Sun Oct 14, 2007
It was bound to come to this. The warm summer days have finally relinquished their hold and we're left with a cooling trend that finds me more indoors than out. That means less grilling, less barbecue, but not less meat. As we shift gears from summer to fall eats, there aren't many other dishes I can think of that can signal the seasonal change more than meatloaf. Considering this, I think back to a day when, for reasons beyond my comprehension, I did not like meatloaf. I was, and at times still tend to be, a finicky eater, and meatloaf was just one of those absurd food idiosyncrasies I clung onto until sometime after college. As I continue to conquer my aversions one at a time (I'm currently on mushrooms), meatloaf proudly stands not only as an early testament to my personal quest as an eater, but also as a food that defines a welcomed time of change.
How did I ever not like a dish so closely akin to a large hamburger, and incorporates three types of meat?!??! Stupidity has given way to enlightenment as I've made a long journey, many years long, in search of the perfect loaf. For this post, I spent some time perusing the internet for a crafty new recipe that might redefine or build upon our preconceptions of meatloaf, but then I stopped for a minute and thought, why would I ever want to redefine meatloaf? When I want meatloaf, I want meatloaf, nothing more, nothing less. When I want meatloaf, I undoubtedly want great meatloaf, and my road to great meatloaf started with equal part of three meats: veal, beef, and pork, 2/3lb of each to be exact.
After I had three meats trimmed cut into cubes, it was time for grinding. I ground them in the same manner I do for a hamburger. I first sent the cubes through using the large grinder plate, alternating the three different varieties of meat. Once all ground, I sent it through again, this time using the small grinder plate. This process not only produces meat the right consistency for a meatloaf, but also makes sure the different types of meats and the fat are well distributed throughout.
I placed the ground meat in the fridge temporarily while I turned my attention to the other meatloaf innards. First up was one onion that I diced and then softened and lightly browned in a pan with a little vegetable oil. At the very end of sautéing the onion, I threw in two minced cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of fresh thyme and the whole house started to smell deeply delicious.
While the onion cooled, it was time to prep the binders. I started by whisking two eggs with milk, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, and a little Tabasco. Then I crushed up saltine crackers to make 2/3 of a cup. You can use breadcrumbs, but saltines do double duty as a binder and seasoner, plus they're an impossible snack to ignore while cooking.
Next I mixed the meats, onions, egg mixture, and crackers together with my hands until it was evenly blended. I formed the loaf in a bread pan lined with wax paper. Then I turned it out onto a baking sheet and removed the waxed paper to uncover a perfectly formed meatloaf.
Meatloaf is nothing to me without a glaze, but that doesn't mean the glaze has to be anything fancy. To make one, I simply just mixed ketchup, brown sugar, and cider vinegar. Then I brushed half of the glaze all over the loaf, which went into a 350 degree oven for 45 min. After that I brushed on the remaining glaze and sprinkled on some bacon bits, then continued too cook the loaf until it reached 160 degrees.
After a 20 minute cool down, it was time to dig in. This is meatloaf the only way I can imagine it. It's moist and meaty, with a thick sweet glaze that adds just the right amount of extra flavor. In each bite I relish in the thought that fall is upon us, with winter just around the corner, and time is starting to slow down, letting me throughly enjoy each piece of meaty goodness that carries me happily through this change. This is what right now is supposed to taste like, and I can't imagine how I ever lived without it.
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
2/3 lb beef chuck
2/3 lb veal
2/3 lb pork butt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
1/3 cup bacon bits (optional)
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Trim and cube the 3 meats. Pass through a meat grinder using the large grinding plate. Pass through the grinder again using the small grinder plate. Set meat in the refrigerator until needed.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add in the onions and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 mins. Add the minced garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar and set aside.
In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and Tabasco.
In a large bowl, mix the meat, crackers, parsley, sautéed onion mixture, and egg mixture until evenly blended.
Line a loaf pan with wax or parchment paper. Pour out the meatloaf mixture into the pan and press down, forming the loaf. Turn the loaf out onto a baking sheet and remove the loaf pan and paper. Brush 1/2 of the glaze all over the meatloaf. Place meatloaf in the over and cook for 45 mins.
Remove the loaf from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle top with bacon bits. Place back into the oven and continue to cook until the loaf measures 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes more. Let cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.