Mike’s Pretty Good Meatloaf

A selection from the classic comfort foods section:

Meatloaf is a neat-loaf, treat-loaf, can't be beat-loaf.

I grew up being served meatloaf once a month or so.  While mom was a cook of modest abilities, she had a few signature dishes  for which my siblings and I swooned a bit.  Meatloaf was one.  Mom’s meatloaf was typical of the times (the sixties and seventies).  It was a rather bland affair the recipe for which she’d clipped from the Ladies Home Journal or some other glossy, June Cleaver-y periodical. It involved only hamburger meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, worcestershire and ketchup with a dry onion soup mix.  Still, we clamored for it and the hand of the sibling that might attempt to filch a little extra from his brother or sister’s plate would likely be drawn back empty and sporting a new mark on the back whose pattern would closely match the tines of the fork from the nearly-offended party.  Though mom always made two full meatloafs, only one would be served to our family of eight at dinner and the other would be held to slice up for meatloaf sandwiches for the next day’s school or work lunch.  That still works well.
– Leftover meatloaf makes great sandwiches.

The recipe below is one that I’ve developed after a little trial and error in getting the right combination and proportion of ingredients.  That being said, a meatloaf is a very flexible and versatile dish and feel free to add and omit ingredients as you see fit.

Mike’s Pretty Good Meatloaf
1.5 lbs.  Lean ground beef (ground chuck or sirloin works best)
2/3 lb. Ground pork
2/3 lb. Ground veal or lamb
1 Cup Onion, finely diced
1/2 Cup Carrot, finely diced
1/2 Cup Celery, finely diced
5 medium Cremini mushrooms, (3) whole & (2) medium chopped
(These are sometimes called baby portabella. White button mushrooms will also do fine.)
3 large Cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Cup Seasoned bread crumbs (I prefer Italian seasoning)
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chopped Fresh parsley
1 Tsp. Dry oregano or 1 Tbs. fresh
1 Tsp. Dry marjoram or 1 Tbs. fresh
1 Tsp. Kosher salt
1 Tsp. Freshly-ground black pepper
Seasoning mix
(This is not a necessary ingredient.  I happen to be fond of a seasoning mix called “Slap Ya Mama” and like it in the meatloaf but, if it’s omitted, the loaf will not suffer significantly.  If you have a favorite of your own, that will work in here just as well, I’m sure.)
Pre-heat oven to 375 deg.

One of the secrets of a good meatloaf is to not work the mixture very hard.
In each step you want to work it to the minimum degree possible, just enough to accomplish the task at hand.

If you have a seasoning mixture to use, put onions, carrots and celery into a bowl and use the seasoning mixture on them. If not, no biggee, just skip this step.

In a large mixing bowl, tear off pieces of the ground meats in small chunks and add them to the bowl, rotating between meats as you go. Once the meats are together in a chunk-y mass, add the onion, carrot, celery, the two medium chopped mushrooms, and the garlic. Mix the mass, integrating the vegetables into the meat.

Now add the egg, ketchup, dijon, and worcestershire, along with the parsley, oregano, marjoram, salt and pepper. Work this gently into the meat mixture until you have a meaty, vegetable-studded mass in the bowl. Add half the breadcrumbs, working it in gently.  You’re after a semi-dry, moldable mass here.  If the mixture continues to be “wet”, add bread crumbs until you achieve your goal.

You can mold the meatloaf by hand but I prefer the brick-like regularity that I get by using a loaf pan (a 10-inch loaf pan works fine).  Assuming a loaf pan, put about 1/3 the mixture into the pan and gently press it into the corners, making a layer of even depth.  Take the remaining three mushrooms and put them, cap-side down and lined up like soldiers, into the middle of the pan.  Gently fill-in around the mushrooms, eventually burying them and and cover with the remaining meat mixture.  When you slice the meatloaf for serving, the inverted whole mushrooms make a very attractive shape in the middle of the slices.

I like to cook the meatloaf over a drip-pan to catch the fat, if that arrangement doesn’t suit you, or you’d prefer it a bit juicier, you can cook it on a piece of parchment paper placed in a sheet pan. (A “cookie” sheet won’t do very well here as the fat drippings are likely to run off the edge of the sheet.  You need a pan with a lip all the way around to contain the drippings.)

Run a knife or thin plastic spatula around the sides of the pan while the mixture is in it, separating the mixture from the walls. The mixture will have enough “cling” that it won’t fall out as you invert it on to your cooking surface, whether it’s a screen over a drip pan or parchment in a sheet pan, but you will still want to act decisively.  Quickly invert the loaf pan onto the chosen surface and then gently lift at the corners until you feel the loaf pull free from the bottom and settle onto the cooking surface.

Cook for about an hour and twenty minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 deg.

Glaze (if preferred): I’m on-again, off-again on how I feel about an “icing” on my meat-cake.  If you like it, here’s a formula –

1/3 Cup Ketchup
1 Tbs. Sugar
1 Tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tsp. Worcestershire
1 Tsp. Ground cumin

Whisk these ingredients in a bowl, blending thoroughly. Remove your meatloaf about fifteen minutes early (or at about 140 deg., if you’re using a thermometer) and switch the oven to “broil”.  Quickly spread the topping blend over the top of your meatloaf, as if you’re icing a cake. Once topped, put the loaf back in the oven and cook for fifteen more minutes.

Because we’re talkin’ comfort food here, serve this with potatoes, or rice or macaroni & cheese.  For a green, I love green beans, though broccoli or asparagus would also do well here.  Mom often served her meatloaf with lima beans, which I could not abide and often skipped dessert rather than put the foul things in my mouth.  I’m older now and recognize that they probably have their place but still,    . . . I’d rather listen to someone take banjo lessons than actually eat lima’s.

As for wine, any decent red could work well with this: cab, merlot, shiraz, tempranillo, dolcetto – all good choices – but I prefer a nice chianti.  An oaky chardonnay is also an excellent choice.  I had this with a Stuhlmuller chard from Alexander Valley and it was a terrific match-up.

Allow the warmth of the wine to fill you while you daydream of tomorrow’s sandwiches.
Published in: on December 6, 2009 at 8:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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