Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pulpeta (Cuban Meatloaf)

Pulpeta is the Cuban version of American meat loaf. American meat loaf is usually made from seasoned ground meat binded with eggs and breadcrumbs then baked in the oven usually glazed with ketchup or tomato sauce. In general American meatloaf can be bland and boring (most meat loafs from restaurants and such). Although I must say if done right it can also be delicious.

What makes this Cuban version so different? Well for one the meat loaf isn't cooked in the oven. It is fried on the stovetop until well browned or a golden crust forms, then it is simmered in a delicious creole sauce. Generally it will also have hard boiled egg in the center for looks.

To be honest in my family we never made Pulpeta, I've only read of it, and seen it on other Cuban blogs. I was craving a delicious Pulpeta and since I don't have a family recipe for it or anything then I decided to come up with my own :) This is my version of the Cuban meatloaf.

Ingredients for loaf:

-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
-1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
-1/2 lbs. ground ham (grind your own in a food processor)
-1 heaping tablespoon sweet smoked spanish paprika
-1 heaping teaspoon hot smoked spanish paprika
-1 heaping teaspoon ground black pepper
-1 heaping teaspoon ground oregano
-3-4 cloves garlic mashed to a paste
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
-3 large eggs beaten (or 4 regular ones)
-1/2 cup bread crumbs or cracker meal
-3 hard boiled eggs

Ingredients for Sauce:

-1/2 cup olive oil (more or less)
-1 red or green bell pepper minced
-1 onion minced
-6-8 cloves garlic minced
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-1- 2 cup water
-salt to taste
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/4- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
-2 bay leaves

Garnish (optional):
1/4- 1/2 cup sweet peas

(1) Mix ground pork, ground beef, ground ham, with smoked sweet and hot spanish paprika, black pepper, oregano, garlic, salt, eggs, and bread crumbs/ cracker meal. Form into a loaf and cut open, fill with hard boiled egg and let rest in fridge wrapped in plastic wrap or something for about 2 hours. ALSO PLEASE DO NOT OVER MIX it makes the loaf tougher. The meat less tender

(2) Now heat a large frying pan on high heat till really hot, lower to medium high, kinda high but not super high, add generous amount of olive oil in a large frying pan allow to heat til it barely smokes. Brown loaf carefully on all sides. (Yes this can be intimidating and hard my mom did it for me while I took pictures ha ha) When well browned set aside.

(3) In same pan start forming your sauce sautee onions and bell peppers until onion is translucent about 5-7 minutes on medium high heat, then add garlic and sautee until fragrant another 1-2 minutes, deglaze with wine, add tomato sauce, water, salt, cumin, and bay leaves bring to a boil.

(4) Throw sauce in a deep pot, bring back to boil, add browned meatloaf, spoon over sauce, when sauce is boiling cover and simmer on low for about 25 minutes, flip the loaf carefully to the other side spoon sauce over, simmer an additional 25 minutes. Now add minced cilantro and peas all over.

(5) You can transfer loaf to a large plate to slice it and leave the rest of the sauce in the pot, use sauce to spoon over slices as much as you like. We served it with simple home made mashed potatoes (potatoes, milk, butter, salt and if you wish a drizzle of good olive oil) which we used the sauce from cooking the loaf as gravy to top the mashed potatoes one could also enjoy it with rice, and also served it with a simple salad (onion, cucumber, tomato, avocado with lemon or lime juice, olive oil, and salt)

*Do your best not to make cracks or openings when browning loaf, because when simmering the meat this sounds gross but the scum or blood whatever is in the meat will clump and ooze out, if this happens scoop it out and remove.

*I know not everyone has access to sweet smoked Spanish paprika, or hot smoked Spanish paprika. If you still want to make this just omit it and season with cumin, oregano, and black pepper it will still be delicious but just different. The way I made mine is I wanted it to taste like a cross between sweet savory ham and delicious smokey Spanish chorizo but you can season it however you want, let this recipe be for inspiration, make your own sauce, season the loaf your way, make it yours sometimes the best stuff comes out from experimentation.

*If frying 1 large loaf is intimidating or you don't want such a large loaf you can make two small ones and fry both of them and simmer both together in the sauce.