Diane St. Clair’s Buttermilk Meat Loaf

I recently picked up a copy of Diane St. Clair’s The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook. St. Clair and her husband operate a dairy farm in Orwell, Vermont, and supply butter and buttermilk to famous restaurants and gourmet food stores around the country. Her cookbook includes numerous recipes for foods made with buttermilk; for some of those foods, like ranch dressing or pancakes, buttermilk is a fairly normal ingredient; for others, it’s an unusual alternative to another dairy product.

Then there’s the meatloaf. Meatloaf doesn’t normally include any dairy at all (unless you’re one of those people who considers eggs to be a dairy product), but other minced-meat dishes sometimes use a panade — a mixture of milk and bread crumbs common in Italian cooking — to keep the meat from clumping too much. St. Clair’s “Buttermilk Meat Loaf” recipe is one of these, except of course that buttermilk is used instead of milk in the panade. Hers is a very meaty meatloaf (compare, for example, Ethan Becker’s meatloaf, which I wrote about a few months ago as a way to use up leftover parsley) made from a pound each of ground beef and ground pork.

Photo showing a bowl containing a panade made from bread crumbs, eggs, and buttermilk

As is normal for meatloaf, the ground meat is bound together with eggs and bread crumbs, This recipe adds buttermilk and makes the binder into a panade.

I’ve never much liked the texture of supermarket ground pork, and in any case the Whole Foods meat department only makes ground pork from step-1 pork. Since I have a meat grinder, I figured there was no reason not to make my own, so I bought some locally-raised step-4 “country-style ribs” (which are just off-cuts of pork loin and have nothing to do with ribs at all); I cut the “ribs” into half-inch cubes and froze them on a plate for half an hour (which was a bit too long) so that they would grind up well. (Heat is the enemy of meat-grinding: if the fat in the meat gets warm, the resulting product ends up more like meat paste than ground meat.) I used the “sausage” die on the meat grinder for a nice loose texture. A pound of freshly home-ground pork looks like this:

Photo showing a large stainless steel bowl containing a pound of homemade ground pork

Supermarket ground pork, even from Whole Foods, has a tendency to be pasty. Homemade ground pork has a far better texture.

It was somewhat difficult to combine the ground beef (85% lean, grass-fed) with my ground pork; in retrospect, I should have bought some cubed beef chuck and run it through the grinder together with the pork so the two would have the same texture and be perfectly mixed together. This recipe calls for very little vegetation to join the party: just a couple garlic cloves, a small onion, and a bit of dried thyme, which are sweated together in a bit of olive oil on the stove before adding them to the mix. The completed mixture looks like this:

Photo showing a large mixing bowl with a large white spatula; in the bowl is a large blob of uncooked meatloaf

After thoroughly mixing all of the ingredients, the meatloaf came together into a blob.

St. Clair calls for baking the loaf on a sheet pan for an hour; I found that it needed a bit more time to reach 160°F. She also specifies a simple glaze, made from ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar; I ended up cooking the meatloaf under the broiler for the last few minutes to get the glaze to be a bit more glaze-like:

Photo showing cooked and glazed meatloaf sitting on a half-sheet pan that has been covered in aluminum foil

After an hour and change in the oven, the meatloaf came out looking like this. The red color on top is due to the ketchup-and-brown-sugar glaze.

If the Test Kitchen folks were doing this recipe, they would doubtless have brushed on the glaze, holding back half of it to lacquer the meatloaf with over time, and that doesn’t seem like a bad idea. As it is, the glaze has a sharp enough flavor that I did not feel the need to add ketchup at the table, and the smell of vinegar permeated the whole house while the meatloaf was cooking. The recipe says that this should be six or eight servings, and I cut it into six slices, then decided that it would look better on the plate if I sliced each slice in half, for twelve total slices. But the slices look pretty disappointing on a plate:

Photo showing a dinner plate with two slices of meatloaf and some steamed zucchini

One serving of the buttermilk meatloaf is two rather disappointingly small slices, a consequence, perhaps, of the relatively small amount of added vegetation.

I’d really like one serving of meatloaf to cover rather more than a quarter of the plate’s area, but making it larger would require significantly more vegetable matter to be added to the loaf. I ended up eating three slices, as these two just did not satisfy. On the other hand, if you look closely at the texture of this meatloaf:

Photo showing a close-up of two slices of meatloaf

The same two slices of meatloaf, with a closer view showing the texture.

You can see that it looks much better than my last meatloaf, which did have more vegetables in it; notably, there are fewer large hunks of unmixed ground beef, and it lacks the excess egg that plagued Ethan Becker’s recipe. However, I really do feel that it could stand a bit more herbage, and probably some other vegetables as well. (Perhaps shredded carrot, or maybe chopped spinach for a “Florentine” touch?) It’s also not clear to me what the buttermilk is supposed to add to this recipe over a more traditional panade made with fresh milk; certainly I can’t taste it. (I should point out, for the sake of full disclosure, that I haven’t used what St. Clair considers “proper” buttermilk — what’s left over after cultured cream is churned for butter-making — but rather, supermarket buttermilk, which is made from cultured skim milk and thus contains no fat.)

Photo showing the ten remaining slices of meatloaf on the baking pan; there is a black outline of burnt glaze surrounding the loaf

Five servings remain, although I’ll probably only get three meals out of it.

I expect to prepare several more recipes from this cookbook and will be reporting back as I do them/

Nutrition information

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 2 slices
Servings per container: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 528 Calories from fat 266
% Daily Value
Total Fat 30g 46%
 Saturated Fat 8g 40%
 Monounsaturated Fat 3.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 162mg 54%
Sodium 943mg 39%
Potassium 666mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 12%
 Dietary fiber 0g
 Sugars 23g
Proteins 31g 62%
Vitamin A 5%
Vitamin C
Iron 14%
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1 Response to Diane St. Clair’s Buttermilk Meat Loaf

  1. Pingback: Diane St. Clair’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes | Occasionally Coherent

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