Sooner or later, all of us have to grapple with the great question of “what shall I do with this pound of ground beef and pound of ground pork I have left from my last month’s meat CSA delivery.” Right? What? You’ve never asked yourself that? Well, shoot. And here I thought that that was one of those universal things that connected us all across national and ethnic boundaries. Well anyway, I at least found myself asking that very question on Monday night. That’s a lot of meat to deal with, and something had possessed me and prompted me to defrost it all! I had formed a plan to make Norwegian meatballs, but when faced with the actual prospect of cooking dinner after a looong day, suddenly even something as simple as shaping little spheres of meat with my hands seemed like more detail work than I could handle. That’s how I wound up making meatloaf.
Overall, I’m really suspicious of most anything that’s a loaf if it isn’t bread. Something about it just seems wrong, somehow. (And it completely defies my imagination to think about why the rock artist Meat Loaf ever chose that as his stage name. I mean, seriously??) But, at the end of that particular day, mixing the meats up with some spices and just shoving them into a bread pan was about all the dedication to the culinary arts I could muster. So, meatloaf it was. Let’s just say I was being retro-chic. And, besides, something doesn’t become a classic piece of Americana for absolutely no reason. When it comes down to it, meatloaf is incredibly easy, and there is no law on the books saying it has to be a bland, heavy lump of meat. You can go ahead and make it as flavorful as you please! And I discovered that if you start with good quality meat it really doesn’t take much to make a scrumptious and satisfying supper. I took the spices I would have used if I had made the meatballs and blended them into the meatloaf instead. I added in some ketchup and mustard – if they’re good on a burger, they should be good in a meatloaf, right? And then I threw some bay leaves on top to perfume the loaf as it baked.
At dinner I felt a little like June Cleaver, traipsing out with a meatloaf, roasted potatoes, and cabbage on a platter. Ah yes, what can I say. I am simply an embodiment of good old fashioned American values. I should have put on a dress with a Peter Pan collar and a frilly apron. Ha. Well, what I can actually say was it was delicious. And I have been eating the leftovers everyday now since Monday. Thank goodness a slice of meatloaf on bread with some mustard and caramelized onions makes a heavenly sandwich!
Meatloaf for a Lazy Evening (serves 6-8)
- 1 lb. good ground beef
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup bread crumbs (preferably Panko)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup ketchup (ketchup may violate my own rule about no more than 5 ingredients on the ingredient list, but I don’t care. I kind of love ketchup. It’s totally a vegetable, right?)
- a couple of Tbs. mustard
- a couple of pieces of bacon, chopped into small pieces (semi-optional)
- 1 tsp. each salt and pepper
- 4 or 5 bay leaves
- Preheat your oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl combine the bread crumbs and milk and allow to stand for a minute. Add in the meats, eggs, garlic, spices (including salt and pepper), ketchup, mustard, and bacon (if using). Blend everything together for a couple of minutes with a handheld mixer. (You can also combine it by hand, but I liked the lighter texture from using an electric mixer).
- Grease a loaf pan and pack the meat mixture into it. Alternatively, if you like more crust around the outside of your loaf, you can grease a shallow baking pan, then form the meat into a sort of oval log shape and place it into the pan. Press the bay leaves into the top of the loaf.
- Bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes (if you check with a thermometer, the internal temperature should be 155F). Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve accompanied by some other good old retro comfort foods – mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, you name it…