Help make this meat cake a success
December 23, 2010 9:01 AM   Subscribe

MEAT CAKE. I'm in over my head and need help finishing this off. Caveat: made with shredded turkey confit, not the normal meatloaf meat cake!

I had a vision of a meat cake, a cake of real meat, not meatloaf. Shredded meat, like pulled pork or pulled turkey, bound together by some unknown substance.

I am trying to execute my vision with my meager cooking skills. I've got homemade cranberry sauce to go in between the layers. I managed to make the mashed sweet potatoes to go on the outside. I've even done a confit of six turkey legs in olive oil and shredded the results and packed them into two cake pans.

Now I'm lost at two steps:
1) The gravy
2) Binding the shredded bits together

1) For the gravy, I took the bones, the skin, the garlic cloves, plus some onions and carrots, threw them in a sauce pan, covered them with water, and I'm going to let them reduce. What next? Do I add egg yolks? Flour? Gelatin, as below?

2) For binding, someone suggested I used a 1.5% gelatin solution of chicken stock (or maybe the gravy I'm preparing above?) and pour just enough into the shredded turkey to bind it together. Do I let this cool? Let it cook? Is there a better way? More gelatin?

The ideal would be a cake that stood on its own when cool, but when a piece was heated kind of melted apart into a hot mess of gravy and potatoes and cranberry sauce.

For reference, the only one of the above things I've ever made before was mashed sweet potatoes, and that was badly. I'm flying pretty blind here and don't want the 16+ hours I've put into preparation so far to go to waste.

Please hope me!
posted by schroedinger to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
Yum! When I make gravy from drippings I add salt, pepper, butter, and flour. Just a little of each. You're already halfway there by reducing your stock. When it gets flavorful (add the salt, pepper and a smidge of butter) and more reduced, put about a tbsp of flour into a cup and add water to cover it, mix it until the flour is liquid, and then briskly (to avoid lumpage) stir that into the drippings while they're still simmering on the stove. That should thicken it quickly. If that wasn't enough, do it again with another tbsp. I don't know how much drippings you have, so a tbsp at a time until you get it nice and thick.

Mashed potatoes mixed in will hold the shredded turkey together well, and will help it pool when you heat up a slice with gravy on top. Like shepherd's pie - just add mashed potatoes to the shredded meat. Another thing you could do is go buy some ground turkey, add it to your shredded, and mix it all together with egg and breadcrumb, like meatloaf. You would bake it after mixing it all together. That would stay firm and not melt into a hot mess when reheated though.
posted by iconomy at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2010

You want MEAT GLUE, son!

In the event that you find meat glue (rightly) disgusting, let's take a look at other binding agents. Traditional starchy thickeners - roux, mashed potatoes, cornstarch, etc. - work nicely, but they also muddy and obscure flavors and textures - and there aren't too many textures as disparate as shredded meat and mashed potatoes, no?

HOWEVER, a more clear "gelling"-style binder might work well. I'm talking gelatin (whether the natural kind - like making your own aspic - or plain ol' Knox Gelatin packets), I'm talking egg whites (beat 'em, mix 'em with another liquid - broth, perhaps? - and dump 'em over the meat-cake. Either of these could benefit from a thorough baking, then a few hours of chilling time to set up... the additional heat will help them disperse and permeate the meat better than just dumping 'em in.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:27 AM on December 23, 2010

To get a firm but melty cake, yes, you absolutely want a gelatin or aspic. If I were doing this, I'd probably dissolve gelatin into the stock I was going to use to make the gravy at a high ratio -- twice as much gelatin to stock as the package recommends, whatever that is -- and then make my gravy as normal, pour it over the shredded bits, pack them into the pan, and let it cool.
posted by KathrynT at 9:27 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

to expand on my previous answer -- I ain't just speculating here. I frequently make a Melton-Mowbray style pork pie, and it's made in nearly this fashion; the crust is formed around the pork and herb filling, then baked until everything's cooked, then a highly gelatinized pork stock is poured over it and left to cool. If I have a pig's foot for the stock, it's gelatinized enough on its own, but if I don't, I add Knox gelatin.
posted by KathrynT at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2010

KathrynT, the package doesn't recommend anything for gelatinizing stock. How much shall I use for about 6 cups of stock?
posted by schroedinger at 9:41 AM on December 23, 2010

I'd use two packages. Dissolve them in about a cup of boiling stock first, then stir that one into the rest of the stock. This will make a very firm aspic, but the other components of the gravy will loosen it somewhat, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's better to err on the side of too firm than not firm enough when you're making a meat cake.
posted by KathrynT at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2010

KathrynT's got it. Basically you'll be making what's known as a terrine.
posted by cooker girl at 10:24 AM on December 23, 2010

Julia Child had a Chicken Melon recipe which might be adapted. Egg is the binding ingredient--it's really more of a pate than a meatloaf.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:30 AM on December 23, 2010

Nthing KatherineT and cooking girl: you're making a terrine. Google that term for more information.
posted by trip and a half at 12:17 PM on December 23, 2010

(oops, sorry: KathrynT!)
posted by trip and a half at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2010

KathrynT, the cake came out PERFECT! Will update with pictures! Thank you, it was delicious!
posted by schroedinger at 7:41 PM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

HOORAY! I'm so glad! congratulations on your ambition!
posted by KathrynT at 8:10 PM on December 24, 2010

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