Before the comfort food resurgence of the early 2010’s (which will go down in history as one of the most ridiculous of pretentious food trends – $20.00 for mac & cheese?) meatloaf got a bad rap. Actually, anything that was in the Betty Crocker cookbook pretty much got a bad rap. Let’s face it: it was simple, fairly inexpensive and it actually fed you. As in, filled you up. Meatloaf’s a nice, solid meal, and if done well, it tastes amazing.
Of course, when I left college I wasn’t going to cook anything as plebian as meatloaf. I had standards. (If I haven’t already mentioned that I have moments of pretension, here’s the proof). But one night, I wanted meatloaf. Call it a comfort food moment. I was living in Portland, and I remembered my mom’s meatloaf, so I called her up.
“Mom, I need your recipe for meatloaf.”
“Oh honey, I don’t have one.”
“Yeah, I know, you did everything just on the fly, but can you just tell me approximately what you did?”
“No, you don’t understand, I got the meatloaf from Corti Brothers. I never made that myself.”
My world was shaken in that moment. Also, I didn’t realize that Corti Brothers made meatloaf. (That was a shifting point in my food pretension, let me tell you, because to me that place was a freakin’ shrine when I was a kid. I thought rich people shopped there.)
I think I just gave up at that point, until one day I was out for lunch from work and Pastaworks had meatloaf. I grabbed some and took it back to the store, popped it in the microwave and…oh wow. It smelled so good that my co-worker, who was a sometime-vegetarian, asked if she could try it. We were both in heaven. I went back to ask how they made it and to rave. The chef looked highly uncomfortable and she stepped up to the counter when I asked her what was in it that made it so incredible.
“Oh, you know, the usual. Beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, ketchup and…veal.”
“Veal?” I asked, trying to not burst out laughing. “You used veal in the most liberal-hippie part of Portland? That is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.”
I went back to work and with a smirk told my sometime-vegetarian co-worker that the secret ingredient in the meatloaf was veal.
Her response? “Eh, totally worth it.”
After work I had a conversation with the chef about how to best make meatloaf.
Beef, pork, veal, breadcrumbs, onion, egg for binder, ketchup (“and don’t use fancy or try to make homemade ketchup – seriously, use the bottled stuff”). Mix it together, not too much, if you overmix it it will just be mushy.
Thus armed with a recipe I set out to make meatloaf. I went to the Zupan’s near me armed with a list. At the meat counter I waited very patiently, waving people in front of me “oh, no, you go ahead” until the butcher started to eye me suspiciously. I waited until there were no more customers at the meat counter, then stepped up and in a stage whisper asked, “Ground veal.” He understood, and nodded and whispered back, “It’s in the back, how much do you want?”
Yes people, in the 90’s in Portland it was easier, and more socially acceptable, to buy heroin than ground veal. Husband J argues that it still is.
I haven’t made meatloaf in a long, long while, but it is definitely meatloaf weather (aka, freezing cold in California). It’s also sunday, and I have a long week ahead of me and I need sustenance, damn it!
I have no breadcrumbs, so I’m using this:
Yes, those are Carr’s Water Crackers.
Also, instead of beef, I’m using
Oh, and instead of pork I’m using:
Now, the trick is, with my son, to mince the onions fine enough so that he doesn’t realize he’s eating onions. The kid will eat broccoli and brussel sprouts but show him an onion and he runs the other way.
Pre-mixing, it looks like this:
Ok, that’s not a very good image, but it’s piles of chopped and ground things, it looks like a Monet in real life anyway. Oh, and that’s Heinz Organic Ketchup, which we buy in bulk because son j uses it on everything.
375 degree oven (and I put a little ketchup on the top just to be extra special) for 1 1/2 hours till it reads 160 degrees in the center.
Oh wow. Ok, I know, but can YOU take a decent picture of meatloaf? Trust me on this one: outside nice and crispy with some caramelized onions, inside really tender. It didn’t actually hold together very well once I sliced it, but it was good, and I put it on garlic mashed potatoes and served it with brussel sprouts and prosciutto. (I don’t remember why I bought the prosciutto, but I was out of bacon so I used it.)
It’s the perfect night for meat loaf – it’ll drop to freezing (which we do not handle well), but I’ve had a good dinner and I’m all set for a good night’s sleep and a wake up of 3:30 (that’s my norm). A good comfort-food ending to a great weekend.