When I ask Matt what he wants for dinner, I never get the answer I'm looking for. It's never "lime shrimp carnitas with queso fresco crème and tomatillo relish", or "lamb shanks in rainier cherry demi-glace." It's always one of four desperately-craved manly standbys: Steak. Lasagna. Meatballs. Meatloaf. 37 times out of 40 I scrunch up my nose, say no, and ask why the hell the shanks don't sound amazing. He's a guy with a simple palette, the meat and potatoes stereotype. And I'm the food snob stereotype on a diet, which makes me even more persnickety against those cow-laden comfort dishes.
This weekend though, I wanted to be nice. I can't remember why. I must've wanted something at the time, maybe that new dress on etsy. Either way, when I was filling out the week's menu pre-New Seasons trip and asked him what he wanted for dinner Sunday night, he spun with Meatloaf. "It's been so long since we had meatloaf last," he lamented, full-on pouty face.
"All right, I'll make meatloaf tonight."
"With mashed potatoes?!"
Pouty face alleviated.
I'm not the world's biggest proponent of meatloaf. Let's start with the name. Meatloaf. Kinda gross. Falls into the whole "fatback" category of unappetizing monkiers. The appearance doesn't help it much either. There's a reason vintage housewives dumped a whole bottle of Heinz on top. Right out of the oven it looks like a greasy trough of meat. Let's let my all-time favorite Food Network oh, let's say, "chef", demonstrate for us:
And finally, there was a fatal combination during our first couple years together of buying bargain-priced meat and me still learning to cook. There is a long, winding curve of learning how to make stuff taste good. I'm just now starting to feel comfortable winging and creating stuff that I know will probably be pretty tasty without having to immediatley break out a cookbook. Luckily, I just loved being in the kitchen so much that I survived that learning process without getting too fed up. But I did get pretty sick of extra-greasy, cheap hamburger-flavored hunks of meat on meatloaf night, resting over a nest of box mashed potatoes. Oh early twenties. Good times.
At New Seasons we bought 3/4 lbs each ground 10% fat beef and ground pork. We're making a big effort to move away from industrial-farmed meats, and aside from the ethical concerns over animal treatment, the taste enough qualifies paying the extra dollar or two per pound. You pay for that cheap meat one way or another--we all do. I don't think you can discount the clean flavor of good-quality meat. Mixing two kinds (I've also heard people like to do ground beef and veal) also helps it from being too redundant. It gives the loaf its own distinct profile, so you don't feel like you're gnawing on a hamburger patty pumped with steroids.
The second trick that made this meatloaf freakishly outstanding was the three crispy-cooked bacon slices I had left over from breakfast. We've been on a sandwich kick lately, and I made Matt a home version of the Subway Morning Flatbread Melt with tandoori naan bread and sriracha mayonnaise stuffed with eggs, sharp cheddar, ham and the aforementioned bacon. Why can't we start every day out like this? The dry, sad instant oatmeal that kicks off every weekday just kind of dooms it to be less sunny than a wild panini morning.
So I had three slices left over that I crumbled super-fine into bacon bit-like tiny pieces. I mixed them into the ground meats, distributing them throughout the loaf. I've seen bunches of recent recipes featuring bacon strips wrapped right around the loaf itself, but I'm a retro ketchup chick myself. By using such a small touch throughout, the smoky flavor and subtle crunch didn't overwhelm the other meats and seasonings. Every once and a while you'd just have one hit the back of your throat like a meat candy surprise.
Hearing my multiple exclamations of loaf lust between bites, Matt had to ask, "can we have meatloaf more now?"
Absolutely. Although some shrimp carnitas would be good too.
3/4 lb 10% fat ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
3 strips of crispy-cooked bacon, crumbled very fine
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp worcheschire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
For the sauce:
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon whole grain deli mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Mix all of the loaf ingredients together in a large mixing bowl by hand. Do not overmix, just knead together until all ingredients are well-combined. Use to evenly fill a loaf pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until browned with a good amount of fat rendered out.
In the meantime, mix sauce ingredients together. When the meatloaf comes out, use a spoon to remove all of the rendered fat you can out of the pan. When fat is removed, top the loaf with the ketchup mixture. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with mashed potatoes and corn.