Let’s talk about meatloaf. There are those who absolutely LOVE it (like me), and there are those who don’t. I often wonder if those who don’t love it have ever had really GOOD meatloaf. I’m sure there are many that have and still don’t care for it. I will never totally understand that.
But, to each his own. There are obviously millions of versions out there. I’ve tried a few different ones, but this one is always the one I come back to. One of my ultimate comfort foods, so I don’t change it really. I mean, I love mexican and tex mex food, southwest, whatever you choose to call it. I’ve tried making meatloaf with those types of flavors. It’s good, but I guess meatloaf is one of those sacred things for me, because this is the one I grew up on. Mom’s. In getting to this point, I will admit that it took me quite a while to make this as good as my mom does, and it took me forever to figure out why that was. She told me numerous times how she did it, but mine never tasted like hers. At one point, I gave up. Mine was always too dry, it never tasted quite as flavorful as hers. I initially blamed it on her “magic” pan.
She has this pot that she got from her Dad. We really don’t know the origin of it, it is so old you can’t read the little stamp on the bottom anymore. But my brothers and sisters and I have all come to call it the magic pan. There are so many things she cooks in that pan that turn out so perfect (including english toffee, and of course, meatloaf), while we can never quite master those things ourselves, so it MUST be the pan, right? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, after my kids were grown and cooking things themselves they argued with me over the meatloaf. So I started trying again and, a few years ago, I finally got it. The biggest problem I had with it was the meat I was using. In my quest to use better ingredients, I was always trying to use the leanest beef I could find. Don’t do that for meatloaf. A number of years ago, we started buying our beef from some people we know that raise beef cattle. That old boy knows his cows. I have never had beef like that. We are forever hooked and forever spoiled. I tried making meatloaf again, with that beef, which has a higher fat content that the ground round and ground sirloin I had been using. Less fat than ground chuck, but not as lean as ground round. That was the biggest issue. The other, I believe, was the cheese. Do yourself a favor and use fresh grated cheese. It adds so much to the moistness and flavor of this dish. It does work with the dry grated cheese in a can, but not nearly as well. Don’t skimp on the other ingredients either. One thing I’ve been known to do after mixing all this up is take a small piece of the mixture about the size of a large marble, and flatten it like a hamburger. Fry it for a minute or two, flipping it over of course. Then taste it. Adjust the seasonings according to your own personal taste. If you like heat, add some hot sauce or cayenne pepper.
One of the other things I have always loved about the way Mom makes this is the way she cooks it. Not in a loaf pan. I mean a loaf pan does give it a nice crust, I’ve tried that. But this is more like a pot roast. She usually cooks the potatoes and carrots right in the pan with the meat loaf. Probably because that was the easiest way to feed 5 kids and two adults. Get it all in one pot if you can. I hear that. This is the way I like it best. My perfection.
I typically roast it a little longer than this, just to get better color on the potatoes. But my husband was supposed to work late tonight, so I really wasn’t in any hurry to get at making it. Then, he came home on time, and I realized I still had veggies to chop and potatoes to peel, so then it was later getting into the oven, and now he’s sitting there hungry and I’m taking pictures of it. Good thing he’s pretty patient like that…
Anyway, what you see in the pictures is a meatloaf that started with 2 pounds of ground beef. Yeah, that’s a good sized meatloaf for two people, but it’s going to be a good weekend to have leftovers one day. 5 grandkids with soccer games Saturday, all at different times, so there goes my whole day. It’s great fun watching them, but I don’t feel much like cooking by the time I get home. Besides, MEATLOAF SANDWICH…on homemade bread (we’ll get to that later) – comfort food piled on gluten-filled carbs = double comfort – YES!
The recipe as I have written it below is for 1 pound of ground beef. Obviously, you just increase the ingredients according to how many pounds of meat you are using. As mine was 2 pounds plus enough veggies for leftovers, I doubled the quantities of all of the ingredients and used a 9×13 aluminum cake pan. Not fancy but it works quite well. (I know, aluminum could be giving me alzheimers, but then I’ll make lots of new friends in my old age, because I won’t remember them from the day before! If I start repeating the recipe posts like they’re brand new, just give me a reminder pinch or kick…..)
- Mom's Meatloaf
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
- 1 small onion - chopped
- 1 stalk of celery - chopped
- about ¼ of a green bell pepper - chopped
- Put these three ingredients in a small saucepan with a teaspoon of butter and saute on low heat, covered, until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- MIX TOGETHER:
- Sauteed onion mixture
- 1 pound ground beef - not too lean
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup plain dry breadcrumbs or 10 soda cracker squares, crushed
- 2 ounces or about ¼ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use Tamari which is lower sodium and gluten free - I think it is richer in flavor)
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce (be careful if adjusting the quantity of this - too much and it overpowers the other flavors)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Nature's Season Salt (you could just use salt here if you wish but I would only start with ¼ teaspoon)
- ½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)
- TOPPING/GLAZE - Mix ¼ cup ketchup with 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce and set aside (I always make extra of this to serve on the side)
- Mix all meatloaf ingredients together well until uniformly blended. Peel the amount of carrots and potatoes you need and cut into large chunks. I typically split the large carrots in half lengthwise and cut into about three lengths, and split the potatoes in half unless they are quite large, then cut them in fourths. Drizzle a little olive oil into your baking pan. Toss the potatoes and carrots to give them a light coat of the oil and push to the sides of the pan. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place in the middle of the pan. Salt and pepper the vegetables, cover the entire pan with foil or a lid if you are using a dish that has one. Bake at 350 for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Spread half of the glaze over the top of the meatloaf, going a little down the sides. Place back in the oven, UNCOVERED, for about 20 minutes. At this point, if you want to speed the browning/carmelization process, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. If you increase the temperature, watch it closely so it doesn't overbrown the glaze. Brush the rest of the glaze on the top. If juices are running clear and meat is fully cooked it can be removed at this point. I typically put it back in to set the second layer of glaze. (The 2 pound meatloaf I just baked took a total of 2 hours in the oven)
- Let it rest for about 15-20 minutes before serving.