Recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine

Trompe L'oeil Meatloaf

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  • Level: Advanced
  • Total: 4 hr
  • Prep: 1 hr 10 min
  • Inactive: 45 min
  • Cook: 2 hr 5 min
  • Yield: 6 servings


Mole sauce (masquerading as chocolate sauce):

Forcemeat Meatloaf (masquerading as chocolate cake with vanilla filling):

Mashed potatoes (masquerading as vanilla ice cream):

Tomatoes (masquerading as cherries jubilee):


Special equipment:
Box grater Meat grinder (if chicken or beef have not been ground by the butcher) Food processor 2 quart souffle dish Plastic wrap Aluminum foil Long bamboo skewer Hand potato masher Ice cream scoop that has a curved arm that swings along the inner surface of the bowl of the scoop to release the ice cream (such as OXO brand or Kitchen Craft)
  1. Make the mole sauce by heating olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and peppers and cook until the onions become translucent. Remove from heat and add oregano, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, and ground chocolate and gradually whisk in beef stock. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and return pot to stove. Let reduce by two-thirds. Remove from heat and strain 1 cup of the sauce into a bowl, transferring the rest of the sauce and vegetable solids to a separate bowl. Let both bowls of sauce cool, then chill in refrigerator. (The strained sauce will be used to simulate chocolate sauce. The unstrained sauce will be used to flavor the beef and darken its color to look like chocolate.)
  2. Keep in mind that all equipment used to make the forcemeat must be clean and well chilled so that the components can combine properly. (This includes the grinding mechanism, - if using a meat grinder - the food processor bowl and blade, all preparation and mixing bowls, and utensils). Without this attention to detail you will not be able to create the illusion which is your goal. All ingredients should be refrigerated up until the moment they are ready to be used and should be prepared in bowls which are nested in another container of ice to keep the temperature low during the actual preparation.
  3. The goal of this recipe is to make a savory meal that not only fools the eye by making the meal look like something we know as sweet, but to also make a meal that tastes good. This will be accomplished as follows:
  4. The onion/garlic puree and salt and white pepper will be added to the chicken to make it taste savory, and the cream will be added to make it look like the butter-cream "filling" of the cake.
  5. Some of the mole sauce (the part with the vegetable solids) as well as salt and black pepper, will be used to give the ground beef a savory taste and a dark "chocolate" appearance.
  6. The balance of the mole sauce will be used to look like chocolate sauce.
  7. Begin the meat loaf by making the onion/garlic puree for the chicken. Through the feed tube of a running food processor, add the onion and garlic. Transfer this pureed mixture to a strainer placed over a small bowl. Allow the juices to drain into the bowl, then discard the juices, reserving the onion/garlic puree in the same bowl and refrigerating to 40 degrees F. (This can be hastened by putting in the freezer for a while - without allowing it to freeze.) Wash and dry the food processor bowl and blade and chill them.
  8. If the chicken you have bought is not ground, grind the chicken tenders into a prepared bowl and refrigerate.
  9. Prepare a 2 quart souffle dish by lining it with enough plastic wrap so that it covers all interior surfaces of the dish with enough additional plastic on the ends so you will be able to wrap your completed layered "cake" completely in plastic. Then refrigerate the lined souffle dish. Have 2 large bowls of ice ready in which you have nested 2 medium bowls (respectively) in order to keep them chilled while you are working.
  10. Begin with the beef because the bottom layer of the "cake" will look like chocolate. Through the feed tube of the running food processor (the bowl of which has been chilled), gradually feed the chilled ground beef a little at a time, alternating with the chilled mole (the unstrained mole with the vegetable solids) and salt and black pepper. (Remember to reserve the 1 cup of the strained mole sauce for later.) You may not use all of the unstrained mole if the beef is not able to "hold" it all before becoming too soupy. STOP before you reach that point. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if the mixture looks unevenly colored. Transfer this mixture to a chilled bowl which you have been chilling by nesting in another bowl of ice. Then immediately refrigerate the beef mixture.
  11. Thoroughly wash and dry the food processor bowl and blade and chill.
