Poor maligned meatloaf! How many people hear the word, and turn up their noses and decry their hatred for it. Yet those same people can tell you where you can get the best meatballs, they love paté and kofta, so what’s the deal about meatloaf? Maybe when you were growing up your mom (or dad) made lousy meatloaf, but I invite you to take another look into this most excellent vehicle for grounds meats of all kinds.
Meatloaf can be whatever you’d like it to be! If you’d like a delicate Asian twist, use ground chicken or turkey, add water chestnuts, whoosh up ginger, garlic and scallions, add some mirin and toasted sesame oil, glaze with hoisin sauce and serve over rice or better yet ramen! In my recipe section I will offer a number of options. Meatloaf is so versatile; it can really be whatever you’d like.
If you think of meatloaf as a giant meatball you can apply anything to the loaf you would to a ball- or make mini loaves— a cross between the two. Meatloaves work with any type and combination of meats depending on your preference, including using TVP, tofu, or any number of meat replacements, though I imagine any vegans or vegetarians may have stopped reading. You can stretch them by adding more bread or oatmeal, frozen spinach is also a nice addition, just thaw it, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Before you put it the oven, to make sure it tastes the way you want, make yourself a small patty and fry it up, then you can adjust the seasoning.
The goal is to have something that holds together well, but isn’t tough or too dense. It is easy to overwork the mixture; just like a good pie crust (but for different reasons) over-working the mix will make the finished product too dense and rubbery. You can mix everything with a dough hook in an electric mixer, but your hands will do a fine job. Just remember—no squeezing!
I can’t talk about ground meat of any kind without talking a bit about food safety. Forgive me, but here is where I have been trained beyond willingness to skip over these things. We must review the risk of e-coli. Unless you are using grass fed beef (and even then you should be careful) you should assume there is e-coli bacteria on your ground beef. Here is the reason you can eat a rare steak, but must be more careful with ground meat: e-coli lives on the surface of the meat, so when you cook a steak, roast or any cut of meat the heat destroys the bacteria on the surface of the meat . With ground meat it has all been mixed together, and the bacteria in now incorporated into the product. To be safe, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°f.
Even I am surprised about how much I have to say about this, and there is more… If meatloaf is good— and if you make it, it will be good— it is a great leftover! Take a thick slice, spread some BBQ sauce on it and pan grill it until the outside is caramelized, melt a piece of smoked cheese on top, and put it on a crusty roll, or slice it thin, and have it with lettuce, tomato and ketchup on rye. Cube it up and add it to macaroni and cheese, or sauté it with rice and veggies for a quick dinner.
I hope if you are a meatloaf lover I’ve inspired you, and if not I hope I’ve persuaded you to give it another try. Make it modern, make it yours and make it soon! Please let me know your favorite meatloaf recipes, and what you like to do with the leftovers!