Meatloaf is the butt of many jokes. I suppose it starts with the name — meat loaf is not exactly appetizing what with the lack of specificity as to the meat and the rather solid Anglo-Saxon stodge of “loaf. Then you move on to the appearance — there’s a certain sameness of texture in a meatloaf that may cause one to look askance at it. And then there’s the sort of cafeteria horror connotations of dry yet greasy meatloaf that could be made from the leftovers of yesterday’s lentil tortilla rollups, Salisbury steak and that gym sock you lost, all ground into an unappetizing mush and then baked into a grey brown loaf. And lets not get started on Bat Out of Hell References, shall we?
OK, I’ve even lost my appetite. But the truth of the matter is, I’ve never met a meatloaf I didn’t like. Think of it as a terrine or a sausage of sorts — it’s just seasoned meat and vegetables with some starch for binder, made smooth and shaped so as to be perfect for sandwiches. It’s good either hot or cold, freezes beautifully, and is the perfect thing to take to a friend with a new baby or cook for your new boyfriend (something about meatloaf suggests man food, I don’t know why.) And a good meatloaf is a thing of joy — savory and comforting with a crunchy browned exterior that’s set off perfectly by ketchup. And this, my friends, is a very good meatloaf.
It escapes the trap of being greasy by being baked freeform instead of in loaf tins — this makes it slightly less convenient for sandwiches, but whatever loss you have on that count is more than made up for in increased surface area for delicious crust. And the secret to juiciness lies in the use of sausage meat as one of its components. I also happen to think that the seasoning is just right in this one, but of course the beauty of meatloaf is that you can vary it — add a little of this, a little of that — and really edit it to your tastes. Essential in my mind, however, is the drizzle of ketchup over the top prior to baking — it caramelizes in the oven and adds a wonderful sweet counterpoint to the savory meat.
All jokes about mystery meat aside, I tend to vary the type of meat I use for meatloaf — some days using ground turkey, others ground beef, and the sausage can be either pork or turkey. What shouldn’t vary greatly is the texture — the vegetables should be chopped fairly finely so that they don’t interfere with the structural integrity of the final loaf.
Of course, structural integrity can be dismissed if you’re merely eating this meatloaf hot — it can crumble on the plate with some mashed potatoes and a nice green vegetable, and noone will be the worse for wear. But to truly experience the glories of a cold meatloaf sandwich (I like mine on toasted bread with ketchup) some sameness of texture is necessary. But when you combine that crisp softness of toasted bread with the tender chew of the meatloaf and add the herbal notes from the meat to the spiciness of the ketchup that’s magic, no mystery. And that’s no joke.
- 2 slices sandwich bread (I’ve used both white and multigrain)
- ⅓ c. milk
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1½ lbs. ground beef or turkey
- ½ lbs. meat from sweet Italian sausage links, either turkey, or pork, casings removed
- 1 tsp ground dry mustard
- 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
- Ketchup to taste
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Grate or cut sandwich bread into fine crumbs. Soak crumbs in milk. Add meats, eggs, vegetables and seasonings, mix well. (I usually use my hands for this.)
- In a roasting pan lined with tin foil, form the meat into two roughly oblong loaves and top with ketchup. Add ½ inch of boiling water to the bottom of the pan (this is optional, but makes cleanup MUCH easier). Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until loaves are firm to the touch.