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Chipotle peppers add spice to classic comfort food

Chipotle Meatloaf

At our house, Hubby Bryan is generally a much earlier riser than I am. In fact, he rarely needs an alarm clock to wake him up, although he sets one every night, just in case. On the rare occasions when that alarm does go off, I can snooze right through it, seldom rousing enough to realize that he has left my side.

But, as soon as he sets foot on the bottom step to come upstairs and get me moving for the day, I am instantly alert. His footfall on the staircase is my alarm clock.

The purpose in me sharing our morning waking routine is to wonder at the idiosyncrasies of our human brains and bodies. How is my brain able to disregard the jarring sound of the alarm, knowing intuitively that it's not meant for me, but recognize my husband's footsteps and be immediately awake?

Similarly, I ponder why it is that at this time of year my body begins to crave what we generally term as "comfort foods" -- soups, stews, hotdishes, roasts. Is it some primeval instinct to store up calories for the winter? Or is just that such fare seems more appropriate for the season?

Whatever the reason, the supper menu at our house has definitely switched gears in recent weeks, away from simple grilled meats, vegetables and salads and more toward those comforting dishes.

One of the entrees concocted in our kitchen on one of those first cooler autumn nights was meatloaf. At our abode, meatloaf has become one of Bryan's specialties, and I'm glad to let him have cooking duties whenever he gets the hankering to make it. (Actually, he is very capable in the kitchen, and probably does more of the daily cooking than I.)

Over the years, he's developed several variations, but this chipotle version, with its slightly smoky heat, is one of our most recent favorites. Bryan tends to use the grill all year round, except maybe in the middle of a blizzard, so he cooked this meatloaf on our deck, but I've also included oven instructions.

Tips from the kitchen:

Chipotle peppers are actually smoked jalapeños. They can be found in area grocery stores in two forms: dried (which can be ground into a great chile powder) or, as this recipe calls for, canned in adobo sauce. Look in the ethnic foods aisle.

Most recipes call for using only one or two of the peppers, and there are many more in a can. I freeze whatever is left over, whole peppers and sauce, in a plastic bag. When I need some chipotle in the future, I can easily cut off a chunk and return the rest to the freezer. Alternately, you can chop up all the peppers, put them back into the sauce, and freeze the mixture in smaller quantities using an ice cube tray.

The recipe calls for a mixture of ground beef and ground pork, but all ground beef (or all ground pork, for that matter) will work just as well.

A loaf pan can be used for baking, but forming the mixture on a foil-lined sheet helps drain fat away from the meat.

Chipotle Meatloaf

2 pounds ground beef

1 pound ground pork

½ cup chopped onion

¼ cup chopped sweet peppers (red, yellow or green)

2 slices dried bread, chopped

2 eggs

2 chipotle peppers, finely chopped (divided use)

1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the canned chipotles)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup milk

1½ teaspoons seasoned salt

1 teaspoon salt-free southwest seasoning (optional)

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

In a large bowl, lightly combine beef, pork, onion, sweet peppers and bread. Add eggs, 1½ chipotle peppers (reserve ½ of one pepper for sauce), Worcestershire, milk and seasonings. Mix lightly until thoroughly combined.

Cover a large baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place meat mixture on foil and use hands to gently form into a loaf shape.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 1 hour. Meatloaf can also be cooked on the grill over indirect heat.

Combine ketchup, brown sugar and reserved chipotle. Spread over top of meatloaf and bake or grill for 20 minutes more.

Makes 8 hearty servings.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

(507) 376-7327