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Rolled Polpettone in Parchment Paper
In Italy, it is not meat loaf, but polpettone di carne and it is often baked in baking parchment which not only keeps the log shape, but more importantly, keeps the juices in the meat and makes it self basting - a great tip that I was happy to use when baking meat loaves. It is worth looking for fresh herbs whenever possible.
This polpettone is filled with spinach and a layer of thin omelette, but almost any filling or none at all can be used (in which case it is not rolled, is it? :>). I think it is worth the effort to at least 'paint' the surface with a piquant sauce of some sort and then roll it up. For me, any chance to use fresh herbs is a good one, so why not sprinkle liberally with such 'gentle' herbs such as fresh marjoram, basil or lemon thyme - and if all else fails, then with dried (see tip below on this). Ah, and while you are at it, why not add a bit of grated left over cheese as well, such as Parmesan, any Manchego cheese (Spain), or even spread with a little fresh cheese such as Cheddar, ricotta, cottage cheese, or Brisot (France) - and there you are with a rolled polpettone. Quick, heavenly and so worth the extra few minutes, no?!
Equally delicious cold the following day, polpettone freezes well. Make 2 loaves and freeze the other for re-warming in the oven for another day!
Polpettone baked in parchment is not browned but has a delicate appearance. If you prefer it browned, either roll in flour and brown in a butter and oil mixture before wrapping or open the parcel after 25 minutes and grill for the rest of the baking time. Personally, I do not recommend either as I enjoy the change and delicate appearance and find it unnecessary. I also do not wish to loose any of its juiciness. I save browning techniques for other types of meatloaf that are baked in a mould.
You can use any meat or combination, typically though, only one meat is used such as pork. I prefer a 50/50 combination of lean ground pork and ground turkey as the flavours work well together and at least half of the loaf is poultry - a healthier choice.
A tip about working with ground meat: meatloaves should be handled as little as possible and never kneaded which will produce a compact, heavy loaf. Adding all ingredients at once and using a three pronged fork to mix will ensure a light loaf and avoid over mixing.
Herb tip: Don't have fresh herbs but have dried handy? Take the amount you need, remembering that usually you will need half the amount LESS of fresh (and even less for potent herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage), and sprinkle with enough warm water to moisten. Add the equivalent amount of minced parsley and mix. This mixture will then be surprisingly close to the fresh herb and better than the dried herb alone.
The recipe for Filled Polpettone of Mixed Meat and Lemon Zest is separate. Click here. Simply delicious and simply must be tried!
Prepare the ingredients and mince the herbs, if using. Ensure that onions are minced or finely chopped. Moisten the bread crumbs with a little milk, stirring to avoid lumps. Add seasoning and the beaten egg as you stir well. Herb tip: if you must use dry, reduce amount to half (ie. 1T fresh herbs = 1.5 t. of most herbs.)
fig 1. Double bladed mezzaluna (crescent shaped blade), egg and bread mass, onion and grated lemon zest. fig. 2 Filling ingredients, grated Parmesan, cooked and well drained spinach, thin omelette. I happen to have a square pan, but it doesn't matter as you can trim the omelette to fit. Cook until rather set but don't bother to turn the omelette. It will set further as it cools on a wet board.
fig. 3 Add all ingredients on top of the ground meats. Use a three pronged cook's fork or similar to mix the meat by lifting and folding the meat on to itself and mashing in with the fork. The meat will push through between the prongs, eventually mixing with the ingredients.
fig. 4 fig. 5
fig. 4 Lay out a sheet of parchment paper approximately 45 cm. (+ - 18 in.) and oil it lightly. Place the meat mixture on it and with wet hands spread out, encouraging a rectangular shape of about 1 cm. (less than 1/2 in.) thick. Use the side of your hand and gentle chopping motions to help spread it. Distribute the spinach evenly over the top almost to the edges. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese. fig. 5 Trim the omelette if necessary, to fit.
fig. 6 To roll:
Lift one end of the paper, and with one hand, encouraging the edge of the meat to roll onto itself in a close spiral. Once you start it, continue to lift the paper and allow the meat to gently 'fall' onto itself with support from your other hand. This will make an even roll without disturbing the filling. Gently and evenly, compact the meat roll a little. Press the ends closed and pat it to a neat log. (So, you will lift with one hand and the outer edge of the other hand will support to the right of the roll - my other hand was holding the camera!)
fig. 7 fig. 8
fig. 7 Now situate the log in the middle of the paper, lengthwise. Fresh herbs or even bay leaf can be pressed into it, if you like (above-fresh marjoram). fig. 8 Bring up the sides of the parchment (long edges) and make two or three folds down to the top of the roll. Close the ends like a parcel and fold under the polpettone. It should appear like a log shaped parcel.
Place in the middle of the hot oven (200° C or 390°F) in a baking dish or on the roasting pan. Bake about 35 minutes (insert a skewer in the middle, if the juices are clear, it is done). Allow an extra 5 minutes longer for ceramic, glass or terracotta dishes. Remove and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving. Open parcel to drain off any juices for a little sauce, if desired. I like to serve it with a quickly made white wine sauce.
To serve, either remove from the parchment and place on a warmed platter or fold back the parchment by rolling it down and serve.
If you have made two, allow the second to cool completely before freezing.
...pretty and soooo delicious!
Violá! Bon Apetit! Aproveche! Bon Appetito! Mal Zeit!
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