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01/31/2018

~ Low & Slow-Cooked Crockpot-Casserole Meatloaf ~

IMG_3915Meatloaf cooked in the crockpot -- it's not crock-our-world crocket science.  Busy home cooks have been using Betty Crocker's method for slow-cooking meatloaf for decades.  Having been a stay-at-home-mom all my life, I've always cooked my mom's all-beef meatloaf in the traditional manner, by popping it into a 350° oven for about an hour, but, having tasted the crockpot-cooked versions of relatives and friends, I can report:  they're quite good.  For the most part, there's no discernible difference between a crockpot-cooked meatloaf vs. an oven-baked meatloaf.

That said, when it comes to catering to a crowd for a casual get-together, like at an indoor at-home tailgate or a make-and-take church-supper potluck, meatloaf doesn't up-front pop into the average cook's head as an option (at least not into my head) -- the machinations of making multiple meatloaves, freeform or otherwise, gets complicated and sloppy.  Those days are over.  

Crockpot-casserole meatloaf to feed a crowd?  

IMG_3896You betcha & it works great -- 16-20 hearty servings great.

IMG_3106Meet Crockpot's Casserole Crock. For me, it's my latest acquisition in a long line of slow cookers.  I now currently own ten different brands, models and sizes -- which is odd because, me, not-the-queen-of-crockpot-cooking, uses a slow cooker, maybe, five-six times a year. While Crockpot rightfully peddles this one as a casserole crock (because it is essentially a 13" x 9" x 3" casserole), and, it's intended to make-and-take slow-cooked casseroles (it's got lock-in-place handles and a stay-cool handle for carrying the entire contraption), I wondered if it might be possible to make one large, flattish meatloaf (amounting to three of my traditional meat loaves), and, slice and serve it, like a sheet cake, right out of the crock -- to feed a crowd.  It worked great.

IMG_74774 1/2-5  pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)

3  extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

6  ounces saltine crackers (1 1/2 sleeves of crackers from a 1-pound box), crumbled by hand into small bits and pieces, not processed to crumbs.

1 1/2  cups milk

4 1/2  tablespoons salted butter

2 1/4  cups small-diced yellow or sweet onion

2 1/4  cups small-diced celery

3/4  cup dried parsley leaves

3  .13-ounce packets G. Washington's Rich Brown Seasoning and Broth Mix (Note:  This WWII-era dehydrated spice mixture was created by Paul J. Campbell in 1937 to replace instant broth/bouillon.  It was a well-known family secret of my grandmother's and I keep it on-hand so I can duplicate her recipes without fail.  It's available at many local grocery stores and on-line.)

2 1/4  teaspoons salt

2 1/4  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing crockpot casserole

IMG_7478 IMG_7478 IMG_7478 IMG_7478~Step 1.  Place the ground beef in a large bowl.  Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the meat.  Using your hands (it's the most efficient way), thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_7491 IMG_7491 IMG_7491 IMG_7491 IMG_7511~Step 2.  Using your fingertips, crush the crackers into small bits and pieces, letting them fall into a medium mixing bowl as you work. Add the milk and stir to combine. Set aside about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the crackers to absorb all of the milk.  The mixture will be thick and pasty.  Add the cracker mixture to the beef/egg mixture, and once again, using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_7507 IMG_7507 IMG_7507 IMG_7507 IMG_7507 IMG_7507~Step 3.  In a 12" skillet melt butter over low heat. Add the diced onion and celery along with the G.Washington's Seasoning, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until both onion and celery are nicely softened, 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley, remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 full minutes.  Add the cool but still-a-little warm vegetable mixture to the meat.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_3143 IMG_3143 IMG_3143 IMG_3143 IMG_3896 IMG_3896~Step 4.  Spray the inside of the casserole crock with no-stick cooking spray.  Scoop the raw meatloaf mixture into the crock, and, using your hands, pat and press it flat, into the crock.  Place the lid on the top and cook on low for 5 hours.  Lift the lid.  The meatloaf will have shrunk back from the sides of the crock and be slightly-domed through to the center.  Using a pair of oven mitts or pot holders, lift the crock from the crockpot and tilt, to drain and discard the excess fatty liquid from the crock.   (A meat baster can be used to remove the liquid if lifting the hot crock scares you.)  Slice and serve, like you would a sheet cake, or, return crock to crockpot cover and keep warm for up to 1 hour prior to slicing and serving.

Think inside the box & dare to be square:

IMG_3904Make one huge meatloaf that feeds a crowd.

IMG_3914Put this in your crockpot-casserole recipe book and cook it! 

IMG_3927Low & Slow-Cooked Crockpot-Casserole Meatloaf:  Recipe yields 16-20 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  fork; 2-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" nonstick skillet; nonstick spoon or spatula; Crockpot casserole crock

IMG_3221IMG_3175Cook's Note: For another one of my recipes featuring Crockpot's casserole crock, check out my recipe for ~ Bone-Suckin' Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs ~. I used two casserole crocks as vehicles for baby-back ribs (trimmed to fit into their bottoms), to slow-cook three huge racks, evenly, in comfort -- single-layer spa-style.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

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