Friday, October 7, 2011


Cold meatloaf sandwich served with bread-and-butter pickle
Who doesn't love meatloaf? It's one of my favorite comfort foods. My mom made a pretty good meatloaf, but I didn't learn it from her - I never even thought to make meatloaf until I was at least 35 years old. I'd contented myself with restaurant meatloaf during my single years, but when I got married and had a child, I started making my own meatloaf.

My recipe is pretty simple, but it has lots of variations. The variations are part inspiration and part "what's in the fridge?" Here's the basic recipe:

  • One pound ground meat - it can be beef, turkey, pork, lamb, or a mixture of any of them. 
  • 1/4 pound or so cured pork product - a couple slices of bacon. Some salami. An Italian sausage.
  • Fresh bread crumbs - break up 2 slices of bread or an almost-stale hamburger bun in the blender
  • One carrot
  • One celery stalk
  • One smallish onion
  • One or two garlic cloves
  • One egg
  • Half a cup of cream, or if you don't have that, milk
  • Ketchup
  • Olive or vegetable oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Chop the vegetables fine, or chop them coarse and then put them into the food processor until they're finely chopped. Heat the oil in a skillet and sweat the vegetables until they are tender. If you're using bacon or salami, put them in the food processor with the vegetables.

Put the meat in a bowl. Take the casings off the sausages, if you're using those, and add them to the meat. Add the bread crumbs to the bowl. After the vegetables have sweated down, add them to the bowl.

Whisk the egg with the cream or milk, then add a good size dollop of ketchup. Pour it into the bowl and then, with your hands, mix it all up.

Put the mixture into a baking dish - I use a Corningware 8" x 8" baking dish. I mound it up in a rounded loaf that leaves space on the side of the dish. I think this works better than packing it wall-to-wall in a loaf pan - you need space for the meat juices and fat to go.

Glaze it with something - I use ketchup, spread on the top of the loaf like jam on toast.

Bake for 1 hour. The glaze will have caramelized nicely. When the loaf comes out you might be horrified at how much fat and congealed juices have collected in the pan. Never mind that - pour it out, or take the loaf out and put it on a platter. You can use the fat to make a gravy or if you have a dog, save those juices as a treat to add to his kibble. You can also just throw them out.

Slice your meatloaf and serve.

The beauty is in the variations, as I said. Add whatever you happen to have in your fridge. Bell peppers? Fresh mushrooms? Add them to the chopped vegetables. Once I saw a recipe that added a couple of chopped prunes to meatloaf. I happened to have some, so I tried it. Wonderful! So the next time I made meatloaf, I didn't have prunes in the pantry, but I had golden raisins, and added them. Hydrate some dried mushrooms and add them, chopped. Add finely chopped walnuts, if you like. You can also add more vegetables - I've added leftover cooked greens, or even frozen chopped spinach.

For the liquid, I like ketchup, but sometimes I mix it with barbecue sauce. Or Pickapeppa sauce. Or Worcestershire sauce. Or a dollop of balsamic vinegar. Use these variations in the glaze as well.

The meat you choose will determine the character of your loaf, too. Ground turkey will make a more delicate loaf. Lamb a more gamey taste. But be careful. The only "bad" meatloaf I've ever made was when I used an overwhelming proportion of New Zealand lamb, and it was just too strongly flavored. Meatloaf should be comforting, not assertive.

I like to add something porky, but you don't have to. But if you've got some tail-end pepperoni slices in the fridge, tossing them into the processor with the veggies will enhance your meatloaf AND make you feel virtuous for wise use of resources!

Potatoes are the perfect companion for meatloaf. Mashed potatoes are, of course, the classic accompaniment. But scalloped potatoes - the poor man's pommes dauphinoise  - are somehow even more perfect. A baked potato is nice, too. The best thing is - while you bake the meatloaf, you can bake your potatoes.

The day after you make meatloaf, you get to have what I consider the whole point of making meatloaf. Cold meatloaf sandwiches.

On a bun or on sliced bread? To toast or not to toast?  I like my sandwiches with mayonnaise, and for meatloaf I add a teaspoon or so of ketchup to the spread. [The Man I Love] likes barbecue sauce.

Barbecue sauce on the left, Ketchup on the right. With pickled onions
Sliced onion, or a sliced tomato are nice. Here, we chose pickled red onions for some piquancy and crunch.

Some nice baby greens and - yum. Cold meatloaf sandwiches for dinner!

Consider the humble meatloaf as the autumn days approach.


Mrs. G. said...

Your sandwich looks out of this world--thanks for all the variation ideas, g.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My mom used to make great meatload, too.

Of course us kids would drown it in ketchup...because yummmmmm, ketchup!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's funny, I almost never make meatloaf, being more of a meatball aficianado. If I'm feeling ambitious, I like to make meatballs with raisins and pignoli. They go really well in an escarole soup with orzo.

21 Wits said...

Oh s many yummy versions of MEATLOAF!...although it's really not good to sit here blogging on only having a banana !!!! You are making me so HUnGrY!