Friday, December 21, 2012

A Holiday Feast for Eight

A sneak peak...

I think it goes without saying that I LOVE to cook so it should be no surprise that I jump at any opportunity to cook for friends and family. As luck would have it, the opportunity arose this week!

I'm heading to Michigan Sunday so I thought it would be nice to spend some time and cook for my boyfriend on Tuesday night. After a quick chat, he also invited his roommates, three friends and one of their girlfriends. Cooking for 8? No problem! The more the merrier, right?

The menu was set, the guests had arrived and we were off and running in the kitchen. We (and when I say we, I mean me and my boyfriend turned for 8 ain't easy) started with the veggies.

Roasted Veggies Recipes:
6 tbsp olive oil
1 lb carrots
2 containers/bags of Brussles sprouts
1 head cauliflower
1 bag of baby redskin potatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 tbsp garlic powder

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove florets from the cauliflower, about 1 inch pieces. Next, slice carrots in 1 inch pieces, halve the potatoes then trim then halve Brussles sprouts lengthwise. Mix together in a large oven-safe dish and toss with oil and spices.
2) Roast in oven for about 1 hour, until the veggies and potatoes are tender. If more than an hour is needed, check back every 10 minutes for perfect doneness.

Once the veggies were in the oven, we dove into our Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf prep. (I mean that literally.) I was cooking in a "boy" apartment that is obviously not equipped with my standard culinary needs. We covered a large rimmed baking dish in foil and rolled out our entire meat mix there. I was mixing meat by hand as my sous chef poured small amounts of milk, breadcrumbs and parm atop the meat mass. It was hilarious. At the end of it all, we created a delicious looking piece of meat, or shall I say meats? There are five types of meat in this after all.

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf Recipe:
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil 
1 1/4-1 1/2 C seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
3/4 lb hot sausage
1 1/4 lb meatloaf mix (beef, veal and pork)
2 eggs
1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated 
1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes, optional
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp oregano  [Dry Goods]
1/2 tsp basil
1 pkg bacon strips, 10-12

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees (in my case, this was already done.)  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook bell pepper, garlic and onion until they are tender and the onions are translucent. Transfer to a large bowl to cool. This is the same bowl you'll want to mix the meat in (or in my case, a baking sheet.) ;)
3) Add in breadcrumbs and milk, mix well. Add all meat and eggs to bowl. Gently mix without compacting. Sprinkle with cheese and seasonings including the optional red pepper flakes.
4) Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet. Form a 10×4″ log, roughly.  Start at one end and begin laying bacon over the meatloaf log in a diagonal pattern. Overlap each piece a little bit to allow for any shrinkage that will occur while the bacon cooks. Be sure to leave 1/2″ overhang on all sides. After covering the entire meatloaf, carefully fold bacon underneath the edges.
5) Bake on the middle rack for 50-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160 when inserted into the center of the meatloaf. Broil for an additional 3 minutes to crisp up the bacon.
6)  Let the load rest for about 10 minutes. Cut into 1/2 – 1″ pieces with a serrated knife.

Top left: Adding the bacon; Right: Fresh out of the oven; Bottom left: a beautifully sliced piece.

When we took this bad boy out of the oven the entire apartment smelled of sweet bacon-y goodness. Before I can tell you how amazing it was, let met get to our last dish: Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette. I knew how heavy and fatty the meatloaf would be so I looked for a salad recipe with just the right amount of tartness to balance out the meal. It was perfect! So perfect that I'm  planning to make this again for Christmas. 

Apple Walnut Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette Recipe:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
1 cup vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
10 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried
2 Red Delicious apples, cored and thinly sliced

1) Toast walnuts in the oven, on a pan or in a toaster oven until lightly toasted.
2) In a food processor or blender, add the cranberries, vinegar, onion, sugar, and mustard. Blend until smooth. Slowly add the oil then season with salt and pepper.
3) In a salad bowl, toss together the greens, apples, and enough of the cranberry mixture to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts, and serve.

We rounded out the meal with a quick batch of Pillsbury Grand Biscuits. Once all were served, we dug in! Every single bite of the meatloaf was incredible. Not only could you taste the bacon in every bite, but also the kick of the hot sausage along side the beef, veal and sweet sausage. It was pure meat heaven!!! The red peppers mixed in made it pop even more. None of us could get over how great it tasted. It's definitely more labor intensive than most meatloaves but definitely worth the effort! Besides, isn't the best part of cooking a great meal sharing it with friends and fam!? ;)

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