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Meatloaf: A dish that never gets old

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 1:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 3:59 p.m. CDT

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Some things just never go out of style. Meatloaf immediately comes to mind. I have only known two people who did not like meatloaf. One was born not liking it, and the other, I think, lost her taste for it as an adolescent. Perhaps she got a bite of a meatloaf gone bad, or, maybe her mom just made lousy meatloaf. You surely could not blame that on today’s meatloaf.

Meatloaf is not as inexpensive as it used to be. I think I previously mentioned that I bought delicious 2-inch-thick pork chops for a quarter a pound less than the 70/30 percent fat hamburger.

Speaking of food costs, a local supermarket has been selling good, lean, sliced bacon (that we have been paying $4 to $4.50 a pound for) at $2.98. This bacon has been at that price for at least since midsummer, and this is not a sale. I see people do what I do -- go out there for bacon, then buy all their groceries there, rather than go to their regular market. I think that sales tactic is called a loss-leader, which means a store takes a loss on one product to get the customer inside the store. It sure looks like it is working with the bacon. The customers then go back and tell their friends they got bacon for $2.98 a pound.

Back to meatloaf - this one has an Italian flavor.

Italian meatloaf

Yield: 10-12 servings

2 pounds ground beef

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup wheat soda crackers, crushed

1 cup milk

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup chopped onions

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano

2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup pasta sauce

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Chopped parsley

Mix beef, eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese, onions and salt. Toss oregano and basil together, add to Parmesan mixture. Shape into a loaf, and place into a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking at one hour. Remove from oven as soon as there is no pink in the meat.

Spoon the pasta sauce over the meatloaf. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over pasta sauce and return to oven until the cheese is melted.

I used a homemade pasta sauce, which my son and his wife had cold-packed when their tomato crop flourished more than they had expected. After giving several bags away to friends and family, they still had tomatoes everywhere. The great thing about this tomato sauce was that it was already soiled and seasoned when it was opened. Want spaghetti? Just pour a jar over the pasta.

Bacon-wrapped meatloaf

While I was looking at various meatloaf recipes, I discovered another winner. This meatloaf is wrapped in bacon. Bacon is good on just about anything, and bacon and hamburger is always a winning combo.

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

3 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups of day-old bread, torn into about 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup whole milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground veal

1/2 pound ground pork

2 tablespoons brown sugar  

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

8 slices center-cut bacon

Mushroom gravy

1 cup beef or chicken broth; more as needed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 slices of center-cut bacon, minced

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons dry sherry

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-size bowl, toss the onions, sherry, garlic, 1-1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread, milk, and egg. Stir well, lightly mashing the bread until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the beef, veal, pork, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and the onion-mushroom mixture. Using a large, sturdy wooden spoon or your hands, gently mix just until all the ingredients are blended; you may need to push the meat against the side of the bowl to get the pieces to break up.

Put the meat mixture in a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf about 10-by-4 inches. Wrap the strips of bacon around the loaf crosswise, overlapping them slightly and tucking the ends securely under the loaf. Pat the loaf back into shape if necessary.

Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 160 degrees, 60 to 70 minutes. Take the meatloaf out of the oven and position the oven rack about 6 inches from the broiling element. Heat the broiler to high. Broil the meatloaf until the bacon is brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Let the loaf rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.

Use two flat spatulas to transfer the meatloaf to a serving platter. Slice and serve with the mushroom gravy.

Make ahead: You can form the meatloaf up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Sherry-mushroom gravy

Combine the broth with 1 cup of hot water. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring to break apart the pieces, until just starting to crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have cooked through and start to brown the bottom of the pan, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the sherry and stir to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until the mixture has browned and is slightly dry and crumbly, about 30 seconds.

Whisk in half of the broth mixture and continue whisking until the liquid is absorbed into the flour, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the remaining broth mixture and bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and thin with water or broth if necessary. Transfer to a small saucepan, cover, and keep warm. Reheat the gravy if necessary before serving.

Make ahead: This gravy can be made up to 1 day ahead and reheated over medium-low heat.

Tip of the week: Ever tried fried leftover meatloaf? It is crisp and golden brown on the outside and steaming hot on the inside. This is a delicious way to serve leftover meatloaf.

Baked potatoes go well with meatloaf, and just about anything else. These little jewels are easy as pie to make. They can add a nice touch to any meal, and are delicious as snacks.

Baby bakers

1 stick of melted butter

6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

10 unpeeled medium baby reds cut in half (about 2 pounds)

Pour butter into a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over butter. Place potatoes with cut side down, over cheese. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees, for 40 to 45 minutes, until tender-crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

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