Ode to the humble Meatloaf

I hated meatloaf growing up. To this day, I consider it one of those tragic childhood memories that I try to block from my memory bank. The term “meatloaf for dinner” meant that there was about a pound of ground beef left in the fridge, some peppers, and a few sleeves of saltine crackers – all of which were on the backside of freshness.

My grandma, (Lord rest her soul and please forgive me for what I’m about to say), had no desire to be a “domestic goddess” or learn any skills pertaining to such. She considered the microwave oven, and the foods packaged specifically for preparation in them, one of the greatest inventions of all mankind. Quite possibly more important than fire or the wheel.

Don’t get me wrong – there a few dishes that she made that were delicious. I and my mom have tried to replicate them over the years and we just can’t. They’re just not the same. Her pot roast was heavenly. Her fried potatoes perfectly crisp and tender at the same time. And she could make a chocolate pound cake that would melt in your mouth and make you want seconds, thirds and fourths. 

I can’t really say too much though. When I first got married, I didn’t know how to grocery shop or cook anything from scratch either. I was a child of the 70’s , so pre-packaged food was all I really knew. It was what I had been raised on and what I was familiar with. It took a lot of trial and error before I learned to cook and bake. But I kept trying. I had a desire to whip out masterpieces for my family, taking simple ingredients and melding them together into something that would have them singing my praises ’round the dinner table. (Okay, actually I just wanted to come up with hearty and healthy meals to fill up a hungry husband and 2 growing boys.) So, began my need to make peace with meatloaf.

I made it the way I had seen my grandma make it. Yep, it was still awful, just like I remembered. I tried a few recipes I’d find – some very fancy – but it still just wasn’t what I was looking for. Finally, I came across a recipe that after reading it, sounded like it might be pretty good. I clipped it and stuck it in one of my cookbooks and forgot about it. I do that a lot. I’m a bit of a recipe hoarder I guess. Anyway, one day I came across it again and decided to give it a try.

Oh…my…goodness. It was better than I ever thought meatloaf could ever be. As it cooks, everyone’s mouth is watering because it smells so good. My boys called it “torture loaf” when they were little, not because it was torture to have to eat it, but because it was torture smelling it cook for over an hour. And we’re not the only ones that love it. I’ve made it for dinner for guests, taken it to potluck dinners, and shared leftovers with anyone I thought needed them. And they all rave about it too. It’s even better the next day as a meatloaf sandwich. It remains tender and just the right amount of juiciness. This is the recipe I will hand down to my future daughters in law, and will prepare for my future grandchildren.

So, I’ve felt inclined to share it with you for your family to try. I’ll give you the original recipe (I kid you not – this is the actual name of the recipe) as I found it in the magazine, and then you can tweek it however you like. I’ve done the same thing over the years, adding a little more of this, a little less of that, used venison instead of beef, etc. It’s very forgiving and easily customized to your taste. 

Hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

 

“Better Than Mom’s Meatloaf”

2 tsp butter

3/4 cup EACH chopped onion and sliced scallions

1/2 chopped red bell pepper

2 tsp minced garlic

2 large eggs

3/4 cup ketchup

1/2 cup milk

1 TBL plus 1 tsp Worstershire sauce

1/2 tsp salt

2 pounds lean ground chuck

12 oz pork sausage (not Italian sausage)

3/4 cup plain bread crumbs

 

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare large roasting pan.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onion, scallions, bell pepper and garlic. Cook uncovered over medium heat about 8 minutes until vegetables are soft.

3. Meanwhile, beat eggs with a fork in a large bowl. Stire in 1/2 c ketchup, the milk, Worstershire sauce and salt. Add onion mixture, meats and bread crumbs. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until well blended.

4. Place in pan and pat into a 12″long, 5″ wide, 2″ high loaf. (I just make it in a 13″ x 9″ pan. Meatloaf doesn’t necessarily have to be a loaf in my opinion.) Brush with remaining ketchup.

5. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center registers 155 degrees. Let stand for 15 minutes before slicing.