Remember weeks and weeks ago (ok, a month ago) when I said we were going to have meatloaf for Christmas dinner? Yep. We did. And it was amazing. It’s probably about time that I write a review of that dinner because you should make every bit of it.
Just for the record, meatloaf does not photograph well. It’s rather camera shy. At least for amateurs. That and I was so busy actually cooking in the kitchen that I assigned one of my sous-chefs the photographer roll. While he got some very creative shots, the color was not exactly in the appetizing category. More like old Chinese take-out menu. Totally not his fault as I didn’t change the camera settings before handing him the camera. Oh well. Never mind the photos. The food was outstanding.
The meatloaf we made was a combination of ground beef and pork, which was rolled and stuffed with spinach, carrots, prosciutto, provolone, and rosemary. This is actually a classic in our house that we make a couple of times a year. I mentioned earlier that I had quite a cooking coma after planning Thanksgiving and was not ready to get going again by Christmas. Meatloaf was absolutely the right choice. We doubled the order and served 17 people plus we had leftovers. My husband did an outstanding job. In his family of meatloaf-goes-with-ketchup eaters, not one person added ketchup.
While this is not your mid-week meatloaf, it does freeze well, so don’t be afraid to take the time to make a little extra and put it in your freezer. We just thaw it in the refrigerator and heat it back up in the oven. It also makes excellent sandwiches on ciabatta rolls.
Let’s move on to the sweet potato gnocchi. If you are wondering whether you have the gumption to try making gnocchi (like I was after reading the recipe), you do. Just make sure you have the time. And by all means, if you don’t have the time today, make some time. Make extra time. This is worth it. Again, I doubled my batch because we had so many for dinner, but I think it would be better to make a single batch of this next time I make it.
Another tip? Make sure you buy extra sweet potatoes just in case your weight isn’t quite right for the quantity of sweet potato once mashed. Especially if it is Christmas Day and you live somewhere with no open grocery stores. Just saying. Also note that you need to drain the ricotta two hours before you start making the gnocchi. I repeat: TWO HOURS.
I did not have a ricer (which I will be picking up, thank you) but mashing the potatoes was just fine. If you are picky, get a ricer. I did have some clumps in my gnocchi. This did not impact the taste at all. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t know when the dough was right and would add too much flour. Trust me, you’ll know. If in doubt, try the little Marcella Hazen pasta trick – stick your clean thumb into the center of the ball of dough. If it comes out pretty clean, you’re good.
The biggest challenge was cooking the never ending batch of gnocchi that I made. Enter my brother. Totally saved the day. Just keep a pot of water rolling. When your gnocchi rises to the top, gather it with a slotted spoon and put it aside. Definitely make the brown butter sauce. Holy cannoli. Delicious.
In another adventure, we tried to gussy up some broccoli. I mean, who doesn’t like broccoli with meatloaf? The recipe we used, from Molto Italiano (page 423 or try this one) was spicy. And good. I couldn’t find the Frascati so substituted another dry white wine (can’t remember which one, though, sorry!). The flavors of the dish were excellent with the meatloaf and gnocchi. I think this would also be good with baked chicken. Only tip? You might consider halving the recipe. I fed 17 people on one batch (my recipe called for three pounds of broccoli? Really?). I had two containers of leftovers. This is horrible left-over. Unless you really like soggy broccoli. I’m not judging.
And finally, the salad. Another winner. Hate to sound like a broken record, but make this too. I couldn’t decide which salad I was going to make and ended up going with the beet and orange salad from Dinner: A Love Story. This recipe is more just a throw it together kind of thing. I ended up using baby spinach (because I forgot to buy greens and fortunately had this on-hand – remember the closed grocery store thing?), three roasted beets, three cara cara oranges, some feta until it looked good, a handful of pistachios, handful of mint, and a couple of green onions. And one batch of the dressing covered it. This was actually one of my girl’s favorite dish of the whole meal. I will definitely be making this one again. It is light and fresh. And, if not dressed, can stand up to being leftover the next day.
So overall, we scored hugely in the menu game for Christmas. Whether you try these recipes together (Sunday dinner, maybe?) or separately, please try all of them. And let me know what you think once you do.
P.S. Thanks Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste and Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story for being fearless in the kitchen, creating amazing recipes, and sharing them with the world. For free. Are you kidding? You people are my heros and I don't even know you. It’s all I can do to get it on the table.
P.P.S. I really am sorry about the photos. Photoshop is on my list of things to learn (as I've mentioned), but you can only do so much with certain photos! Trust me, though, the food was outstanding and worth every effort.