French Friday: Fennel and Apple Meatloaf
If it seems like a stretch to call a meatloaf French, I hope you’ll permit the reach. Fennel and apple seem like a dignified way to class up this ’50s housewife favorite, and did I mention the gruyère? That practically makes it bona fide.
I’ve had two meatloaf recipes in life that were worth repeating. This one, and one that seemed a little Continental with its inclusion of prunes. (Am I saying that a recipe is “French” if it’s got that savory-with-fruit thing going on? Who knows.) I was introduced to that recipe where I get a lot of my good food ideas: book club.
Which brings me, tangentially, to the pleasures of belonging to a social club. Are you guys in book clubs? Are there women you meet for tea and knitting, to talk about wine, to practice yoga together, or to swap mixtapes? It doesn’t really matter what the impetus is that brings you together (though a shared interest certainly leads to sustained enthusiasm when the meeting falls on a cold, rainy night in February). What matters is the idea incubator and mutual support that happens when you’re together. We talk about the book or cast on our stitches and then the real meeting comes to order: someone needs to talk about job hunting, getting over a broken heart, how to redo the kitchen, or just inexplicably having a bad case of the blues. Not to get all red tent, ’70s consciousness-raising on you, but something powerful happens when women come together like this.
My college experience had an idea-incubator quality to it among my female friends that made me hunger for the same experience in the real world. It turns out, though, that grown-up life isn’t naturally set up to foster this kind of togetherness. We all live separately, cordoned off in our own snug little homes, working away in our individual cubicle corrals, sweating silently side-by-side on the treadmills at the gym. Yet that sense of connecting, of being understood, of belonging to a group that likes each other and spends time together because they elect to––not because they’re receiving a paycheck at week’s end or share the same DNA––that experience can bring so much meaning to the day-in, day-out experience of waking up, punching in, and slogging through. A sense of community can sustain us through so much.
I spent the days leading up to New Year’s Eve in a white farmhouse in Wisconsin. There were eight of us, and three people cooked side by side in the kitchen, passing behind each other, crossing arms to reach pots on the stove, compromising on oven temperatures. Then we would sit down at the long table, folded paper towels under our knives, wine in Anchor Hocking teacups, and eat. I realized then, just clear as day, that one of my greatest pleasures in life is sitting down to a meal at a table filled with people.
“This is just what it would feel like to be in a really big family,” someone––maybe me––said. “Yeah,” came the expected quip, “except we would all hate each other.”
This is all to say: I hope you find a spot of community this weekend, whether elected or familial, and share a meal together. Maybe even this meatloaf.
Fennel and Apple Meatloaf
from Everyday Food
Since I just talked about how lovely other people are, I decided to post the full servings of this recipe. But when I cooked it at home, I actually halved the meat, cheese, and bread but kept the vegetable measurements the same. It turned out beautifully, and then my family of two didn’t have to eat meatloaf leftovers for days on end.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced medium (3/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small fennel bulb, diced medium (1 1/3 cups)
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced medium (1/2 cup)
1 3/4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 pounds ground pork or turkey
1 cup grated Gruyere or sharp cheddar (1 3/4 ounces)
1 to 2 slices white sandwich bread, diced medium (1 cup)
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, fennel, and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and vegetables begin to brown, 5 minutes. Add lemon zest and coriander, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
In a large bowl, combine pork, cheese, bread, and egg. Add vegetable mixture and season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using your hands, mix until ingredients are combined. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet; form into a 4-by-10-inch loaf. Bake until meatloaf is cooked through, 40 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.