Adapted from Bon Appetit.
This recipe was my first attempt at meatloaf, about 3 years ago. We were living in a tiny apartment in Austin, and had a very old (and not in a good way) oven/stove combo. As a newlywed, It was important to me to learn how to cook some of my husband’s favorite dishes. Not wanting to compete with my new mother-in-law and her meatloaf, I thought the ground bison in this recipe would set it apart as a different meatloaf, yet still capture the intention. It was months later when I learned the seemingly obvious fact that it didn’t matter how different (or similar) the recipe was. It wasn’t the same, and it wasn’t made by the Husband’s mom. We have come to enjoy this meatloaf and to me it symbolizes the next level in our cooking abilities and experimentation that took place shortly after we got married. (The recipe also happened to appear in the first issue of Bon Appétit that we purchased, to read on a camping trip where we watched the Persied Meteor shower. Coincidence? Probably not, since that one magazine led to our subscription…)
When I made the recipe the other night, I thought about how far our cooking has come in these three years. I love using ground bison and usually get at least two pounds whenever I pick some up. It’s a great healthy substitute for ground beef, and has sweeter flavor notes.
The beauty of this recipe is that it is a full, balanced meal. It does have a fair amount of cooking time, so on a weeknight start the potatoes as soon as you get home, and then do the other prep.
1 pound fingerling potatoes (or baby Yukon gold, if fingerlings are not available)
5 teaspoons olive oil, or more, as needed
1½ cups chopped crimini mushrooms (also called baby bella)
1 cup chopped onion (red onion gives the most flavor, but use whatever you have on hand)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound ground buffalo meat (Central Market and Whole Foods have ground bison in the meat case, and other grocers have pre-packaged ground bison in the meat section)
1 large egg
½ cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, also now available in non-Asian sections of the store)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon (more or less as preferred) crushed red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, diced
10 to 15 ounces fresh spinach
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil. Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.Meanwhile, prepare the meatloaf. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms and onion until mushrooms are beginning to brown and onion is slightly translucent. Remove the skillet from the heat and mix in the herbs. Cool the mixture slightly.In a large bowl, gently mix together the buffalo, mushroom mixture, egg, panko, salt, and pepper. At this point, the 20 minutes for the potatoes should be over. Remove the potatoes from the oven and push them to the sides of the pan. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf-like shape in the center of the pan. 6 inches long by two to three inches tall works the best. Roast the meatloaf and potatoes for 30 minutes.Prepare the sauce. Combine the tomato sauce and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. After the 30 minutes have passed, pour the sauce over the meatloaf. Roast for 20 minutes more.
Once the meatloaf comes out of the oven, let it rest while you prepare the spinach. Heat the remaining oil and garlic in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and toss to wilt. If you prefer your spinach a little more done, cover the pot and steam the spinach for two to four minutes.