50 S.16th St. 37th Floor
Chef Daniel Stern is the owner of Philadelphia, upscale restaurant R2L, named after his grandmother Rae. And though R2L is on the fancy side, he does not operate it with any pretentiousness. He wanted to have a place for adults to have a meal for a special occasion. "I don't think a restaurant needs to be exclusive or unapproachable; I am not a fancy person." And it's with this same approach that he gives tips on one of the country's most popular comfort foods, meatloaf.
Chef Stern is near famous for his mushroom meatloaf and the gravy adds even more comfort. Gravy goes onto the meatloaf plus whatever side, such as mashed potatoes. To make a gravy, always start with a hot pan and sauté your veggies. For mushroom gravy, Chef Stern suggests using onion, celery, shallots, garlic and thyme with your favorite fresh mushrooms. Blend your butter and flour in a separate bowl to make a paste, and then cook this with the vegetables being used in the gravy. Deglaze the pan with dry red wine, and then add your broth.
When making mushroom meatloaf, Stern puts the mushrooms, shallots and leeks into a food processor after sautéing them (for about 10 minutes). He also adds other seasonings and bread crumbs to get a thorough blend then combines to the meat and eggs in a separate bowl. A food processor lightens the work load and produces a more uniform flavored dish. You can choose to use different flavors if mushrooms aren't your favorite, such as onions and peppers.
A traditional meatloaf uses a mixture of beef, pork and veal. However if you prefer, you can use all beef or even ground turkey. If you want to try something unique to surprise your guests, use something more exotic like buffalo meat, which cooks in a similar way as beef. Chef Stern says "cooking is about what you feel and sometimes taking a risk for your guests". For vegan guests, you can work with firm tofu, just be sure to season and marinate the tofu overnight.
Stern is an avid cheese lover and fan of things spicy. He recommends using a good white cheddar, just shred and mix in with your completed meat mixture. Jalapenos add some spice without being overly hot where it tastes like burning. These are also complementary flavors if you wanted to make a Mexican meatloaf.
Chef Stern utilizes local produces and "clean" meats for his recipes at his restaurant. One of the aspects that make a food unhealthy is usually not what you think. Buy hormone free beef (grass fed is best) and organic vegetables. You can be less concerned about organic on anything with a peel. Stern has notoriously takin classic foods and giving them a modern twist.
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