If there’s one glaring thing I noticed about New York City since my last visit there is that’s is safer. The last time I was in New York, the mayor was David Dinkins, Bill Clinton was being inaugurated as President and Times Square still teemed with Peep Shows.
Fast forward to 2008, post 9/11 New York with a comforting police presence to be seen in subways, streets and in less savory neighborhoods.
This new New York reality allows one to be able to travel (visit) almost every neighborhood in Manhattan. Am I the daring type, maybe but surely I’m a person who takes calculated risks.
I took to a visit Harlem, an African-American neighborhood once notorious for being unsafe but always an important place where many a talent would make their debut in show business at the Apollo theater.
Ella Fitzgerald played here, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Billy Holiday (to name a few) got their start at the Apollo.
No visit to an African-American ‘hood could be complete without having some soul food, that is to say Afro-American food from the South.
She directed me to Sylvia’s. Upon entering this eatery from the cold & windy New York October, I was greeted by an enthusiastic hostess like I was attending a family reunion.
The aroma is this joint was amazing…I knew I was going to eat good – eat well. I was promptly seated, handed a menu and while I was perusing the menu, a warm basket of corn bread arrived.
Did I tell you how comfortable I felt in this place? The staff were friendly, engaging & helpful with the menu and lucky me..Sylvia (the owner) was there and she was delighted to take a photo of me (she loves Canadians)!
In my lifetime of trying/exploring different foods, I come to the realization that many cuisines exist in a parallel universe: many share similar pasta dishes, wrapping/bundling food packets, similar approaches to a cooking method or in the case of meatloaf…everyone having their own version of this classic.
How is it that American Soul Food and something as ancient as Greek cookery share similar dishes? The Greeks’ answer to meatloaf is Rolo (pronounced Rrrro-LO). I’ve had the Greek and classic American-style meatloaf countless times but Sylvia’s meatloaf triggered my memory of a Greek food friend’s blog in Athens called, Asteromases and the hostess…Asteraki.
She wowed me with her “rolo” (meatloaf), the attention to the steps, detail offered in preparation and finally, showing off the final product.
I promised myself and Asteraki that I would be making this dish and he we are…making a Greek meatloaf dish that ties in with a trip to New York’s Harlem!
This night I was to meet up with Amy & Jonny of We Are Never Full. This Brooklyn based couple and I knew we had to meet, have drinks, talk alot and share the table over dinner. Amy & Jonny’s blog has become one of my favourite blog-stops…informed on food, well fed and always straight-up, honest food served up elegantly yet simply. Me thinks you should add them to your Google Readers.
We met at New York’s oldest Irish pubs, McSorley’s (East Village) and I was greeted with hearty handshakes, hugs ans kisses from Amy and cold glasses of dark beer. Again, I was met by the exact same people I’ve come to love reading on a daily basis, I was comforted to find out they are just as genuine and hilarious in person and very passionate about food.
We finished the evening by going two doors down to restaurant serving up Burmese food and after a brief Google search of Toronto, I’m saddened that I can’t at this time explore this fascinating new cuisine to me that had a Pan-Asian feel about it.
The night ended a little earlier than I had hoped as Amy& Jonny were headed to England the next day but guys (Amy & Jonny)…I promise, we have unfinished business to attend to (more eating & drinking).
Hungry for meatloaf? How about a Greek Rolo? This recipe takes some guidance from Asteraki’s Rolo, combined with my own signature to the dish. Much like Asteraki, I chose to serve roasted potatoes, as good as the Greek reputation is for serving up the humble yet delicious spud.
Rolo – Greek Meatloaf (Î¡Î¿Î»ÏŒ)
3/4 lb. of ground beef
1/4 lb. of ground pork
1 onion, grated
3 slices of white bread, soaked in water and then squeezed of excess liquid
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tsp. of sweet paprika
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. of dry Greek oregano
2 tsp. of fresh thyme
1/2 carrot, grated
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
splash of olive oil
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
some Graviera (or Gruyere cheese)
1 to 1 1/2 good, firm sausage
(I used a smoked sausage)
strips of bacon
1/4 cup olive oil
couple of pads of butter
1 onion, grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. of sweet paprika
1/2 cup dry red wine
couple of bay leaves
2 cups of tomato juice
salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, add your ingredients (except the sausage) and mix gently but thoroughly in a bowl. The mixture should adhere and be moist to the touch but firm. Fry off a small meatball to taste-test and then adjust seasoning.
- On a your work surface, lay out a large piece of wax paper or cling wrap and layout your rolo mixture on it and spread it out into a rectangular shape. Carefully remove the sausage casing and place it in the middle of the mince meat surface area. Now add the cheese strips alongside the sausage and carefully fold over one side of the meatloaf to make one roll of mince. Place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes for the form to set.
- Pre-heat your oven and take the Rolo out. Remove the cling wrap/wax paper and place the Rolo in your baking vessel and rub the top of it with some oil (help the bacon adhere). Now drape your strips of bacon over the top surface area of the rolo. The bacon keeps the Rolo moist, adding a wonderful flavour and upper crust to the Rolo.
- Place in your preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes and then take out to carefully drain the bacon fat. Reduce your oven’s heat to 375F and keep baking your Rolo, all the while checking to remove excess drippings and fat.
- In the meantime, make the sauce. In a large skillet, add the olive oil and butter over medium heat and add your grated onion and garlic and saute while stirring with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. Now add the tomato paste and stir int for a couple of minutes. Now add the wine and slowly bring up the heat to bring to a boil.
- Now add your tomato juice, paprika, bay leaves and tomato juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer (uncovered) for about 30 minutes or until thick. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, remove the bay leaves and set aside and keep warm.
- Continue to check your Rolo to remove excess bacon fat and at the 60 minute mark, take the Rolo out and cover the top part with your tomato sauce and return to the oven. Cook for the final 30 minutes of cooking time (approx. 90 total).
- Allow the Rolo to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serve with roasted potatoes or a side of Macaroni & Cheese (recipe to come).
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