Open-Faced Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf Sandwich with Cheddar Sauce and Pickles
One of my favorite terms is grubbin’. I don’t know where it came from or why it exists. I suspect it’s outdated slang that date-stamps me as an aging California boy who spent his youth skimboarding under the Venice docks. While not quite the case, I continue using this perfect term to describe indulgent comfort foods. It’s the kind of word I’d utter about a Deep-Fried Banana Twinkie or a Pulled Pork, Crispy Bacon and Macaroni & Cheese Sandwich.
Many years ago, in the time I like to refer to as the time before time, I did live in Venice. I worked at a catering company for the stars, in Culver City. It was a substantial company, with famous clientele. It also had a small dining that served up lunch to the local movie studios. This was my job. Daily, I’d walk in and make special soup du jours, interesting salads, then knock out all the various comfort foods this particular company was known for. One of those dishes as an open-faced meatloaf sandwich absolutely dripping with pan-drip gravy. It was outstanding!
Knowing I was ahankerin’ for somptin’ grubbin’, I took this basic general idea, wrapped it in bacon and swapped out the Brandy deglazed gravy with a thick gloopy-thick extra sharp cheddar sauce. Can you picture me salivating?
I was really onto something with this, but … it wasn’t complete. It needed some kind of cherry-on-top. A bow. A ribbon. A throw rug, of sorts, to tie the room together.
Because this blog is devoted to health and nutrition, I couldn’t help but think it needed something green; a vegetable. What’s the perfect complementary vegetation for such a thing?
Pickle chips, of course. Perfect!
All in? What other word would you use? I can think of no word betta’. Grubbin’ takes the cake!
Today’s Cooking Lesson/DJ’s Rationalization:
One of the biggest complaints most any keto/low-carb/paleo/primal recipe creator faces is “too many exotic ingredients!”. Because of this, I try very hard not to use too many wacky additions. Unfortunately, due to history, tradition, peoples’ perceptions of how things should be, sometimes the only way to achieve a goal is to harness some oddness. In this case … it’s the thickening.
There’s a very famous sauce (one of France’s mother sauces) called Béchamel. It’s a thick milk sauce, thickened with the starch in flour. The basic idea is, one starts with a volumetric equivalent of butter and flour. These are cooked together over a medium heat for a few minutes, to cook out that raw flour taste (creating a white or blond roux). Once a mild aromatic nuttiness has occurred, cold milk is whisked in, which is thickened by the flour. Let this simmer over low-heat for 10-ish minutes to allow the flour taste to cook out, some water to evaporate and the starch to swell and thicken. These are the basic bones of a sauce Béchamel. This is also an incredibly super very WILDY common approach to most thickened creamy cheese sauces, like the famous Alfredo or a sauce base for a killer Mac n’ Cheese. It’s the taste and texture people know, but it, unfortunately, requires a modicum of starch.
This is where the tapioca flour comes in. Don’t fret, I’ll explain how to do this without the bizarre thickeners. For those seeking peak traditional thickness, though, this is for you. For those opting to stick to the lowest possible carbs and omission of wonkiness, I’ll get there. Hang tight.
The tapioca flour is a gluten-free relatively flavorless type of flour, loaded with starch. This will lend a VERY similar smooth-paste texture as a standard all-purpose flour, but without the grain-based gluten. The downside is, yes … we’re taking on some extra carbs, in order to hang on to some tradition.
One may also notice that I’ve got a dash of glucomannan powder in there, as well. Glucomannan is another nice thickener (and gluten alternative in baking), but it can get slimy, if too much is used. So, the idea is to use a smaller-than-normal amount of actual carby starch, to get a mild thickness, then we tighten it up at the backend with a follow-up touch of glucomannan; just enough to finish it off without an awkward texture of ooze. We’re shooting for symmetry.
All of this, so that you can get a familiar and comforting thick cheesy pillow of sauce adorning your bacon fried meatloaf!
Now, for those of you looking to cut out those starch carbs, those not looking to pick up the extra ingredients, or those who simply don’t much care about the sauce texture … just skip the tapioca starch and glucomannan powder. Instead, reduce the heavy cream and increase the cream cheese. Instead, use 1/4 cup (60 mL) of cream and 12 oz. (340 g) of cream cheese. The end will be a thick sauce, but still not quite as thick as the intended pillow of cheese clouds. I suggest serving it as a pool under the bread or on the side as a dipping sauce. In all cases, it’ll taste fantastic.
Final Note: This recipe assumes you’ve got some grain-free focaccia lying around (I almost always have some stashed in my freezer). Be aware you’ll need this before proceeding.
