"Egyptian Buffalo Meatloaf"
1 heaping cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Romi cheese
1 teaspoon Egyptian dry rub
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 pound Brie cheese, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 eggs, beaten
1 pound ground bison
1/2 red onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Egyptian Dry Rub:
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spray a loaf pan with olive oil.
To make the Egyptian dry rub, combine the ingredients in a spice jar: 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Close the lid and shake well.
Dice the red onion.
Grate the Romi cheese until you have about 1/2 cup. This is a very hard cheese, so watch your fingers. Chop the Brie cheese until you have about 1/2 cup. It's so gluey that it won't actually chop well. Just cut off the crumbly crusts, then cut or pull the smooth cheese into small blobs.
In a medium bowl, put 1 heaping cup plain dry bread crumbs, 1/2 cup grated Romi cheese, 1 teaspoon Egyptian dry rub, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Stir to combine the dry ingredients. Drop in the Brie blobs a few at a time and roll them around a bit. A coating of bread crumbs will help prevent them from sticking.
In a small bowl, beat two eggs. Pour them into the bowl with the bread crumbs and stir until the bread crumbs dampen.
In a large bowl, put 1 pound ground bison, 1/2 cup diced red onion, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Scrape in the bread crumb mixture. Knead until combined. This will be a very chunky meatloaf dough, so don't try to make it all the way smooth or force the Brie to blend in. You just want it to stick together. If it's too wet, add more bread crumbs; if it's too dry, add another egg.
Form the meatloaf into a log shape and put it in the loaf pan. Bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes. When done, the top should be nicely browned, the juices should run clear, the meatloaf should not be pink inside. You can cut this one right away; it holds together quite well when cut.
You can buy a can of plain dry bread crumbs, just make sure to avoid the seasoned kinds. You can also make your own by leaving bread out to dry, then running it through a food processor or crushing it with a rolling pin. Use fine crumbs for this recipe.
Romi is an Egyptian cheese made from water buffalo milk. It doesn't melt well, so you need to grate it and mix it with the dry ingredients, relying on a melty cheese for the blending factor. Romi is a very hard, sharp cheese with a funky, quirky flavor that is difficult to describe or match with complementary foods. Imagine if Parmesan quit art school because it was boring and ran off to live a wild Bohemian life. If you can't find Romi, you could try this with freshly grated Parmesan or another hard sharp cheese, but it won't pack quite the same punch. Don't try canned Parmesan, it's nowhere near strong enough.
The Egyptian dry rub uses traditional Egyptian spices. Coriander, cardamom, and cumin are among the oldest there, with ginger and black pepper arriving somewhat later. You may remember this spice blend from my Egyptian Leg of Lamb, which is why it makes more than you need for this recipe. You can mix up a batch and store it in a spice jar to use on other things. It makes a great spice for any robust meat like bison, venison, elk, or lamb.
Sea salt has more minerals than table salt, but you can use table salt if that's all you have.
Brie is a mellow, tangy cheese with a gooey texture and superb melting qualities. It is a nuisance to cut into small pieces, and difficult to blend into things. For this recipe it's worth the bother, because it helps to glue everything together, carry the taste of the sharper Romi, and add tanginess to the flavor. Brie rind is edible, but its crumbly texture is not an asset in this recipe; if you like the rind, you can save it for topping a salad or casserole which benefits from crumbs.
Bison is a dark meat with a sweeter taste than domestic beef. If I could've gotten water buffalo meat, I would've used that, but what I could find was bison -- American buffalo. Any other dark meat such as venison, elk, or lamb should work as well. The flavorings in this recipe are designed for a robust meat and would overwhelm anything milder like beef or pork.
Red onion has anthocyanins which create the characteristic red-violet color, unlike most other alliums, and mesh well with darker types of meat and robust spices. If you can't find red onions, substitute yellow or white onions. Don't use Vidalia, Walla Walla, or other sweet onions because they won't stand up to the other ingredients in this recipe. If you dislike al dente onion in your meatloaf, you can brown it in a little olive oil before adding it to the ground meat, but that adds about 15-20 minutes to the prep time for the dish. A faster option is to use dried onion chips, which reconstitute in water after just a few minutes; the can will tell you how much to substitute.
This recipe makes a very rich meatloaf with a bold flavor. It tastes nothing like American meatloaf, so make sure you want a culinary adventure. It's savory with definite spicy and tangy notes. If you like Egyptian or other Middle Eastern ground-meat-things, you'll probably love this. I had intended to add a splash of red wine vinegar to this meatloaf, but I forgot. I can always do that next time. It would play up the tangy flavors a bit more.
Be aware that this is feast food -- it takes more time and effort than an ordinary meatloaf, but it absolutely pays off in quality. It took about an hour to prep and put in the oven, and that was with someone else helping me with the early parts like chopping the onion. When you make it, plan for plenty of time. However, you could probably make the loaf, wrap it in aluminum foil, and stash it in the refrigerator to cook the next day.