For a potluck party: meatloaf under wraps
In cooking meatloaf, “under wraps” usually means the meatloaf is enclosed in mashed potatoes then baked until the top of the mashed potatoes is lightly browned. I’d have done something like that but we were bringing the meatloaf to a potluck party and it would be a headache transporting the thing. The container would have to be large enough so that nothing touches the mashed potatoes in order to preserve the shape. Then, upon reaching our destination, the thing would have to be taken out of the container again. So many opportunities to ruin the mashed potato wrapper.
So, I wrapped the meatloaf in pie crust instead — a la Beef Wellington. I made the meatloaf a day ahead, cooled it, chilled it, then, the morning of the party, I wrapped the cold meatloaf in a pie crust and baked it for 30 minutes — just long enough to lightly brown the crust and heat the meatloaf through.
The Christmas tree cutouts serve two purposes: First, to create a festive effect. Second, the more important reason, is to hide and seal the seam. Seam? Yes, you wrap something and the edges overlap, right? Normally, the seam would be underneath so that the top would be nice and smooth. But I have issues with that technique.
Whether the filling is raw or cooked meat, it has natural juices. And when heated, those juices thin out. Sometimes the steam vents in the crust aren’t and the juices, in looking for a way out, conveniently find the seam and escape from there. So, I placed the seam on top, not dead center but slightly off center. Then, I pressed the Christmas tree cutouts to double seal hide the seam. Then, I cut more and larger than usual vents for the steam to escape.
My second issue with placing the seam underneath is that because the seam is an overlap, the dough is thicker in that portion. Thicker means it takes longer to cook. When the seam is underneath, I can’t see if the crust, especially where it is thickest, is cooked all the way though. It’s easier to see if the seam is on top.
Is there a recipe? The meatloaf is just embutido but using less eggs. I formed the mixture into a log, wrapped it in foil and baked it at 350F for an hour. I cooled the meatloaf then chilled it overnight in the fridge without unwrapping it.
The next day, I made a pie crust (see basic pie crust recipe) dough and rolled it into a rectangle. I unwrapped the cold embutido and placed it in the middle of the rolled pie crust dough. I placed strips of bacon and slices of hard-boiled eggs on top of the meatloaf before wrapping it in the crust. I sealed the edges, hid the top seam with the Christmas tree cutouts (made from excess dough) and brushed the crust with a beaten egg. I placed the wrapped meatloaf on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and into the preheated oven it went where it baked for half an hour at 400F.
When the crust was lightly browned (thin streams of meat juices oozed out of the vents but did not soak the crust), I took it out of the oven. Onto a plate it went, I cut off the excess parchment paper, wrapped the whole thing — plate and all — loosely in foil (it’s hot and you don’t want the steam to make the crust soggy) and that was how we transported it.