Meat Loaf and Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Mushroom Ketchup

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From The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm: Recipes and Wisdom from Our Artisans, Chefs, and Smoky Mountain Ancestors

Delicious yet humble, meat loaf—a favorite dinner in my house—is the poor man’s pâté. It was usually made with bits of whatever scraps of meat were left over from previous preparations and meals, and it was often extended with bread crumbs.

Mountain families canned as many tomatoes as possible during the summer so that when winter came, they could reach into the pantry and pull out a jar of “put-up” summer. If you lack a similar supply, reach for a can of store-bought good-quality plum tomatoes.

For the meat loaf
1 tbsp. flavorful fat such as bacon fat or butter, or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1½ lb. ground beef
8 oz. bulk pork breakfast sausage
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup sour cream or crème fraîche
1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. ground mace
2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tbsp. heavy cream
Mushroom ketchup (recipe below), for glazing and serving

For the roasted tomatoes
2 tbsp. pork fat or other flavorful fat
12 whole canned peeled Italian tomatoes, drained
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 3-inch fresh thyme sprigs
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To prepare the meat loaf, in a medium skillet, heat the fat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and let cool. Add the beef, sausage, eggs, sour cream or crème fraîche, Worcestershire, mace, garlic powder, bread crumbs, and cream and mix thoroughly but gently, without overly compacting the meat.

On a rimmed baking sheet, mound the meat mixture into a loaf that is about 10 by 5 inches.

Bake until the center of the loaf registers 150°F on a meat thermometer, 40 to 50 minutes; about 15 minutes before the end of cooking, brush some of the mushroom ketchup over the top of the meat loaf (and begin the tomatoes; see the next step). Remove the meat loaf from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450°F. Let the loaf rest for at least 10 minutes.

To prepare the roasted tomatoes, in a large ovenproof skillet, heat the fat over medium-high heat until it sizzles. Add the tomatoes, turn to coat them in the fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and arrange them in a single layer. Tuck the thyme sprigs and garlic among the tomatoes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the tomatoes are very soft and lightly charred on the bottoms, 10 to 12 minutes. Discard the thyme and garlic. Serve hot.

To serve, slice the meat loaf and arrange on warmed plates with the tomatoes alongside. Pass the ketchup.

Mushroom ketchup

When we consider ketchup, we tend to think only of the sweet-and-tangy tomato-based concoction. Yet ketchups have in fact been around for a long time, and other varieties—notably mushroom and walnut—preceded the now ubiquitous tomato ketchup by at least one hundred years. Ketchup originated in China—early versions of the table sauce were based on pickled fish—and made its way with explorers and traders back to Europe, eventually arriving in the New World colonies. The combination of acidity, sweetness, spice, and heat played right into the burgeoning Southern palate.

Over time the tomato became the preferred main ingredient in American ketchup, but I love variations, like this one, that hark back to ketchup's earliest incarnations. Preparing it at home reminds me that it is more similar to classic pickling than it is to sauce making. Note that some of the mushrooms must sit overnight so that they soften sufficiently.

1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. natural cane sugar
½ lb. button mushrooms, coarsely chopped, plus 1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 whole allspice
¼ tsp. whole fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 cinnamon stick
1½ tsp. grapeseed or canola oil
½ medium onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. sorghum

In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, 3 cups water, and the cane sugar to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the 1/2 lb. chopped mushrooms and dried shiitakes. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.

In a large saucepan, stir together the sliced mushrooms, salt, allspice, fennel seeds, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, cinnamon stick, and 2 cups water. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to remove as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and set aside the mushroom stock.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until very soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add the reserved mushroom stock and stir with a spatula to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the reserved mushrooms with their liquid and the sorghum.

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until all but about 1 cup of the liquid cooks away, about 2 hours. Discard the bay leaf.

Pureé the mixture in a blender, in batches if necessary. Add a little water if necessary to keep the mixture moving. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Reprinted from The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm by Sam Beall. Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.