This recipe produced so many memories, made some lastin’ ‘amigos’ but really, all you end up with is a rather large meatloaf — anyone just might serve one for tonight’s dinner. However, in my case, while operatin’ as the chef-in-charge at Emiliano’s Cocina in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico, this recipe played a big role in the “ole guy”‘s life — the wife and I were on one of our semi-annual treks between our home, south of the border and Los Angeles (our family’s base and hometown since the mid-60’s). We would stay with our son Gary in his Bel Aire abode — visit doctors, purchase all kinds of stuff (for amigos down south), see lots of movies and play with our grandkids (when they still lived in Los Angeles). And we had our fav overnight stops — goin’ and comin’ — it’s 1800 miles from SMA to LA; door-to-door. For a few years between about 2002 and 2008, we’d stopover in the Phoenix area and spend a few nights with our Scottsdale buds — ex-IBMers Gerry and Ilse Allen. We had become close friends durin’ our tour with IBM in Paris (’83 -’85) — Gerry was on his second tour in Europe, and they sure taught us the basics of “how-to-enjoy” Europe — even, includin’ some time spent in Monaco and watchin’ the annual Grand Prix (up-close-and-personal)!
Both Gerry and Ilse are ‘fabulous’ cooks — and I do mean “fab-u-losa”!! He grew up in ‘Cajun country’ around New Orleans — and Ilsa was born in Germany and must have grown up at her mother’s knee in the kitchen. Visitin’ the Allens was very special — and a gourmet’s delight. As a sideline, for a while, when they were livin’ just outside Dallas, TX, they peddled some cast iron kitchen-ware imported from Germany. This was part their hobby and part business (Gerry had a full-time job with that Dallas real estate tycoon — Trammell Crow) — but it meshed with their love of cookin’, and it was Ilse’s idea — the kitchenware came from her hometown area in Germany!! As you can imagine, later, Emiliano’s Cocina had a few German cast-iron pots and pans! And when the two of them learned of my entry into the world of chef-dom, they were quick to offer me advice and — you guessed it — some lip-smackin’ recipes. Yesterday’s blog re: Addictive Toffee-like Cookies came directly from Ilse, with a promise not to pass it along — it was a secret. [aside: Breakin’ that bond is exactly what I did yesterday; but hear this, it’s been many years since she gave me that “secret” description of how to make a batch of fantastic “goodies” in less than 15 minutes. Secrets are meant to be shared with close friends — and (hear this!!) any person that spends time readin’ this stuff, must fit into that friendship category. And I’m too damn old to keep any secrets, anyway — so there!!!]
Gerry’s contribution to my success in the kitchen came by way of giftin’ me with Cajun and other cookbooks. Over a period of a few years — he had bestowed upon me at least ten of his specially-chosen tomes, and one group included a French, a Spanish, a German — all with photos of how the end-result should look!! Today, all this so-called culinary library is in the capable hands of Benno Gerd Wenske of #99 Independencia Avenida in San Miguel [aside: Please recall — this German-born guy and Emiliano’s BFF — was chef/owner of Tuba Gardens — that very successful, former San Francisco restaurant on Sacramento Street.] But, forget about all the advice and the literary contributions to Emiliano — Gerry’s greatest contribution was to push me to use his modified Paul (famous New Orleans chef and restaurant owner) Prudhomme’s recipe for Cajun meatloaf.
This offerin’, which I modified slightly, became a fav of lots of folks — and particularly two dinin’ establishments in San Miguel. The first was that “early-on” eatery — under the tent and shared with a “fish-taco” place — Keith JI Thomson’s Texas BBQ — and it sure was good eatin’! The wife would down those fantastic huge pork ribs and I would have my beer and a delish barbecue beef sandwich. Well, Keith later moved to his Longhorn Restaurant on the main drag — but while he was in the tent — he’d buy my ‘spicy meatloaf’ — either one or two at a time. When he moved and opened the Longhorn, Keith made his own meatloaf. We became frequent customers — the wife for those fab pork ribs — and he made a “killer” BBQ beef and pork rib combo plate — which I would “inhale” — along with a draft of Mexican beer!!
About the same time that Keith started orderin’ my meatloaf for his tent BBQ restaurant, the Café de la Aurora opened in the brand new large fantastic Fabrica de la Aurora — an artsy establishment, on the road north out of town toward the other historic towns of Atotonilco and Dolores Hidalgo. This converted textile factory houses a concentration of contemporary art galleries and design studios and is now one of the “must-see” attractions in the “must-vsit” ex-hometown of the wife and me — San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico. Café de la Aurora’s owner is Felipe Vertiz, whose parents are “American Express” in the town — they are the AmEx franchisees in San Miguel; and Felipe’s mom Malinda was Harriette’s close friend and Friday’s bridge buddy. She actually drove the wife home after bridge in her tiny car — which she nicknamed “Harriette’s Chariot”. Felipe became aware of my Cajun (spicy) meatloaf, as discussed in a previous blog, and he wanted to serve it in a sandwich (torta) in the café. He would stop by and purchase eight “half-loaf’s” (4 whole meatloaf’s) at a time. After bakin’, I would cut them in two and freeze ’em!! The cafe’s menu was blackboard-style and it made me proud to see “Emiliano’s Meatloaf Torta” posted as daily fare. The café served lots of coffees and other drinks with a selection of 4 or 5 lunch/dinner specials — you would always see many tables filled in the open-air setting of the café.
Now is the time and the place in this blog that you would expect to find the recipe for Emiiano’s Cajun (Spicy) Meatloaf. And now is the time to “fess up”. The recipe is ‘almost’ exactly the same as “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Meatloaf Recipe” — all you have to do is google it. But, I will now give you my additions. Just below the “4 green onions, finely chopped” I added two items; namely, “2 large shallots, finely chopped”; and “1/4 cup leek, finely chopped” (I liked the idea of usin’ shallots and leeks — not sure how much it improved the final result — I just like “shallots” and “leeks” and they were easily available in San Miguel. [aside: I even use “a couple of large shallots, finely chopped”, in my matzo ball recipe. I just like “shallots”!! My impression is they add a bit of flavor!!] In addition, when I made the meatloaf in the US — with veal readily available (but, not in Mexico) — I used ground veal instead of ground beef. Further, until the back began to slow me down, I religiously chopped all the veggies (that’s what it called for) — but as nature began to take its toll, I used a Cuisinart to “do the veggies”!! Believe me, I can tell the difference — chopped veggies are better than the other!!
And one final tidbit that I added to my personal recipe — was this statement: “It’s best to slice when cool to prevent breakage — I cut in half before freezing. For ‘quickie’ cold hors d’oeuvres, remove a frozen half and defrost. Slice the meatloaf into 1-inch cubes and place toothpicks in each. It’s a ‘readily’ available solution for unexpected guests, if you keep a half-meatloaf frozen in your freezer.” I never intended this blog to furnish the recipe itself — but over the years in San Miguel — this damn “spicy” meatloaf played a role in establishin’ some wonderful ‘amigos’ — whom I would never have befriended otherwise; and I must admit it placed the “ole guy” in some folks’ “cookin’ hall of fame“!! Definitely, ‘nuf ……