Back in the 1960’s and I was a mere child—yes, really!—my mom would fix meatloaf. The mentioning of the meal would drive my brothers and I into such a dread. How were we to eat that stuff? It’s gross! But eat it we did, complete with a schmear of ketchup slathered over the top. Or worse yet, a schmear of tomato paste over the top withered with oven heat. My mom was an absolute wonderful cook except for this dish. There was no imagination at work, no experimenting to make it better. Thank GAWD we didn’t have it very often. Perhaps the groaning after dinner prayers were said was the tip off to not fix it weekly. The absolute worst meatloaf I or my brothers ever encountered was one my great-Uncle Bob made for the family once. I kid you not, he made CLAM meatloaf. The chorus of adolescent surreptitious gagging around the table is funny from a multi-decade remembrance. It was not funny at the time. He was a kind man, a regular nice guy and we certainly did not want to hurt his feelings over his piece de resistance. My parents didn’t care for it either, but at least they didn’t gag. Or worse, be as dumb as one of my brothers and ask for seconds to make Uncle Bob feel good.
Anyway, clams and meatloaf were on my do not eat list for many years. Once I got married, cheap and easy meals became the norm. How can a person screw up hamburger?, I thought. So easy, I learned.
And so for the first years of our marriage, Mr. Fae tried many versions of meatloaf each time, smiling and saying it was good. But I didn’t like them, and I certainly was competitive enough to want more than ‘good’…I was reaching for GREAT. Or at least have the family fight over the leftovers.
As happenstance would have it, a beautiful relationship was formed in the 1980’s with another young family. This family shared so many ‘likes’ with us that the eight of us did everything together. Including the discovery of a set of cookbooks from the Silver Palate deli in New York. If you’ve ever heard of Silver Palate then you know that these two women who operated it were tremendous cooks in their own right. I have all three of the cookbooks. And my friend and her family? Well, that would be Fannie. We cooked out of these cookbooks, wowing each other with yet another recipe we’ve tried. My cookbooks have seen better days, but by the look of them, they have been used well.
Here is where I discovered the ULTIMATE of meatloaves. I tried it one time, that’s all it took. My family went nutzoid over this recipe including arguing over who gets the leftovers. This recipe makes quite a bit of meaty deliciousness, so you’ll be eating it for a few days. It’s also true that it tastes even better the day after it’s cooked.
Gather all the ingredients together, and chop up the vegetables into inch pieces.
This will go quick. In the beginning I used to mince all of them by hand and the prep work took forever. Then I got smart and just threw them all into the food processor making my prep time a few minutes long.
Sauté these little goodies until all the moisture evaporates. Then toss all of that into a metal bowl and put into the refrigerator for an hour to cool down.
Combine all the spices and herbs.
Add the chuck, sausage and breadcrumbs to the egg mixture and knead it for a few minutes. The recipe calls for 5 minutes but I’ve found that excessive. Just combine it all really well and you’ll be ok.
Once it’s all combined, grab your baking pan, lining it with foil. Place your meat into pan forming a loaf like shape. Place your first baking pan into another larger pan. Fill that second pan to halfway up with boiling water. Now throw the whole shebang into the oven for about 50 minutes. Once done, remove from oven. Here is where I grab a turkey baster and suck out all the grease (remember, you’re using sausage here) and let the loaf rest for about 20 minutes.
Market Street Meat Loaf
3 T unsalted butter
¾ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped scallions, white part and 3 inches of green part
½ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup minced red bell pepper
¼ cup minced green bell pepper
2 t minced garlic
Salt, to taste
1 t ground pepper
½ t ground white pepper
¼ t cayenne pepper
1 t ground cumin
½ t freshly grated nutmeg (I know!)
3 eggs, well beaten
½ cup ketchup
½ cup half and half
2 pounds lean ground beef chuck
12 ounces sausage meat (NOT fennel flavored Italian sausage)
¾ c fresh breadcrumbs, toasted (recipe calls for the toasting, but I don’t do that)
Preheat the oven to 375F
1. Melt butter in a heavy skillet and add the onion, scallions, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the moisture from the vegetable has evaporated, 10 minutes. Set aside to cool; then refrigerate, covered, until chilled at least one hour.
2. Combine the salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, cumin, nutmeg, and eggs in a mixing bowl, and beat well. Add the ketchup and half and half. Blend thoroughly.
3. Add the chuck, sausage, and breadcrumbs to the egg mixture. Then add the chilled vegetables and mix thoroughly with your hands, kneading for 5 minutes.
4. With damp hands, form the mixture into an oval, resembling a long loaf of bread.
5. Place the meat loaf in a baking dish, and place the dish inside a larger pan. Pour boiling water intot he larger pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
6. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.
7. Remove the baking dish from the water bath, and let the meat loaf rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
~Recipe courtesy of The New Basics Cookbook