I hope you like mushrooms. I mean I hope you really like mushrooms. If you don’t you might as well hit up some other food blog today because I think that this recipe borders on insane when it comes to the amount of mushrooms.
But if you like mushrooms. Well. Then you are in for a treat!
I should note that the original recipe for this dish was mushroom-packed, but not mushroom-explodingly-packed. The thing is that when I put it on the poll last week I thought it was a vegetarian recipe. This is largely due to my inability to read the English language.
Anyway, only after the recipe had secured victory did I realize that it was, in fact, pretty meat-packed. So I decided to make it vegetarian. That meant substituting about 2 pounds of ground beef with 2 pounds of mushrooms and vegetables.
Honestly, I didn’t even think it would work. Luckily, it not only worked, but turned out to be very delicious!
If you like mushrooms that is.
1) For the gravy, chop up all the veggies and add them to a medium to large saucepan along with the olive oil and cook them over medium-high heat until they cook down and most of the moisture from the veggies evaporates, about 15 minutes.
2) Add red wine and salt and pepper. Stir until red wine cooks down. Then add thyme and vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, turn heat down to low, and simmer, uncovered, until sauce reduced to 4-5 cups of liquid, about 30-45 minutes.
3) For loaf, chop mushrooms, garlic, and leeks and add to a large pan with olive oil over high heat. Cook until veggies reduce down and most of the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes.
4) Let cool to room temperature and then mix with all the other loaf ingredients in a large bowl. You might need to add more or less bread crumbs based on how much liquid your veggies had.
5) Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and scoop in your loaf mixture. Invert on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Remove pan and plastic wrap to leave a free-standing loaf.
6) Bake loaf at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove and brush on glaze. Return to the oven to cook for another 15-20 minutes (Note: If you use meat instead of mushrooms, you’ll need to cook this for closer to 75 minutes total).
7) Back to gravy, mix soft butter, flour, and cream together to form a smooth paste.
8) Whisk paste into simmering sauce until smooth. Simmer until thick and silky smooth. Taste for salt and pepper.
9) Serve gravy and sliced loaf together. Garnish with fresh thyme.
OPTIONAL STEP: Slice loaf and then pan fry the slices in a skillet with a tiny amount of vegetable oil for a few minutes per side over high heat to crisp up the sides of the slices.
I guess that I should’ve known that this recipe wasn’t vegetarian because it’s called meatloaf and not mushloaf, but for some reason I just didn’t get the memo. Obviously, I’m not opposed to meat, I was just in the mood for a veg dish. You could substitute some of the mushrooms in the loaf for ground beef and continue with the recipe.
As is though, you need to wash and slice a huge amount of ‘shrooms.
Making the Gravy
The gravy takes longer than the loaf to make so it’s a good idea to get it started first. Chop up all your veggies pretty evenly (the mushrooms can be sliced as pictured above) and add them all to a medium saucepan with the olive oil.
Put this over medium-high heat and cook it, stirring occasionally, until all the veggies start to cook down.
It’ll take probably 15-20 minutes (you can start making the loaf while it cooks), but eventually most of the water should be cooked out of the veggies. Add the red wine at this point along with a pinch of salt and pepper.
It should be smelling good!
Once the wine cooks down for a few minutes, add all your vegetable stock and thyme and bring the sauce to a simmer. Turn your heat down to medium-low and let it simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or so until it reduces by about half. You should have about 4-5 cups of gravy at the end.
Making the loaf
Since the gravy is pretty low maintenance (just stirring occasionally), you can prep the loaf while it simmers.
You start by, yep you guessed it, chopping a huge amount of mushrooms. The recipe says to process these, but I just sliced them and then chopped them up roughly. I figured they would cook down quite a bit, which they did.
Chop up the leeks as well and add the mushrooms and leeks to a large skillet over medium-high heat with a few Tablespoons of oil. Stir them occasionally and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and most of the liquid cooks out.
If it gives you an idea of how much these will cook down, this pan was completely full when I started cooking them.
Once the veggies cook down completely, cool them down until they are room temperature and then mix them up with all your other loaf ingredients. Depending on how much liquid is left from the mushrooms, you might need to add more or less bread crumbs.
The original recipe called for 1/2 Cup but I had to double it to get my loaf to stay together.
Once the mixture is moldable and sticks together, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and shovel in all the mixture. Really press this down to make sure the loaf is well formed.
Next, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, invert the loaf pan and pull it off. It should slide right off and then you can remove the plastic wrap revealing a perfectly formed free-standing loaf!
Why not just bake it in the loaf pan?
Well, you definitely can. In fact, the recipe says to. Obviously, if you want to bake it in the loaf pan, DON’T line the pan with plastic wrap before you bake it.
Ever since I tried the free-form loaf for my magnificent meatloaf, it’s just the way I always make any kind of loaf now.
Either way though, slide your loaf into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes to set. Since there’s no meat, it’ll cook a lot faster. If you use meat, you’ll want to cook it for probably 75 minutes.
Back to the gravy!
Your gravy should be reduced by now, but still very liquid. We need to thicken it up a bit. I was skeptical of the method that BA recommended for this as I’ve never done it before, but it actually worked like a charm.
Instead of making a traditional roux on a stove top, they instructed to just mix together the flour, soft butter, and cream in a small bowl until it forms a smooth paste.
While your gravy mixture is simmering, whisk this into the pan and continue whisking until there are no lumps. I really didn’t think this would work, but it thickened up my sauce almost immediately and it all turned a very silky smooth consistency.
Back to the loaf!
The good think about baking a loaf free-form like this is that you can slather on a glaze all over the entire thing. If you use a pan, this isn’t nearly as effective since the pan has, well, walls.
The glaze I used for this recipe is really simple. Just mix up all the ingredients and slather it on all over the loaf. I like to add my glaze about 10-15 minutes before the loaf is done cooking. Earlier than that and it’ll burn.
Once your loaf is done, let it cool for a few minutes and slice it up!
Obviously you serve this with gravy. Visually, it looks better if you put the loaf on top of the gravy.
Also, if you want to get really fancy and take this up another notch (like it needs another notch), after you slice your loaf, sear it off in a skillet for a few minutes per side over high heat.
That’s how I got my pieces to be nice and crispy on the sides. I also sprinkled on some fresh thyme which goes well with mushrooms.
This ended up being kind of a whacky recipe and definitely not a weeknight situation. But the flavor was surprisingly awesome!
In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that I didn’t miss the meat one bit in this meal. The mushrooms actually give it a pretty meaty texture and deep earthy flavor that is very satisfying.
I think you could maybe even stuff a slice or two in a pita or between a few slices of bread and have a pretty decent sandwich the next day!