Until this weekend, I had never cooked meatloaf for my husband. He just wasn’t a fan, he said, having had too many experiences with dense, greasy versions. I love the stuff, but it’s hard to make a proper meatloaf for one person, so I went without. I satisfied my comfort food cravings in other ways, but I still pined for meatloaf, and especially for that most perfect use of leftover meatloaf ever, the cold meatloaf sandwich. From time to time I would suggest meatloaf for dinner, but my suggestions were always met with a less than enthusiastic response. But then came the meatballs, and things changed.
Meatballs aren’t exactly summer fare, but I found myself making big batches of them over the summer, tinkering with my recipe until I found a mix of meats and seasonings I was happy with. And Mike loved them. And then one day a couple of weeks ago, completely out of the blue, he told me he might be ready to try my meatloaf whenever I wanted to make it, because really, isn’t meatloaf just meatballs on a larger scale? I giddily agreed, and planned to work it into our menu for the coming week. But then we had that ridiculous spell of near-90 degree weather. And then came Mike’s birthday week, and special dinners to prepare, so the meatloaf was put off yet again.
But then, just when I was wondering if I would ever get to make my meatloaf, came the announcement: National Meatloaf Appreciation Day was coming, and the folks at Serious Eats were looking for people to share the love. No more excuses, I now had a reason to go forward and a date by which to do it. Saturday was the day – it was meatloaf or bust.
I took our remaining package of ground pastured veal from Bobolink out of the freezer to thaw on Friday night. I had picked up a package of grass-fed ground chuck after our dinner at Marlow and Sons on Friday, and I planned to pick up a package of ground pork from Flying Pigs during my Saturday morning Greenmarket trip, but they were sold out. I really wanted to do a beef/pork/veal mixture, and we don’t have anything resembling a meat grinder at home, so I had to come up with a Plan B. I perused their selection of sausages and grabbed a package of their herbed pork variety – seasoned with mustard, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaves, I thought it would work well. I picked up some potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts for sides and some mushrooms for my gravy and headed home to start cooking.
We had a hunk of whole wheat pane integrale left from earlier in the week that I decided to turn into fresh breadcrumbs for the meatloaf. I cubed it and put it into the mini chopper, then pulsed it. And pulsed it. And pulsed it some more. Little was happening to the bread, and I could smell the chopper’s little motor beginning to burn, so I gave up, tipped the bread cubes out into a bowl and began tearing them into tiny pieces with my fingertips. It would have to do.
I moistened the breadcrumbs with a bit of water, then squeezed them dry and placed them into a large bowl. I peeled a smallish red onion, chunked it up and pulsed it in the mini chopper, then added that to the bowl. I added a tablespoon of Worcestershire, two teaspoons of tamari, a teaspoon each of dried marjoram and garlic powder, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, and an egg, which I beat lightly with a fork before blending it with the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.
I added the beef, pork sausage and veal to the wet ingredients, washed my hands well, then dug in and mixed it all up. I turned the mixture out onto a foil-lined sheet pan and formed it into a loaf, spreading a generous amount of Annie’s organic ketchup on top, then I placed it into a 400 degree oven. I’m not sure of the exact cooking time, but I would estimate it took about an hour and 15 minutes (I checked it periodically after 45 minutes in the oven, and let it continue cooking until its internal temperature was 160 degrees).
I worked on my sides while the meatloaf baked – German butterball potatoes, boiled with their skins on and smashed with a generous amount of butter, milk and cream; sliced carrots and halved Brussels sprouts, tossed with salt and olive oil and roasted until tender; and a mushroom gravy made with criminis sautéed in butter, a bit of flour, and our rich homemade brown chicken stock. When everything was ready I plated it up and served it, holding my breath while Mike took his first bite.
The verdict? It was good. “Really good,” in fact. So good that he said he’d eat it again. My days of pining for meatloaf are over, though wouldn’t you know it – we ran out of bread, so that most perfect of leftovers, the cold meatloaf sandwich, will have to wait.