I am sharing this as yet un-perfected recipe with you (not to mention the unperfect meat loaf slicing technique!), because it was very good as is and more importantly very easy. Terrific weeknight food. But you might see it it in another incarnation in the future.
My main complaint is that as is the meat does not brown nicely. I am thinking that subbing out some of the fish sauce with a dark soy sauce might help. And later of course I wished I had gone outside and picked some mint to put in it. But John would say why I am complaining because everyone ate it very enthusiastically. And I am happy to report that while both of my kids have always been amenable to nuoc cham, Alex shows signs of becoming as obsessed with it as I am. She insisted it be drizzled over all of her rice in addition to the meat loaf–and she is a kid who normally prefers plain rice.
My instructions for the recipe are for 1 loaf, made with 1 lb of meat. I made 2 because all of my ground meat comes in 1 lb packages and I wanted a mix of the tastier beef with the healthier turkey. I do this a lot because when you buy ground beef from a local, free range farm, you frequently have no choice of how fatty it is. So where some people would use a low fat ground beef made from, say, sirloin, I use a mix of ground beef (more like chuck) and turkey.
1 lb ground sirloin or 1/2 lb ground chuck and 1/2 lb ground turkey
1 1/2 oz dried bean thread vermicelli (mung bean threads)
2 T finely chopped shallots or red onions
1 T minced garlic
1/4 cup shredded carrots
2 T fish sauce (try subbing in some superior dark soy sauce, as discussed above)
salt and pepper to taste
1 beaten egg
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Set aside an 8X4 loaf pan.
Place the mung bean threads in a bowl and pour hot water over them. Leave them to soak until pliable, 10-20 minutes. When they are pliable, drain them and then place them on a cutting board and roughly chop them. Set aside in a large bowl. Add to that the carrots, onions and garlic. Add the meat and mix with your hands until the ingredients are roughly but evenly distributed (i.e., do not over mix). Add the egg, fish sauce and salt and pepper and mix again with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Do not over mix.
Place the meat mixture in the loaf pan and pat it evenly into the pan. Bake until it is firm, fragrant and cooked through, 30-40 minutes. Let the meat loaf cool for 10 minutes in its pan, and then transfer to a serving platter. Serve with fresh veggies, such as romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots, and nuoc cham and jasmine rice.