Every once in a while Dan and I trip over a fundamental difference between the two of us. Sure, we were raised within a mile or two of each other on Long Island, but with his Korean-American upbringing and my white bread American-style home, there are always little surprises when we talk about the things we learned in school, the TV shows we watched, and, often, the foods we grew up eating. Even after seven-and-a-half years together, years I've spent learning about kimchi and bimbimbap, I still find myself saying things like "what do you mean you've never had meatloaf!?" Meatloaf was a staple in my house. Strangely, I never really remember my mom making meatloaf, but it definitely was served to me on a regular basis alongside mashed potatoes and some other boiled vegetable I assuredly passed onto Candice when my mom wasn't looking. (As a child, Candice covered everything she ate in obscene amounts of ketchup, so whether it was a boiled carrot or a hamburger, taste-wise it was all pretty much the same. We didn't even have to refrigerate our ketchup because she ate it so quickly. It was just sort of perpetually out on the table and even Costco-sized bottles were gone in a week or two.) I'm guessing that I never really saw my mom make meatloaf because she either purchased it, pre-made from the grocery store, or she made a few loaves one weekend and tucked them in the freezer to have ready for a busy weeknight.
I'm sure that my mom loved how a meatloaf could sneak some vegetables into dinner and could offer variations on my ground beef obsession. Those who know me are well aware of how many burgers I eat. And if I'm not eating a burger, some meatballs are probably nearby. My mom, also a ground beef-lover, bought ground chuck from the grocery store the way that most people buy milk. So it only makes sense that meatloaf joined the roster.
Meatloaf is so easy to make and the payoff is positively whimsical-- it invariably brings any person back to childhood-- and yet it gets a terrible rep. I actually have managed an event for the past three years for which I'm in charge of, sort of, "hospitality" services. I order the food, reserve the beds, etc. Every year, I've included meatloaf on the craft service order, resulting in a complete uproar. Of course once the meatloaf arrives and everyone takes a chill pill, it's a huge hit, but holy moly is it a journey getting to that happy place.
Anyway, I stood there, shocked, that Dan had never had meatloaf and he responded with that same sort of unfounded prejudice perpetuated by Nickelodeon cartoons and icky cafeterias around the country. Being afraid of meatloaf is just like kids thinking they don't like Brussels sprouts; it's just become a thing. So in the name of justice I marched to Fairway, gathered my ingredients and made a meatloaf. And I've made one every week since, too.
On account of he has tastebuds, Dan has seen the light. So if you, too, are frightened of the "mystery meat" urban legends, I urge you to fight the power/don't believe the hype and make a meatloaf. It's the perfect way to use up leftover veggies. It takes minimal effort. It's an amazing meal to make on Sunday and then wrap up for quick re-heating later in the week. It tastes like home. And, if sliced and pan-fried the next day, it makes for a killer sandwich.
Quick tip: If you do plan to make meatloaf at home, see if your butcher has some sort of "meatloaf" medley you can buy. At my grocery store, the butcher offers a cheaper price on ground meat if you buy a "meatloaf" combo of beef, pork and/or veal which they'll weigh and package together. The beef offers inexpensive substance, the pork offers fattiness/flavor and the veal (if you eat veal) adds a tender bite. I usually use a 2:1 beef to pork ratio. You can also substitute in sweet Italian sausage, uncased, for the pork, which will add all of the seasonings found in sausage (fennel, etc.).
1 lb ground sirloin
1/2 lb ground pork
2 tbsp butter
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
3/4 c. breadcrumbs
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp & 1/2 c. ketchup
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Saute your mirepoix, adding a pinch of salt while cooking, until carrots are tender and onions are translucent.
2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Once your vegetables have cooled slightly, combine your meat, vegetables, egg, breadcrumbs, Worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp of ketchup, red pepper flakes, and a pinch or two each of salt and pepper. Mix together with your hands until well-combined. At this point, I sometimes add in more ketchup if the loaf feels too firm or more breadcrumbs if it feels too lose. The mixture should have a slightly wetter/stickier consistency than a meatball.
4. Shape your mixture into ball and transfer to a baking dish or oven-safe skillet. Some cooks like to use a loaf pan, but I like to shape my loaf, free-hand, so that a better crust builds around the entire loaf. So, if you're going my route, shape into a loaf in your baking dish.
5. Once shaped, brush or spoon on the remaining 1/2 c. of ketchup. This sauce can be a fun place to experiment with different mixtures and flavors, but I usually keep it pretty simple.
6. Place pan in oven and bake for 50 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing (15 minutes), or let the loaf cool entirely, wrap in aluminum foil, and store in your fridge for up to one week. You may also freeze your meatloaf, in which case, I suggest cutting into portions and wrapping those portions individually before freezing.