  12. Next process the chicken which will be used to resemble the vanilla cream filling in your "cake." Re-assemble the food processor with the chilled bowl and blade and turn it on. Through the feed tube, gradually add the ground chilled chicken a little at a time, alternating with the onion/garlic puree and salt and white pepper, until it is all incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if the mix looks unevenly colored. With the food processor still running gradually add heavy cream through the feed tube to whiten and lighten the chicken. (Add cream make it as white as possible to resemble vanilla cream filling, but remember, it has to retain some body.) This is where judgment comes into play. The recipe calls for 1 pint of heavy cream, but the chicken mixture may not "hold" that much before it becomes too soft. Stop adding cream when you feel the mixture has reached the point where it still has body and is not soupy. Transfer the chicken mixture to the chilled bowl you have waiting in a bowl of ice and then refrigerate.
  13. Assembly:
  14. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F, (no hotter or the plastic will melt.)
  15. Divide the ground beef mixture into thirds and the chicken mixture in half. (Return the chicken mixture to the refrigerator or the bowl of ice until needed.) Pack one-third of the beef into the bottom of the chilled plastic-lined souffle dish to become the bottom layer of the "cake." This is easiest done by dropping spoonful-sized amounts evenly over the bottom and pressing down with your fingertips. (Return the remaining two-thirds of the beef mixture to the refrigerator or bowl of ice until needed, and retrieve the chicken mixture.) Pack half of the chicken mixture over the first beef layer in the same manner (to form a "vanilla cream" layer), dropping spoonful sized amounts evenly over the bottom layer and pressing down with your fingertips. Chill the remaining chicken while you are doing this. Retrieve the beef and pack the second layer of "chocolate" over the chicken keeping the remaining beef chilled. Pack in the second layer of chicken over the beef, and then finish with the third layer of beef. Bring the plastic wrap up over the top surface of the entire composition, and then place a piece of foil over the top of the souffle dish. You are doing this because the cooking method is slow steaming. Bake the "cake" at 250 degrees F for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a long bamboo skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. You will notice that there is some shrinkage and that the meat has given up a lot of juices. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 15 minutes. Carefully pour the juices off and remove the plastic wrap. Using a sturdy plate pressed on the top edge of the souffle dish, and working over a large utility platter which will catch the juices, invert the meatloaf onto the plate to release it from the souffle dish and then carefully flip it back onto the platter so it is again upright. Let rest for 10 to 15 more minutes before transferring to a serving plate or slicing.
  16. To make the mashed potatoes and cauliflower which looks like vanilla ice cream, begin cooking the potato chunks and cauliflower in the last 10 minutes of the baking time for the meatloaf. The potatoes should be boiled until tender and the cauliflower can be boiled or steamed until tender. (Use separate pots because they cook at different rates.) Drain the potatoes and cauliflower well, add the butter, season with salt and white pepper, and using only a hand potato masher (NOT a beater) mash them together in a mixing bowl. To serve, use the ice cream scoop to simulate scoops of vanilla ice cream on the serving plate.
  17. While the potatoes are boiling, begin the syrup for the tomatoes. Combine the sugar, red wine, pomegranate juice, balsamic vinegar, and cream of tartar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is hot. (This may take a while, so be patient, but stop stirring once the sugar is dissolved.) Cover and simmer gently for 2 minutes, then uncover and continue to cook for another 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in grape tomatoes, coating them with syrup.
  18. Carefully pour mole sauce over the exterior crust of the meatloaf to simulate chocolate sauce, then cut into cake shaped wedges to reveal the layers of "cake." Any extra mole sauce can be drizzled over the scoops of potato/cauliflower to look like chocolate sauce. Spoon some tomatoes on serving plate along with syrup to look like cherries jubilee.
  19. An effective presentation is to place the meatloaf on a large serving platter, spoon the re-warmed strained mole sauce over to cover the crust of the meatloaf, then remove 1 wedge of the meatloaf to expose the layered interior, laying that wedge on its side next to the rest of the cake. Your individual serving plate will be arranged with scoops of the potato/cauliflower, topped with mole sauce if desired, and some grape tomatoes with syrup spooned over and around. Serve the rest of the meatloaf wedges to your guests at the table.