Shiitake Mushroom Meatloaf, with Delicious Mushroom Gravy

Growing up vegetarian, we often ate "lentil loaf" for dinner; it had a good flavor, as lentil loaves go, but a crumbly texture. When I started eating meat six years ago, I wondered about meatloaf - but my attempts up until now yielded dense, greasy loaves, swimming in their own juices. I recently adapted a recipe from "Cook's Country" magazine, and turned out this amazingly delicious, perfect-textured loaf, with a lovely deep brown Crust, no greasiness to speak of, and fantastic flavor. Plus, the pan drippings turn into a delicious mushroom gravy! And the leftovers make awesome sandwiches. I feel like real meat-eater now! :)

(With some creativity, I'm sure you could substitute for the bread and flour.)

1 cup very hot water
1/4 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms (4 large)
6 small (~2"x3") slices gluten-free sourdough bread
1/2 lb. white or crimini mushrooms, cleaned
1 T. olive oil or lard or fat of your choice
1 onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
2 pounds ground beef, crumbled
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

1/2 pound white or crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white rice flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375f.

Soak shiitakes in hot water until slightly softened; strain, reserving water.

Process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds; set aside.

Pulse 1/2 lb. mushrooms in food processor until finely ground, 10-20 pulses.

Heat fat in 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, and saute onion and 1.5 tsp. salt until browned, 6-8 minutes. Add processed mushrooms, and cook until liquid evaporates and mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Let mixture cool.

Combine ground beef, eggs, pepper, onion mixture, breadcrumbs, softened shiitake mushrooms, and 1/4 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid in the food processor. Pulse and scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently, until mixture is homogenous and well-combined.

Wipe out cast iron skillet, and transfer meat mixture to skillet. Form into a 10"x6" loaf, and bake until meatloaf registers 160f degrees, 45-55 minutes. Transfer meatloaf to carving board using large spatula, and tent loosely with aluminum foil.

Thinly slice remaining white mushrooms, and add them, plus thyme and 1/4 tsp. salt, to the drippings in the cast-iron skillet. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring often and scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan, until the mushrooms are a deep golden brown - 6-8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in broth and remaining mushroom liquid, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice meatloaf, and serve with mushroom gravy.