A lot of hunters complain that they use up all their roasts and steaks too quickly and then get stuck with a mountain of ground meat. When I hear this, I start singing the praises of wild game meatloaf.
Granted, the name of the dish sounds a little folksy and oafish, but you can do some innovative things with meatloaf that makes it seem worthy of a higher minded title. This recipe is based on my standard ground meat mixture of 90 percent lean game meat and 10 percent pork fatback, bound with bread crumbs, oatmeal, egg, and milk and then flavored with an all-star cast of ingredients ranging from pine nuts to provolone.
It’s fancy, but not overly so. Perfect for almost any occasion.
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or 2 tablespoons bacon grease
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, minced
10 ounces baby spinach
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tbsp finely chopped chives
Leaves from 3 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 lbs ground meat (90 percent lean game meat and 10 percent pork fat)
Butter for greasing the pan
3 ounces provolone or fontina cheese cut into sticks about 1/3 inch by 1 inch by 3 inches
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup seedy mustard
1 tsp honey
- Preheat oven to 350° .
- In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Season it with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Remove half the onion-garlic mixture and set that aside to cool. Then add the spinach and red pepper flakes to the half remaining in the pan and toss with tongs until the spinach is wilted.
- Stir in the nutmeg. Set aside to cool.
- Place the bread crumbs, oatmeal, parsley, chives, and thyme in a small bowl. Pour the milk over the top. Let it sit while you mix the meat.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, cooled onion-garlic mixture, and the eggs. Season well with salt and black pepper. Add the soaked bread crumb mixture and combine well. You could use a spoon for mixing, but it’s easier to just use your hands.
- Once the mixture is combined, lay a 1-inch layer of the meatloaf mixture on the bottom of a 1-1/2 pound or 2-pound loaf pan. Pat it down so it reaches the corners, and allow it to come up the sides a bit. You will fill this cavity with the filling.
- Next, lay the cooled spinach mixture over the meat layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border of meat around the spinach. Top the spinach with the cheese sticks lengthwise in the pan, forming a stripe in the center that runs the length of the pan. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the cheese stripe. Top with the remaining meat mixture and pat down. You want to be sure the meat mixture meets the bottom meat mixture along with the sides.
- Pat the top of the loaf so it’s flat and even. Mix the mustard with the honey, then top of the loaf with this mixture.
- Bake for 1 hour or until an instant-read reads 150° when inserted in the center.