There’s nothing more honest than meatloaf.
And I’ve been joking around with the idea of “honest” food because it sounds a little pretentious and foodie, but I believe it to be something cooks crave the most.
There’s not much flare to a loaf of meat with a ketchup based sauce on top. But what lacks in flare, it makes up for in comfort. That’s one thing I mean by honest food. Something from the heart. Something mom makes on a week night.
Sometimes, I want to make meat loaf just so I can make a sandwich out of it the next day.
When talking about forcemeat (meat that has been ground and mixed with various spices/ingredients), do not get intimidated. Forcemeat, at its most humble, is meatloaf. Take it up a few notches and you have sausage, boudain and various other sorts of charcuterie.
If I’m feeling particularly ‘homey’ and want something deeply nourishing and familiar, I crave meatloaf.
Though of course I have some reservations about what makes a good meatloaf, there are almost no boundaries for cooking one at home.
I think a good meatloaf should be moist. A good fat ratio is important.
Texture is tres, tres important. No crunchies. If there is garlic, is must be soft. Same with carrots, peppers and onions. At least for me. I enjoy a soft texture throughout.
The tomato based sauce on top is crucial, believe it or not. When eating a slab off the loaf, you need a tangy tomato finish. And if need be, accompanied by more ketchup.
Here is my go-to recipe. And of course, it’s a long way to do it. But I love doing it and think it makes for a delicious beast of a loaf.
1lb 80/20 ground beef
1lb ground pork (aha!)
2 small yellow onions, sliced and caramelized
3-4 cloves garlic, minced a sauteed slightly till soft
1 red bell pepper, roasted and skin removed
1-2 T. dried thyme
Few dashes of Worcestershire
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
salt, pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Whatcha’ gotta do:
Preheat oven to 325.
Caramelize some onions. Of course this is not necessary for meatloaf, but caramelized onions make mostly anything taste better. They can take a while if you are doing a lot of them, but for two small onions, it might take 30 minutes or so. It’d be a great thing to do ahead of time.
Slice onions into thin strips and throw in a large saute pan with a good hunk of butter and sprinkle with kosher salt. Let caramelize till they are a light to medium amber and taste so *bleeping* good and sweet.
Place your bell pepper in a little pan, coat with some neutral oil and place under broiler until it chars a bit on all sides. Take it out. Let it rest and take off the skin. Cut it into tiny pieces and set aside.
Throw your garlic into a small pan and saute slowly for a few minutes until they become soft. Set aside with the bell pepper.
Once all your prep is done, dump all the meat into a LARGE mixing bowl.
Gently, incorporate the beef and pork together. Add in cooled caramelized onions, peppers and garlic. Add egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, cayenne, worcestershire, salt and pepper. Mix well.
An important thing to do, as with any forcemeat, is to try your meatloaf before shaping and baking it.
Grab a small handful of the meat and cook it in a little oil on your stovetop to check for salt, seasoning, etc. Once you’ve tasted, tweak as needed. After all, you know what you like.
Once your meat mixture is to your liking, grab a loaf pan and oil it. Press the meat mix into the loaf pan firmly so it’s all even. Then, on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper, turn the loaf pan over and give it a few taps so the loaf will fall into place on top of the parchment. Now you have free standing meatloaf in its perfect shape.
Stick it into your preheated oven for ten minutes, take it out and add the sauce which is:
1/2 cup ketchup
few dashes of worcestershire
few dashes of hot sauce
1 T. honey
Mix and spread on top of loaf and place back into the oven for another 45 minutes (or until the center registers at about 155)
Epic meat loaf. At least what I like as meatloaf.
Enjoy with some mashed potatoes and green beans or whatever the heck it is you like to eat with meatloaf.
My stomach is growling as we speak, so I’m gonna’ try and search for that leftover loaf in my refrigerator that’s begging to be made into a sandwich. Victory!