By Tyler Viars
There are three things I love: whitetail deer, smoking barbecue and meatloaf. Combine them together in the form of a sandwich, and this cook is happier than Winnie the Pooh inside the honey jar.
While on “MasterChef,” we, in fact, had a meatloaf challenge and I plated a dish eerily similar. Although they loved the flavor, the judges classified it more like a burger and less like a “loaf.” In my opinion, they can kiss it! (I mean that in the nicest, most peaceful way.)
Meatloaf versus burger aside, I crave this sandwich.
Living below the Mason-Dixon Line for a number of years, this was a staple on many beloved barbecue restaurant menus. The chips, smoky chipotles and earthy poblano combined with the oak-cooked venison bring a surprising new flavor to the boring, common meatloaf.
Toast some sourdough bread, add a slather of aioli, some bread and butter pickles, crispy onion straws, and finish it with gooey melted cheddar cheese, and it is guaranteed to send anyone’s taste buds into orbit.
Now, that I am foaming at the mouth, it is time bust out the Weston grinder, turn on the music and pour your favorite libation. Let’s get cookin’ in camo!
Oak chips or other hardwood of choice
2/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 ounces chipotle peppers in adobo, sauce included
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (it may seem odd, but it adds great depth)
6 ounces ruffled, kettle-style barbecue potato chips (nacho cheese chips are awesome as well. AKA: Doritos)
3 cloves garlic
1 medium carrot, quartered
1 poblano, seeded
1 medium sweet onion, quartered
1 tablespoon duck fat or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound venison shoulder roast
2 ounces pork fat
1 pound pork shoulder
3 large eggs
12-16 slices of quality cheddar cheese slices
12-16 pieces of fresh sourdough bread
Butter for toasting bread
Bread and butter pickles for serving
Zesty Aioli Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
An hour prior, place the Weston grinder components in the freezer.
Using the large die, grind the pork, pork fat and venison into a Weston lug. Next, switch to the smaller die and repeat. Set aside and allow to come to room temperature.
Preheat a smoker or oven to 250 degrees and add the hardwood.
Combine the ketchup, tomato paste, chipotle peppers and cocoa in a large mixing bowl. Remove approximately 1/3 of the mixture into a separate bowl.
Using a food processor, pulse the potato chips until they are the consistency of bread crumbs. Add the potato chips to the 2/3-ketchup mixture.
Now, add the onion, carrot, garlic and poblano to the food processor and finely chop.
With the duck fat, heat a 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetable mixture to the skillet with the sage and kosher salt. Cook the vegetables for approximately 3-5 minutes or until they soften and begin to brown. Add the vegetables to the ketchup and potato chips and stir to thoroughly combine. Let the mixture cool for roughly 10 minutes.
Using the best kitchen utensil — your hands — add the ground mixture to the ketchup and potato chips and thoroughly combine. Shape the combination into a compact, rough 10-inch long by 2-inch high by 4-inch high loaf. Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let set for 45 minutes — minimum.
Meanwhile, combine the aioli ingredients and let refrigerate for the flavors to meld.
Coat the meat with the reserved glaze. Wrap the meat in aluminum foil and smoke for approximately 40 minutes. After the time has allotted, remove the foil and smoke for another 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees and remove. Do not fret about “undercooked” pork. The carryover cooking will take the meatloaf to 140 degrees. Tent the loaf with aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 minutes.
The last 10 minutes of rest, butter and toast the sourdough bread slices and preheat the broiler.
Slice the meatloaf into half-inch slices, place on one slice of sourdough. Top it with a slice of cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is completely melted. Add the aioli, pickles, onion straws and other slice of bread to complete the sandwich.
If you have not already, devour. If you have restraint (I never do), I would prefer to pair it with some homemade barbecue potato chips and a big icy mug of Great Lakes Oktoberfest. Remember to always cook, share and enjoy!
Photos by Tina Marie Photography
A columnist for Salt magazine, Tyler’s cooking skills led him to be a top finalist on Fox TV’s “MasterChef” in 2014. With his platform as a chef and avid outdoorsman, the Wilmington, Ohio’s, resident’s goal is to facilitate what he calls the “Forest to Fork” movement.