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~ Mel, Will You Please Post Your Meatloaf Recipe? ~

PICT1402I take all of my readers requests seriously, and when asked for something, I always do get to it (eventually).  I got this request last year, back in November to be exact.  Lauren has been patiently waiting, and I did email her to say it would have to wait until after I finished with my holiday posts.  So, here I am, on a beautiful, sunny, Sunday afternoon in January, with a crisp coating of snow on the ground watching all the skiers ride up and ski down the slopes of Tussey Mountain through my kitchen window.  I can't think of a better time to make meatloaf! 

PICT1346The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten.  Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth, rich pan gravy alongside of a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with ketchup and french fries? Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf TV dinner slathered with tomato sauce, tater tots and a chocolate brownie for dessert?  Remember your mom's "special" meatloaf and her meatloaf sandwiches the next day for lunch?  Well I sure do, and a I for one wouldn't trade any of those experiences for all the fancy-smancy food in France.  Just mention the word meatloaf, even in the company of culinary prefessionals, and you'll find that almost everyone has an interesting memory or story to tell and a recipe to share.  Meatloaf can be what you want it to be:  an economical family-style meal or a culinary masterpiece fit for a king.  I think my recipe is a little of both, and, as written, makes a few, but, before you consider cutting this recipe in half, imagine tomorrow without any leftovers and none in the freezer for a meal or two at a later date!  About the above photo:

PICT2147It is a picture of a large piece of artwork that welcomes guests through the side door into my kitchen.  We purchased it over 20 years ago because I always said I wanted a kitchen with a welcoming "come in and sit down diner feel" to it.  Perhaps that is why I named this blog Kitchen Encounters and designed a kitchen with a counter that seats 8-10 guests!?! 

The Oxford Companion to Food explains:  meatloaf is a dish whose visibility is considerably higher in real life than in cookery books.  This situation might be changed if it had a fancy French name (pate chaud de viande hachee, prealablement marinee dans du vin de pays et des aromatiques), but it does not.  It is a worthy dish, which embodies the word peasant (rustic), but can also exhibit refinement associated with bourgeois (middle to upper middle-class) cookery. Meatloaf does not extend into the realm of haute cuisine (artful or imaginative cuisine).  

P21024bA bit about grinding meat:  While the thankless task of mincing meat has been going on since ancient times, Karl Drais, a German aristocrat, is credited with inventing the cast-iron, hand-crank meat grinder in 1785.  This portable, countertop appliance made it possible for frugal home cooks to take advantage of its economic benefits:  

1) Ground meat feeds more people.  2) Grinding meat makes tough, lesser expensive, cuts of meat more palatable and easier to digest.  3)  Combining and grinding small pieces of various types of meat together makes a meal of otherwise useless leftovers.

Nowadays, grinding your own meat is even easier:  just trim it of unnecessary fat, cut it into chunks and pulse it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade!  

A bit about meatloaf in America:  American meatloaf has its origins in scrapple, a mixture of ground pork and cornmeal.  It has been served by the German-Americans in Pennsylvania since Colonial times.  The term "meatloaf" was first recorded in our American cookbooks in 1899, and remains one of our favorite, good old-fashioned comfort foods.  The syllable/word "loaf" is quite appropriate, as almost all recipes for meatloaf include the use of bread, which comes from a "loaf", usually in the form of soft, fresh breadcrumbs.  The meat mixture is then shaped like a loaf, it is baked in a loaf pan, and, it is sliced like a loaf of bread prior to serving hot or cold!

PICT1210For the meat for meatloaf:

For my recipe, your going to need 6 total pounds of meat.  You can use any combination you want, but my preference, which I highly-recommend, is:

4  pounds ground sirloin (95/5)

1  pound ground pork tenderloin

1 pound ground veal (85/15)

This combo will result in semi-firm, succulent, sliceable loaves!

