Fear Conquered: Homemade Meatloaf
"Could I get a pound of ground beef?" I ask. Then quickly add, "And a half pound of ground pork and a half pound of ground veal?"
I'm at the deli counter at Whole Foods ordering up my cocktail of ground meats for meatloaf. Which strikes me as odd, to be ordering specific amounts and types of meat for something I've always considered to be a throw-together casserole made with leftovers about the kitchen.
Because I doubt Grandma woke up one morning planning to make a loaf of meat, then journeyed to the butcher for precise quantities of three types of meat and then finally mashed it all together and smothered with tomato sauce. Or, more likely, ketchup. I just don't think that's how it happened.
The Whole Foods' "butcher" hands me my first pack of wrapped meat. "Making something special?" he asks.
"Meatloaf," I say. A little ashamed to admit something so common. Who spends this kind of money on three kinds of meat to make something as common as meatloaf. Surely not Grandma.
"What do you put in it?" the butcher asks as he precisely weighs out the second type of meat. I rattle off a list of ingredients and he nods along with me. And when I come to a fumbling pause, trying to remember if I've got it right, he hands me the second packet of meat. "No green pepper, huh?" he asks.
"I never thought of that," I say, rather stupefied at my own ignorance. And make a mental note to pick up a bell pepper.
"It keeps it moist," the butcher says, wrapping up my last packet of meat.
Indeed it does. So do the soaked breadcrumbs and the layer of marinara sauce. And the fresh parsley adds an herby brightness while the grated parmesan adds depth of flavor. And just to round things out, fresh garlic, ground cloves and dried oregano. And of course, chopped onion.
This is a mighty tasty meatloaf and it's marvelously moist and tender - but somehow I don't think this is anything close to Grandma's meatloaf of leftovers. "Let's see what I can do with this ground beef about to go bad: an onion, a pepper, a can of mushroom soup, some dry bread…oh, and this bottle of ketchup!" A couple hours later, the family sits down to something resembling a log of meat smothered in evaporated ketchup. Thank goodness there's no dinner guests!
That's how I imagine the origins of the first meatloaf.
This is not that meatloaf. There's no ketchup, no cans or bottles and you may need to do some shopping for things like ground veal and fresh parmesan cheese. And maybe that stray ingredient your butcher recommends. That's ok, though. This is a meatloaf you will want to serve to dinner guests. Or at least your family. Because it's not Grandma's meatloaf.
|Combine 1 cup of homemade breadcrumbs with 1/2 cup homemade vegetable stock. Allow the breadcrumbs to soften for about 5 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.|
|In a large bowl, combine 1 pound lean ground beef, 1/2 pound ground pork and 1/2 pound ground veal.|
|Finely dice 1 medium yellow onion and 1 green bell pepper.|
|Mince or press 2 garlic cloves.|
|Chop a large handful of Italian flat-leaf parsley.|
|You will need 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese. I use my food processor fitted with the steel blade to grind the cheese.|
|Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly with a fork. Form the mixture into a loaf or log shape.|
|In a 9x5x2 inch loaf pan, spread 1/2 cup homemade marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan.|
|Nestle the shaped meatloaf into the marinara sauce.|
|Cover the meatloaf with the reserved marinara sauce and grated parmesan cheese. Bake the meatloaf at 350F for at least 95 minutes or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 145F.|
|Serve meatloaf immediately.|
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 35 min
Ingredients (serves 8)
- 1/2 cup homemade vegetable stock
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 7 ounces (1 cup) grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 pound ground veal
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 cup homemade marinara sauce, reserved
- Place a foil-lined baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack and preheat the oven to 350℉
- In a small bowl or measure, combine the vegetable stock and breadcrumbs; let the breadcrumbs soak for a few minutes
- In a large bowl, gently combine all the ingredients with a fork until well mixed (excluding the reserved marinara sauce and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese)
- Form the mixture into a loaf-shape or log; spread 1/2 of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x5x4 inch loaf pan or casserole dish, then place the meatloaf into the dish and top with the remaining marinara and reserved parmesan cheese
- Place the baking dish on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake the meatloaf for 95 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 145℉
- Slice the meatloaf and serve immediately
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Hungry for Tips?
- Make in Advance: Like so many casseroles, you can make meatloaf well in advance of baking it. Just seal in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to bake. Which means you can make this the night before and then pop the meatloaf into the oven when you get home from work. I've even frozen the prepared meatloaf before baking. Just make sure you add at least 15-30 minutes to the bake time and if you're using heat-sensitive bakeware, place the dish in the oven while preheating to avoid thermal shock.
- Lean Ground Beef: Use the leanest ground beef you can get your hands on. The pork and veal add fat of their own, so the leaner the beef the better. I like to go with a 95/5 when I can find it. If you decide to skip the veal and pork, an 85/15 blend works well.
- Garlic: I love garlic, but there can definitely be too much of a good thing. In fact, three medium sized coves of garlic is too much and begins to dominate the other flavors. If you're working with really massive garlic cloves, you may only need one.
- Cloves: Ground cloves may sound like an odd spice for meatloaf, but it's job is really to bring out the flavor of the beef. In fact, I add cloves to hamburger patties, meatballs and roasts - just about anything where I want to enhance the meat flavor. You won't be able to pick out the flavor of cloves - but everything will just taste a little better.
- Breadcrumbs: The classic technique for keeping meatloaf moist is to soak torn bread in milk before adding it to the meat mixture. I use homemade vegetable stock instead of milk because I think it adds depth of flavor - but the technique and purpose of the soaked bread remains the same.
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