Ah, meatloaf. Sounds gross. A loaf of meat in no way sounds appealing. It’s imperfectly shaped. But somehow, meatloaf is awesome. It’s homey. It’s moist, relatively cheap, and takes well to seasoning. I’ve seen everything from Cajun to Italian to Southwest style meatloaves. Leftovers can’t be beat. Many people swear the leftover cold meatloaf sandwich is a sublime experience. I’m not a fan of cold meatloaf, but have read that meatloaf may be related to country pate. I can totally see that. It’s a meat terrine dish that’s heavily seasoned and fairly fatty. But I like it warm. And, I must confess, with ketchup. Yup, I’m that person.
Notice that the title isn’t “beefloaf”. Yet, many people make “meatloaf” with solely beef. Tragic. An all beef meatloaf can be one dimensional, tough and dry. The addition of pork and veal add tenderness and moisture to the party. Multiple meats elevates this dish to something supremely special.
Meatloaf is a rather new dish. I’ve found a recipe from 1909, but that’s about it until later in the 1900s. Ground beef was rather unavailable, and similar recipes were in the vein of “chopped beef”, not ground. Plus, I’m imagining Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle probably made people a tad skeptical of ground meat products. Ah, short memories. Now, E. Coli contamination is rather common place. I can’t buy raw milk in Maryland because it might have microbial contaminants, but I can buy ground beef. Go figure.
When cooking with ground beef (or any raw meat, really), please be aware of cross contamination issues and cook the meat thoroughly. My days of medium rare hamburgers are gone.
Back to the meatloaf. Some recipes call for the meatloaf to be made in a loaf container. I’m not a fan of this method. Sure, you have a wonderfully neat block of meatloaf, but your meatloaf cooks and swims in the expelled fat. I like free form cooking. First, there’s less cleanup. Second, the excess fat drains away from the loaf, so you have a cleaner tasting, less greasy meatloaf. Last, well, you can make any shape you like! If you are in a hurry, make a thinner one. Tons of options.
Now, my husband and I have a running conflict. He roughly chops everything. Does a recipe call for green peppers? 1 inch dice. Ditto celery and onions. Even in gumbo. He likes a toothsome soup. For a meatloaf, I don’t want chunky veggies everywhere. If you are old enough to know Eddie Murphy’s classic comedic riff on the homemade “McDonald’s” burger, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure it’s on You Tube, if you aren’t. I want the veggies to be subtle in the loaf, not distracting. Is my way better? No, it’s just a preference. But, come on, I’m right, right?
I took my inspiration from the country pate idea to develop this recipe. Meatloaf is easy. A great beginner dish. It’s all mixed in one bowl and cooked on a sheet pan. Done.
Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 45-60 minutes
2 pounds total, split between ground pork, ground veal and ground beef (some stores call this “meatloaf mix”)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
thick bacon slices
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Mix all the ingredients, except the bacon, together in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands is the preferred method. Be careful the mix gently until everything is just combined. Over mixing will lead to a tough meatloaf.
Place strips of bacon on a baking sheet in the approximate size of the loaf you wish to make. Shape the meat into a loaf shape and set on the bacon strips. Cover with a few more strips of bacon.
Cook until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 45 minutes.