I asked him one day why he hated meatloaf so much. He lovingly explained that his mom used meatloaf as a sort of evil conduit to hold all manner of vegetables that he has never, nor will ever like in the slightest. She used to pack her meatloaf with "chunks" (this is important later on) of tomato and green bell peppers to the point that he would literally gag when trying to eat it. Now, I have to have full disclosure here: the DH can be a bit of a picky eater, but when it comes to the entire meat family he is pretty laid back. A typical conversation at our house:
Next up, the mix-ins. There is no need to get fancy with this dish. Simple really is best here and will yield the best flavor and consistency. I use (per meatloaf) 2 eggs, a pack and a half of the onion soup, and a healthy dose of Worcestershire sauce and Italian Seasoned bread crumbs. YUMMY!!!
So, put your meat, eggs, soup mix, worcestershire sauce, and bread crumbs into a very large bowl. You want to have room to work, so don't put it into a "just big enough" bowl. Trust me, your pets will love you as bits of meat go flying, but you'll be crying in your chopped cow.
Now, here is the part that is important. Do not use a spoon, dough hook, food processor, or any other implement of destruction to mix these elements together. Use your hands. Both of them. Relive your childhood and all the times you played with Play-Doh, clay, mud, or whatever floated your boat and get in there. This does two things for your meatloaf. First, you are able to really get things incorporated in a nice, homogenous manner. This means no bite will have a big honkin' taste of onion soup or bread crumbs or anything else in it. Each bite will be as delectable as the one before it. Secondly, the heat from your hands is going to start melting the fat in the meat which is going to lead to a more cohesive loaf.
If only I could squish and squeeze all those crazy world leaders together...
OK, back to cooking, I'll have to work on world peace tomorrow sometime.
After about 8-10 minutes of squishing meat between your fingers you will see it all really starting to stick together. Now, I do not measure ingredients when I cook something like this. I do that when I bake, because you have to. Cooking like this is more about sight and feel, so all I can tell you is when you are mixing this together if it feels too mushy and looks too juicy you need to add another couple of sprinkles of bread crumbs to help even it out. If it gets too dry or stiff, you can add a little evaporated milk, not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk, lest your relatives start looking up the names of places like "Restful Manor" or "The Retirement Center" for you to live in.
Trust me, at the slightest sign that you are off your cooking kilter they will.
Now, take your big ball of meat in your skillful hands and start forming it into a loaf. Pack it tightly as you work with it, and remember that because this meat has 20% fat content there will be shrinkage.
Ha-Ha....snort...oh, "shrinkage". Can anyone name that Seinfeld episode?
Now, important thing number 528 to remember: your meat loaf should never, ever, under any circumstances and penalty of being whipped with wet noodles, ever see a "loaf" pan. We aren't baking bread, we are cooking meat. And if you put this into a loaf pan it is not going to get the heat it needs and it is going to sit in its own rendered fat. Not tasty at all. Get thee a rack and placeth it on a baking sheet, one with at least a little side to it.
Unless you are particularly fond of firemen, do not place this on a cookie sheet. You need a pan with a slight side (like a jelly roll pan) to keep the grease away from the bottom of your stove where the heating elements live. Trust me on this one, the fire department will come and save your burning oven, but they will laugh at you later on. Not that I've ever had that happen to me. I just read a lot of stories like that.
See how my loaf is perched nicely on a rack? That is a happy hunk o' meat.
At this point, if you want to go for the full on, tastes like my mom made it only better effect, start squirting on the ketchup. Cover that entire top, do not be shy about that. I usually spread mine out a bit with a spoon so that I have a good coverage. Now, pop that bad boy into a 350 degree oven, set a timer for an hour and walk away. Let the irresistable aroma of baking bovine goodness fill your house and soul.
I check my creation after about an hour to see if I think it needs more time. This one took about an hour and twenty minutes to cook all the way through. You should be able to push on the side with your finger and have it spring right back. Also, any juices that are coming out of it should be completely clear.
After you remove it from the oven, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let it sit for at least 20 minutes. I know, it smells good! I know, you want some right now, but trust me, if you cut into it all those great juices are going to run out of it and be gone, and your tasty leftover meatloaf sandwich tomorrow will be a dried out mess. Leave it alone! Let it take a little nap so all those juices will settle down.
The best part? You can't really tell from the picture above, but there is a lot of fat in the bottom of that pan. This is why you want it on a rack, to give that fat somewhere to go. Now, if you have dogs with stomachs of steel, like Baxter, then the kindly thing to do after your remove the loaf from this pan and cut it would be to take a few pieces of bread, let them soak up the greasiness in the pan, and give those to the dog.
If you have a pup that throws up when she looks at table food, like Buffy, don't do that. I know that they are looking at you all pitiful with those big brown eyes, but the aftermath of that indulgence is too ugly to write about here.
I hope you enjoyed this, my final post from West Virginia. I am really looking forward to getting home and seeing you all, and getting this blog back to cards and card making. I wish everyone a happy weekend, and until next time, Happy Stamping!