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Make Room For Smoked Meat Loaf

Sure, you’ve baked many a meat loaf. But have you ever smoked one — over hickory chips no less?

It may spoil you for any other version.

A beguiling smoky, woodsy flavor permeates this very moist “Slow-Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf” from “Cooking My Way Back Home” (Ten Speed Press) cookbook, of which I received a review copy late last year. The cookbook is by Mitchell Rosenthal, co-owner and executive chef of three San Francisco restaurants: Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor and Hope. The book features more than 100 hearty, Southern-inspired dishes from those restaurants.

This is one flavorful meatloaf, as the mixture of ground beef, pork and veal is suffused with your favorite barbecue sauce, Dijon mustard, grated Parmesan and a spice mixture that includes cayenne, paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano, celery salt and dry mustard.

The meat loaf can be cooked either inside a loaf pan or on top of a sheet pan. The latter will expose it to more of that lovely smoke, so that’s the method I chose.

We cooked ours inside my husband’s Big Green Egg. The recipe says to cook the meatloaf for 3 to 3 1/2 hours at about 250 degrees, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees. However, our meat loaf was done in about 90 minutes. So, just be aware that yours may cook quicker than what the recipe states.

I don’t know if it’s from the low-heat cooking necessarily, but this meatloaf definitely has a really lovely texture — a little more fluffy and tender than so many others that are more dense.

Serve slices of the meat loaf with extra barbecue sauce on the side. Or not. This meat loaf is so tasty on its own, you don’t really need anything more.

Slow-Smoked Barbecued Meat Loaf

(Serves 6)

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground veal

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups white bread, torn into small pieces (3 to 4 slices, depending on the thickness)

1/2 cup whole milk

2 large eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup barbecue sauce of your choice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Town Hall Spice Mixture (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon salt

2 or 3 handfuls hickory chips, soaked

Take the meats out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes while you get the fire ready.

Prepare a barrel smoker with an offset firebox. Light the coals in the smoke box. When the temperature reaches between 225-250 degrees, add soaked hickory chips.

If you are using a kettle grill, set it up for indirect heat, so that the coals are off to one side before lighting them. Then, place a foil pan of hot water next to the coals to add moisture. When coals are ready, add soaked hickory chips.

In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft and slightly caramelized. Remove from heat and let cool. While onion is cooling, combine bread and milk in a bowl and let stand for about 2 minutes, or until the milk is completely absorbed.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, (or in a large bowl using a wooden spoon), combine soaked bread, cooled onion, eggs, Parmesan, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, spice mixture, and salt. Beat on low speed just until combined. Add ground meats, and mix on low speed just until combined. Shape mixture into loaf on a sheet pan, or pack into a standard loaf pan.

Place meat loaf in the smoker and add a handful of the soaked hickory chips. Cover with lid. Smoke the meat loaf until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf registers 165 degrees. This may take as little as 90 minutes or as long as 3 hours. Be sure to add charcoal every hour or so to maintain the temperature inside the smoker at about 225 degrees. Add more soaked chips as necessary to keep the smoke flowing.

Remove meat loaf from the smoker and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Any leftovers will make a great sandwich.

Town Hall Spice Mixture

(makes a scant 1/3 cup)

Note: If you halve this recipe, you will end up with just enough for making the meat loaf.

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon celery salt

Mix together all ingredients until well combined. Store in an airtight container in a cool cupboard. The mixture will keep for up to 6 months.

Adapted recipes from “Cooking My Way Back Home” by Mitchell Rosenthal

More: Town Hall’s Cookbook Party