Rethinking Meatloaf

Let’s take a second to talk about meatloaf…

There, I think that covers it. Sigh, it bores me. If we’re actually drilling down on the topic, I’ve had less than zero interest in either cooking or eating this supposed American comfort food let alone having a conversation on it. It was not on my childhood dinner table, in fact the first and only time it passed my lips before age 25 was at a friends house somewhere around 6th grade. I was not impressed. It was an ugly, oversized, overcooked hamburger and that satisfied my curiosity for quite some time.

Is meatloaf truly a classic? Is my ability to put one on the table a measure of my culinary prowess? The answer to these questions kind of irritates me – I don’t even like the sound of the word “meatloaf”… but fine, it’s a flipping classic. I mean, I used to like the singer and that catchy song until the M&M people overplayed the living hell out of it with their Superbowl commercial and now ‘I would do anything’… to stop hearing it.

Last week I decided to consult with my favorite resource, Cooks Illustrated. The ultimate food nerd publication that does all the leg work for you. Its contents are advantageous, whether it’s your time or your tastebuds you value. In regards to the topic at hand, they dig a little deeper into the various ingredients. A mix of ground beef, pork, and veal is critical, they say. They talk about the use of veal for its gelatin content, it keeps the meat tender. That made sense!

I don’t buy ground veal often enough to know if it’s hard to come by but I’m not opposed to consuming it. Standby to those that are. After checking 3 markets and two butchers with no luck  (umm who goes to that extent?!), I realized I was an idiot – and no, not for wasting all of that time and gasoline. Three weeks ago I found a bag of beef gelatin powder at Fiddleheads. I even had a great conversation with the clerk about why I was excited to find it and what I planned to use it for.

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By the way, it was marshmallows. Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, I was tired and frustrated but still wanted to make the loaf. I grab a pound of turkey meat and storm out of the store, after paying of course. It was so simple, I had gelatin in my cupboard all along. There was no need for veal in the first place!

Come to find out, Cooks Illustrated did a piece with CBS and they too suggest the use of powdered beef gelatin as a substitute. Wish I figured that out before all of the running around.

Needless to say, the meatloaf came out WAY better than expected. I am so bold as to say, I’d make it again. It did not taste or feel like a mediocre hamburger in my mouth, not one little bit.

Below is their recipe and my choices.

BACON-WRAPPED MEAT LOAF WITH BROWN SUGAR – KETCHUP GLAZE

INGREDIENTS:
Brown Sugar – Ketchup Glaze 
1/2 cup ketchup *Organic
4 tablespoons brown sugar *dark
4 teaspoons cider vinegar *with the mother (raw = many health benefits, try Bragg’s)

Meat Loaf 
2 teaspoons vegetable oil *used EVOO
1 medium onion , chopped medium *used a sweet onion
2 medium cloves garlic , minced *grown in the USA and organic
2 large eggs *used local
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme *French broken leaf
1 teaspoon table salt *sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard *organic and local
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce *sriracha

1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt *plain kefir

1 pound ground beef chuck *grass fed and organic
1/2 pound ground pork *pasture raised and local
1/2 pound ground veal *turkey as substitute
2/3 cup quick oatmeal *organic
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
6 – 8 ounces bacon , thin sliced (8 to 12 slices, depending on loaf shape) *Local and pasture raised
* I added 1/2 tsp of powdered beef gelatin to the mix, you can use regular gelatin if you prefer

INSTRUCTIONS
1. For the glaze: Mix all ingredients in small saucepan; set aside.
2. For the meat loaf: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in medium skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing remaining ingredients.
3. Mix eggs with thyme, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper sauce, and milk or yogurt. Add egg mixture to meat in large bowl along with crackers, parsley, and cooked onion and garlic; mix with fork until evenly blended and meat mixture does not stick to bowl. (If mixture sticks, add additional milk or yogurt, a couple tablespoons at a time until mix no longer sticks.)
4. Turn meat mixture onto work surface. With wet hands, pat mixture into approximately 9-by-5-inch loaf shape. Place on foil-lined (for easy cleanup) shallow baking pan. Brush with half the glaze, then arrange bacon slices, crosswise, over loaf, overlapping slightly and tucking only bacon tip ends under loaf, (see illustration 1, below).
5. Bake loaf until bacon is crisp and loaf registers 160 degrees, about 1 hour. Cool at least 20 minutes. Simmer remaining glaze over medium heat until thickened slightly. Slice meat loaf and serve with extra glaze passed separately.

The slices held together firmly yet melted in our mouth.
The slices held together firmly yet melted in our mouth.

So there you have it, a meatloaf I can live with.

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