PICT1227For the rest of the ingredients:

4 cups fresh, potato breadcrumbs, about 7 slices of potato bread

Note:  Potato bread is common to us here in PA.  In terms of ordinary "Wonder-type" bread it is richer, but white bread will work just fine in this recipe.

1  cup milk

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2  ounces butter (1/2 stick)

8  ounces diced celery

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

2  teaspoons dried marjoram

4  tablespoons dried parsley flakes  

2  teaspoons dried thyme leaves

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

PICT1217~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, using your hands, combine the meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

PICT1231~ Step 2. Tear bread slices into large pieces and place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses, process the bread to crumbs.

PICT1246~ Step 3.  You will have 4 cups of breadcrumbs.  Transfer them to a 1-quart measuring container.  Add and stir in the 1-cup of milk.  The mixture will be thick, pasty and reduced by half.  Set aside.

PICT1257~ Step 4.  Using a fork, in a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside.

PICT1260~ Step 5.  Add the breadcrumb/milk mixture to the bowl, followed by the egg/Worcestershire mixture.  Using your hands thoroughly combine, cover w/plastic wrap and set aside.






~ Step 6.  In a 12" skillet, melt the butter.  Stir in the celery, onion and all remaining ingredients.  Adjust heat to saute, until onion is soft, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 20-30 minutes, until cool enough to comfortably handle w/hands.

~ Step 7.  Add the vegetable mixture to the meat mixture.  Using your hands, combine thoroughly.

PICT1284~ Step 8.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide the mixture into 3 equal parts of 2 pounds each, or, 6 equal parts of 1 pound each.  Using your hands, form into oval-shaped loaves and place one loaf in each appropriate-sized pan:

(For 2-pound loaves) 3, 8 1/2"L x 4 1/2"W x 2 1/2" D pans, or

(For 1-pound loaves) 6, 5"L x 2 1/2"W x 2"D

PICT1303~ Step 9.  Place pans, slightly spaced apart, on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  This will make the hot meatloaves much easier to remove from the oven when they are cooked.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 1 1/2 hours for 2-pound loaves, or 45 minutes for 1-pound loaves. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 8-10 minutes.

Got Gravy?

PICT1334Well, sort of.  I use very lean, high-quality meat to make my meatloaf, so, no matter what size of loaf pan I bake them in, I usually only end up with a total of 1/2-3/4 cup of drippings.  And, as you can see, very little of that is fat.  In the gravy world, that's not a lot, but, nonetheless these drippings are very flavorful.  Because this is meatloaf, not prime rib, and, because everyone is anxious to eat their meatloaf hot out of the oven:

PICT1338Pour drippings from pans into a 2-quart saucepan and adjust the heat to a steady simmer.  Simply stir in 2, 12-ounce jars of your favorite, store-bought beef gravy. Making gravy the old-fashioned way with this amount of drippings, never seemed to yield enough to feed my family (who likes gravy on both their meat and mashed potatoes).  Trust me when I tell you, because of the flavor in these drippings, a bottle or two of gravy is no compromise!

That First Glorious Forkful!

PICT1410Mel, Will You Please Post Your Meatloaf Recipe?:  Recipe yields 3, 2-pound meatloaves, or, 6, 1-pound meatloaves.  A 2-pound meatloaf will serve 4-6, and a 1-pound meatloaf will serve 2-3.  If you make gravy as directed above, you will have 3 cups.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 1-quart measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 12" skillet; kitchen scale; 3, 8 1/2"L x 4 1/2"W x 2 1/2"D loaf pans, or, 6, 5"L x 2 1/2"W x 2"D, mini-loaf pans; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" x 2" baking pan; parchment paper; 2-quart saucepan

Cook's Note:  I like making the 1-pound meatloaves, just because each one feeds 2-3 people, just enough for Joe or I.  Also, this is the ideal size to freeze, just because when they come out of the freezer, they thaw much quicker than the larger size.  No matter what size you decide to make, decide to make several, as there is nothing like leftovers!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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