The other evening, I had everything out to make a usual family favorite, meatloaf. Let’s start at the beginning. I learned to make meatloaf from my Mom. When I was young, I hated the feeling of the ground meat mushing around between my fingers, especially after I added the slimy egg – just not a nice feeling. I’ve long ago gotten over that.
Here’s the basics – the meat – a number of years ago I substituted the fatty ground beef with leaner ground turkey. I understand that many people don’t like ground turkey, but adding herbs and spices makes it really tasty. My basic meatloaf is the meat – one or two pounds – with chopped onions, chopped celery, egg, and a binder. I originally followed the recipe on the lid of the Quaker Oat box, it’s a classic recipe. Sometimes, instead of the old-fashioned oats, I used matza meal or panko breadcrumbs as the binder. Many recipes call for bread soaked with milk. Though our home is not kosher, I cannot understand this ingredient.
Then I get creative. Sometimes I add a pound of pound bison to the turkey, a habit I adopted when we lived in Oklahoma and continue to enjoy. Seasonings vary according to what’s in the fridge and what I feel like. A frequent ingredient is a small can of green chiles or fresh, chopped hatch chiles. Often, I’ll use a mixture of middle eastern spices – cumin, coriander, ground ginger, etc. My Mom, in her later years added grated carrot; not for me, I find it sweet. Instead, sometimes I add several washed whole carrots, pressed into the center of the loaf. Or a couple of shelled hardboiled eggs. When you cut into the finished meatloaf, it’s really pretty.
The Quaker Oats recipe calls for ketchup. Many years ago, I stopped eating this condiment – I did not like the sugar content. Instead, I use canned tomato sauce in the mixture and spread on the top. Often, I sprinkle panko on top, it browns nicely and looks good. A few times I used about 1/2 of a can of fried onions. And that was failure #1! The open can of onions went back onto the pantry shelf. I don’t recall seeing a “refridgate after opening” notice. A while later, I thought I’d use them again. Little to my knowledge, they had gone rancid! One otherwise lovely meatloaf ruined.
We’ve not enjoyed meatloaf for a while, so last week I prepared one. I did the carrots in the mix variety. I also used the end of a container of some variety of Williams Sonoma barbeque sauce – see photo. And … Failure #2 visited us. First, the loaf was very juicy and did not hold together. Second, the flavor. Was it the old jar of barbeque sauce or was the meat bad. I’m creative, but not infallible!
To close, an example of a successful meatloaf, in case you’re curious. Make your loaf, whatever basic mix you prefer (even the bread soaked in milk variety). Then take one or two ripe plantains. Slice them thinly and layer them in overlapping rows on top of the meat mixture. Bake as usual, 350 degrees F for one hour. I’ve done this more than once and it is really delicious.