Another food I now love, but used to look at askance: meatloaf. I’ve learned a lot since I was a kid – mostly, that a loosely-packed freestanding meatloaf gives you better flavor and texture than the squashed-into-a-bread-pan-brick meatloaves of yesteryear.
I will note that we discovered after the fact that our finished meatloaf tipped the proportion a bit too far away from meat, so I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly. Our final result was still good, but our preference is a loaf that’s a bit less starchy and soft – YMMV. It’s important to note, though – meatloaf isn’t rocket science. You can play fast and loose with the ratio of starch to vegetables to meat to egg and still wind up with a respectable meatloaf – this is all to say, just get in there and get your hands dirty and don’t worry too much about exact measurements.
We also make our meatloaves small, because they cook faster and give you more crusty bits. This recipe makes 4 meatloaves, which each can feed 3 to 4 people.
3/4 cup oatmeal (instant is better, but we used rolled oats*)
1/2 cup milk
1 lb ground beef (we used an 80 lean/20 fat ratio)
1 lb ground turkey, chicken, veal or pork
1 large onion
2 ripe bell peppers (we estimated with the tiny colored ones)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-4 tbsp grated dried Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
Since we were using rolled oats, Sparky poured the milk into the oatmeal* and we put it in the microwave on high for 30-second bursts until the oatmeal was soft (if using instant oats, simply combine them with the milk and set aside.) This replaces the usual combination of bread and milk or bread and water called a panade, added to tenderize the meatloaf and stretch the meat- because why not use a whole grain if you can? Allow this to cool while you chop your vegetables.
We preheated the oven to 350 degrees, greased up a cookie sheet, and then Sparky peeled the onion, seeded the peppers and buzzed them together in a food chopper until they were finely minced.
Next, everything but the hoisin and ketchup went into the panade (don’t forget your chopped veggies!) and Sparky folded it together with his hands. Make sure you break up the eggs with your fingers first. Be gentle, don’t overmix, just fold until the ingredients are well combined. If you like, you can make a tiny patty out of this mixture, fry it, and taste it to check the seasoning.
The cookie sheet went into a high rack in the oven, and we baked the loaves for 20 minutes and checked them in the center with an instant-read meat thermometer. We returned them to the oven and continued cooking, checking every 7 minutes or so until the thermometer read 160 degrees, and then removed them and allowed them to cool slightly (it will increase a bit in temperature as it rests)
We dished up one meatloaf for dinner, and packed the remaining three for the freezer, for quick dinners down the road. Yum!