Believe it or not, it's possible to make a no-beef meatloaf that DOESN'T suck...
If you're like me, you probably spend at least an hour a week just perusing the vegetarian/vegan section at your local grocery store's freezer section. A few years back, I recall picking up a no-meat "meatloaf" dinner -- my high hopes were immediately dashed, when as soon as I took the patty out of its container, it more closely resembled a brown sponge than an actual ketchup-drenched slab of ground beef.
For years, I've been meaning to at least attempt a REAL vegetarian meatloaf dish. I mean, how hard could it possibly be? You brown some faux-meat, bury it in catsup, and you're all set.
Well, me and my gal-pal decided to give it the old collegiate try a few weeks back. The results, I must say, were surprisingly awesome.
As far as ingredients go, you're going to need quite a few items. A good meatloaf seasoning packet is recommended, as are a can or two of breadcrumbs. You see, veggie meat has an unfortunate tendency to not want to clump together, so you're definitely going to need something starchy to keep the faux beef together. Other things to add to your grocery list: milk, eggs, brown sugar, ketchup, and, of course, some delicious meat-less meat.
I know opinions on the quality of Morningstar products fluctuate considerably, but as far as I am concerned, their Grillers Recipe Crumbles are among the better multi-purpose faux beef products on the market. The number of bags you use, of course, is up to you, but for our test run, we elected to use two whole bags. Obviously, you need to select a skillet large enough to handle the load. It seems like advice that need not stating but remember: the target audience for this here web blog hardly ever use any kitchen devices outside of a microwave, and for ritzier occasions, toasters.
Step one is unload the Crumbles. You'll need to put just a dab of olive oil in the (preferably non-stick) bowl before you dump the faux-meat (henceforth, referred to as "feat") into it.
From there, you're going to have to dump in the meatloaf seasoning, with about a half cup of milk. After that, crack one egg into the dish and add about a fourth of a cup of breadcrumbs. Then, you'll need to stir the compound together, until it resembles one nice, uninterrupted chunk of brown goop.
From there, you're going to have to get hands-on with the dish. After making sure the mixture is nice and coagulated, its your job to shape the feat solution into something that sorta looks like a regular meatloaf. Surprisingly, we had hardly any difficulties at all making the thing stand up on its own; as long as you have a good proportion of breadcrumbs in there, you shouldn't have any problems, either.
Of course, any meatloaf dish is only as good as its sauce, and our IIIA household recipe is one of the most delectable out there. The trick? You've got to add just a sprinkle of brown sugar to the ketchup, with a teensy bit of red pepper flake. It's simple, I know, but trust me, it REALLY takes the dish to the next level.
The rest, I reckon, is pretty self-explanatory. We cooked our feat for about 20 minutes on 350 degree Fahrenheit, and the end product was something that, to our jubilant surprise, actually looked like a giant chunk of beef. After that, we basted the loaf in our proprietary awesome sauce (trademark pending) and let the dish warm up for about five extra minutes.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I thought the final product was pretty damned delicious. Rather unexpectedly, the dish had a very, very traditional meatloaf taste and texture, and the feat definitely complemented an assortment of Southern favorites like stewed corn and boiled red potatoes quite well.
Considering the rollicking success of the dish, I'm beginning to wonder if other beef-and-pork-heavy favorites could translate to the faux meat treatment as well. Uh...does anybody know if fried veggie bologna sandwiches are any good?