The Other Final Note: The meatloaf has ground chia seed in it. Traditional meatloaf uses bread to serve as a binder, as well as using starch to absorb and hold moisture. Instead, we’re using some eggs to help bind and the chia will swell (up to 10 times its weight), absorb and hold much of the moisture, accomplishing the same goal without the starchy carbs. This is an optional ingredient, but the end result without it may be a touch dry and mealy. Far from terrible, but not quite as good.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf Patties
- 2 tbsp butter lard or bacon fat
- 1/2 small onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 8 oz cremini or button mushrooms grated or chopped fine
- 1 small red bell peppers seeded and finely diced
- 1/2 lb raw bacon divided
- 1 lb ground beef 80 lean/20 fat
- 2 large whole eggs
- 2 tbsp ground chia seeds (white)
- dash crushed red chili flakes optional
Cheddar Cheese Sauce
- 1/2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 tbsp tapioca flour (optional - see recipe description)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 4 oz regular cream cheese warmed and softened
- 1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese
- dash glucomannan powder (optional - see recipe description)
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
In a large skillet or sauté pan, melt the fat over medium-low heat.
Add the diced onion and garlic, along with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir and cook until onion is translucent, and the mixture is aromatic; 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the pan with a small amount of salt and pepper. Stir and cook with the onions. This will release a lot of water and may look a bit soupy. This is fine. Continue cooking and allow the mushroom water to evaporate; 5 to 10 minutes.
Once the mushroom mixture starts to resemble a loose paste, add the bell peppers with a bit more salt and pepper. Stir and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. We just want to soften the bell peppers.
Once the bell peppers are soft, spread the mixture evenly on a large plate or cookie tray. Spread it thin, so that it cools quickly. Place in the refrigerator, to cool. (It doesn’t need to be cold. If you touch it and it’s warm, this is fine. If it’s hot enough to cook the meat, give it a few more minutes. It shouldn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes to cool)
While the mushroom mixture cools, separate out 6 strips of bacon and set aside. Finely chop the remaining bacon and add to a large mixing bowl.
Add ground beef, raw bacon and eggs to the large mixing bowl with the chopped bacon.
Once the mushroom mixture cools to a warm temperature, add it to the bowl with the ground meat. Evenly sprinkle the ground chia over the top of the beef. Season with a small amount of chili flake (optional), salt and pepper.
Mix the ingredients well, so that everything is evenly mixed and there are no lumps.
Separate the meat into 6 equal portions. Form each portion into a square, a bit bigger than the size/shape of your bread. Cut each slice of bacon in half, then stretch them out, a little bit. Wrap each patty in 2 half slices of the reserved bacon. Have each slice overlap on the same side, underneath. Set the patties aside, while making the cheese sauce.
To make the cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter and tapioca flour together over medium heat. Continue stirring and cook until you notice a faint nutty aroma (3 to 5 minutes). A light change in color is acceptable, but not too much as it’ll have a stronger taste and less thickening power.
Add the garlic and stir into the roux (the cooked flour/butter mixture). Add the cream while briskly whisking the cream into the roux. The goal is to whisk the cream into the roux without creating lumps. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and starting to thicken. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Whisk the cream cheese into the sauce.
Grate the cheddar cheese into a mixing bowl.
Evenly sprinkle the glucomannan and a touch of salt and pepper over the top of a bowl of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Quickly toss around in the bowl, then add to the cheese sauce, while whisking. Once the cheese is melted, turn the sauce to the lowest possible setting on a back burner. Allow it to continue thickening. Stir periodically, making sure scrape off and stir in anything that sticks to the side of the saucepan.
Split your 3 slices of focaccia in half, so that you have 6 total halves. Set aside.
Drain your pickle chips, to remove any excess moisture. Set aside.
While the sauce hangs out in the back, heat a very large sauté pan (large enough for the 6 patties) or two full sauté pans (3 patties per pan). Heat pan(s) over high heat.
Once the pan(s) is hot, place the patties in the pan, with the bacon-seam side down. Turn the heat down to medium. The fat will be released from the meat and bacon, helping to sear/fry the meatloaf patties. Once the bacon strips have started to color, flip the patties and cook the other side.
Once the patties have achieved the desired doneness, side aside somewhere warm.
Either quickly toast the bread or rub the cut surface of the bread into the fat/fry bits (the fonin the bottom of the pan, to fry/toast/pick up some flavor.
Place the bread slices on a plate, face up. Top the bread with a meatloaf patty, douse with cheese sauce, then decorate with pickle chips.