healthful was an option? I had some ground turkey in the freezer, and bought a beet as a colorful yet still wintery, earthy, northern-European accompaniment. In my opinion, ground turkey makes good tacos, and can be successfully incorporated into a burger (my favorite is with a cup of mashed blueberries!) Because it's own flavor is so mild, and also because the package I had was very lean, I decided to moisten it up and flavor it up with everything I had.

Beet Loaf
1.25 pounds ground turkey
1/2 large onion
1 medium carrot

1 medium beet (8 oz)
2 cloves garlic
1 large radish
1 large mushroom
2 slices wheat sandwich bread
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 375. Grind bread in food processor. Remove bread, and dice onion, radish, and mushroom with the same blade. Remove to a bowl with bread crumbs and turkey. Shred carrot and beet using shred wheel of food processor. Combine with remaining ingredients and turkey mixture until well-combined. Pack into 9x5 loaf pan and bake until 160 degrees in the center (this will depend on the starting temperature of your ingredients, but expect about 75 minutes.)

Slice and serve. Would be good with sauerkraut.

This recipe is very forgiving, so use whatever you have or like. But it wouldn't be right for me not to make a special pluf for the beet. Not only did it give a (slightly disconcerting) colorful hue to the finished dish, it really made for a sweet, earthy base that made ketchup and barbeque sauce condiments totally unnecessary. And you gotta love that you can call this a meat-loaf or a beet-loaf and both are true!

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