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Meat Loaf – Pastel de Carne del Istmo


Photograph www.michaelsofronski.com


It’s too bad that Frank Bruni discover this recipe for this marvelous meatloaf before  publishing his book on the subject.

No one can say that this meat loaf is boring!  It absolutely explodes with intense flavors, including various smoked, canned, or pickled ingredients that are popular in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  This dish is a favorite there at the parties accompanying the velas (patron saints’ fiestas) of the neighborhoods and towns in and around Juchitán.
The demanding part of this dish is dicing and chopping almost a dozen ingredients.  Luckily most of them — everything from the olives through the almonds can be chopped a few hours ahead and set aside until you need them.

1/2 cup green olives, either pitted or pimiento-stuffed, finely chopped
One 2 1/2-ounce jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobe, minced
2 canned pickled jalapeño chiles, seeds removed, minced
4 ounces slab bacon, or 2 to 3 thick slices, cut into 1/3-inch dice
4 ounces boiled ham, cut into 1/3-inch dice
4 ounces smoked sausage (I use kielbasa), finely chopped
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves. minced
2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
One 5-ounce can evaporated milk
1 pound lean ground pork
1 pound lean ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
One 3 1/2-ounce deviled ham
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley (leaves only)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Chop the olives, pimientos, chipotles, and jalapeños as directed above; dice or mince the cured meats as directed above.  Set aside.
Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly browned, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and chop coarsely.  Set aside.  If desired, the prepared ingredients can be left at room temperature for 3 – 4 hours and the oven again preheated to 350° when you resume work.
Place the bacon in a heavy medium-sized skillet with 2 tablespoons water.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until the water has evaporated and some of the fat has rendered out.  Scoop out the bacon and set aside.  Strain the fat from the first pan (which will now have a salty residue at the bottom) into a large skillet set over medium-high heat.  Add the partly cooked bacon along with the ham and sausage.  Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes..  With a slotted spoon or spatula, scoop out the meat mixture into a bowl, letting as much fat as possible drain back into the pan.  Pour off and discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the onion and garlic; cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add to the meat mixture.
Place the bread crumbs in a medium-sized bowl, add the evaporated milk, and let sit for 5 -10 minutes to absorb the liquid while the meat mixture cools slightly.
Place the chopped pork and beef in a large mixing bowl.  Add the soaked bread and beaten egg; mix lightly.  Add all the other ingredients and mix very thoroughly with your hands.
Shape the mixture into two loaves and place on a baking sheet, or on a rack set in a roasting pan. (Alternatively, you can pack the mixture firmly into two 9 X 5 Pyrex loaf pans.)  Bake until golden brown, about 1 hour.  Serve hot or (as in the Isthmus) at room temperature.
Yield: About 10 servings.

Check this article on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec out out