Okay, I know that Nashville isn’t considered Cajun or Creole country, but hey, country singers haven’t traditionally sung to digital drum loops either so what’re you gonna do? I, for one, can’t limit my jambalaya intake to time spent on the Gulf coast and the bayous (y’know, “True Blood” territory.) And once you try this stick-to-your-ribs, cures-what-ails-ya recipe, you won’t want to wait either. If you don’t already own a cast iron skillet, here’s your excuse to go get one. Seriously. I swear by them, as do most other cooks in the South and across this great land. I’m so passionate about my cast iron skillet that I wanted to stop at the Lodge cast iron factory here in Tennessee, en route from Chattanooga. (Alas for me and luckily for my driver on that journey, it was a Sunday so the factory was closed.) Whether you buy one pre-seasoned or inherit one that’s been seasoned with lard by the previous four generations of your family, this is one cooking implement that no kitchen–Southern or not–should be without.
This succulent, tender meatloaf is made with lean, grass-fed ground beef and, as such, it’s relatively comparable in fat to a meatloaf made with turkey. I happen to have a real grudge against ground turkey, so it’s music to my ears every time I read a study that states with scientific certainty that extra lean ground beef is a suitable substitute for more health-conscious ground turkey, with, obviously, a different host of beneficial nutrients such as iron and niacin. My mom always studded her meatloaf with old fashioned oats and bell pepper instead of the more traditional bread crumbs. With this recipe, I decided to seize the best of both methods and modify her approach slightly by pulverizing the oats in a blender to make a fine grain and combining them with seasoned panko bread crumbs. I use grated carrot to add sweetness, finely chopped or grated yellow onion to add a sharpness, and a paste of roasted garlic for depth of flavor. Served alongside a hearty dollop of mashed potatoes and some butter sauteed green beans, this tastes like the America of Normal Rockwell paintings. Make it for the man in your life tonight. Or, better yet, make it for your mama.
I’ll just give it to you straight: red beans ‘n’ rice is not a dish that one eats in California. I didn’t grow up with my mother stirring a large cast iron skillet of anything, much less andouille infused red beans. So upon moving to the South and beginning to date a man from Mississippi with the kind of redneck credibility that I’m keenly aware I’m lacking in, I was quickly challenged to reevaluate my preconception of “red beans ‘n’ rice” as a side dish that I’d never order myself (while disdaining to taste any that Reb ordered and greedily devoured) to a main event worthy of being cooked up in a large batch back in my own kitchen at home.