As a kid growing up on Montgomery Street in Bogalusa, Louisiana, dinnertime was comforting. A home-cooked meal as we gathered around the family table was what we did every night. It was a simpler time. No distractions. No complications. No worries.
Over time, things change. These days, busy work schedules make it difficult to coordinate the timing it takes to prep, cook, and serve a dinner at a set time. Our lives are inundated by an assault of what I call “media mania”–an overload of the senses. I crave those days on Montgomery Street and the comfort food I grew up eating.
I crave meat loaf.
But not just any meat loaf: My Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf is loaded with flavor, packed with spice, and all wrapped up smoky and sweet. I tinkered with this Cajun recipe until I found a combination that delivers on a meat loaf promise–moist meat, balanced taste, and full of delicious surprises.
Here in Cajun country–pork country–we like to add ground pork to our beef for the added fat content that produces flavor and moistness. The Cajun trinity of vegetables along with the punch of rice dressing mix intensifies the meaty base with aromatic intensity and a spicy kick. And to ensure even more moisture, I use a standard method of a milk-soaked, white bread panade (a mixture of starch and liquid), only I use buttermilk. And in the center of it all is a stuffing of spinach and pepper Jack cheese that oozes flavor and keeps the meat from drying out in the middle. And the icing on this loaf, is a spectacular bacon weave glazed with a ketchup and red pepper jelly combination. Oh yeah, Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf!
The bacon weave trick has been around for a while now, and whoever came up with the idea should be enshrined in the culinary hall of fame. It’s a simple little process of alternating strips of bacon until you have a basket weave of pork flavor. There are lots of online videos, like this one from Traeger Grills, to show you how, and once you see it done, you will (like me) become obsessed with trying it out. And in this Bacon-Wrapped Meat Loaf recipe, it works deliciously.
Please don’t be intimidated by this Cajun recipe. It’s actually quite simple. It’s a fun dinnertime project with dramatic results, but in the end, it’s just meat loaf–comforting meat loaf.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
- ½ cup finely diced celery
- ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
- 1 (16-ounce) package rice dressing mix, such as Savoie’s, optional
- 4 slices white bread, crust removed and chopped into small pieces
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
- 2 cups spinach leaves, stems removed
- 8 slices pepper Jack cheese
- 1 cup red pepper jelly
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 (1-pound) packages of thick-sliced smoked bacon
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper, and sauté until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and parsley, and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the pork, beef, and dressing mix. Add the cooled vegetables to the meat and, using your hands, gently mix. To prevent the fat in the meat from melting at room temperature, place in the refrigerator and chill (about 15 minutes) while you continue prepping.
- Make a panade by soaking the bread and buttermilk together in a bowl. Squeeze out the excess moisture and break the panade into pieces and distribute evenly into the meat. Season with Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Gradually add bread crumbs to balance the moisture content of the meat mixture until you have a consistency dry enough to shape into a loaf. Cool in the refrigerator while you continue the prep.
- Place a metal rack on a baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Place a sheet of aluminum foil just large enough to hold your meat loaf on the top center of the metal rack. (This will support the meat, but allow the fat to drip into the foil-lined tray below).
- Mound half of the meat mixture on the foil and form a base. Layer with spinach leaves and place slices of cheese on top. Mound the second half of the meat on top and form a loaf. Chill the meat in the refrigerator.
- In a microwavable bowl, add the pepper jelly and ketchup. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, just until the mixture has softened. Stir to combine.
- Make the bacon weave by laying 10 slices of bacon vertically on a cutting board, touching one another. Pull every other strip down and lay a slice of bacon horizontally across. Pull up the vertical strips to form the first weave. Pull down alternating slices of bacon and repeat with the horizontal strips until the weave is complete. (Go online and view a simple tutorial to make this easy to understand.) The bacon weave should be approximately 12 inches across, large enough to cover the meat loaf (use a tape measure to be sure).
- Before adding the bacon weave, lightly brush the meat loaf on the top and sides with the ketchup/pepper jelly glaze. Using a long spatula move the bacon weave over the meat loaf and drape it evenly to cover the top and sides. Tuck the excess under the edges. Add a bit of water to the bottom of the baking tray to catch any grease.
- Place the meat loaf in the oven and bake until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF, about 1 hour.
- Once the meat has cooked through, remove the meat loaf and let rest for 10 minutes. Just before serving, brush the glaze over the bacon and place back in the hot oven. Watch carefully as the glaze sets and the top begins to brown, stopping short of burning. (Note: Black bits equal flavor, but it will burn quickly; 2 minutes maximum is all that is needed.)
- For serving, place the meat loaf on a platter and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Place in the center of the table, cut thick slices and serve with more of the warm glaze on the side. Mashed potatoes would be a traditional choice for the perfect comfort meal.
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