I hadn’t thought of meatloaf as Latin food until recently. Butifarron, carne fria, albondigas, it was all there I just didn’t make the connection to the heavy cafeteria slices we’d get at school or the bacon wrapped loafs served at a friend’s house. When I found this recipe for butifarrón sabroso in Puerto Rican Cookery, I couldn’t wait to make it. Last week I gathered all of the ingredients and put it together quickly. I ended up with a smooth loaf floured and ready to…fry?I’d read the recipe through but hadn’t really considered the logistics of lightly frying and turning a heavy, barely pulled together 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat. I got it in the skillet and turned it to form a not-quite evenly browned crust, but it wasn’t pretty. Going ahead with the recipe, I added the pureed tomatoes and onions and hoped for the best. After an hour and a half of stove top simmering, I had a messy butifarrón that was in fact sabroso. I loved the tomatoes and caramelized onions but could do without splattering oil and clumsy loaf flipping. I decided to make it again, baked not fried. Streaked with peppers, flecked with cilantro, the salt pork melted into the lean ground sirloin. Still not the all-American meat loaf circa-Mad Men, it was all the more comforting for being completely familiar.
Butifarrón Sabroso/Caribbean Meat Loaf
Adapted from Puerto Rican Cookery by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli.
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
3 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 cup of water
1 green pepper, seeded and quartered
1 sweet red pepper, seeded and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 fresh cilantro leaves
1 ounce salt pork, washed
2 ounces lean cured ham, washed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg lightly beaten with 2 teaspoons of salt
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced in thin rings
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place meat in a large mixing bowl. Crumble bread over water and soak. Squeeze to drain excess water. Add bread to bowl and mix.
In a food processor, add peppers, garlic, quartered onion, cilantro, salt pork and ham. Pulse a few seconds at a time until well combined but not a paste.
Add pepper mixture, oregano, and beaten eggs two ground beef and mix until just combined. Form into loaf and place in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
Place in preheated oven and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. In a food processor, add tomatoes and pulse a few seconds until smooth.
Lower heat to 375 degrees. Pour tomatoes over meatloaf, evenly coating. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for one hour, basting occasionally. Cover meatloaf with onions and bake an additional 30 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8.