Fast forward to me living with the Southern American boy known as Mr. Maricucu and suddenly "American" meatloaf is front and center as a request for dinner. It took a while to find a recipe that would produce a traditional meatloaf, savory but no one overpowering flavor and most of all moist. I should have known that the family favorite would be Alton Brown's recipe. It's a streamlined process for mixing up the recipe and with the meat thermometer, I never end up with dry cardboard meatloaf. The glaze is just the right mix of sweet and savory and when we do have leftovers, this meatloaf makes the most amazing sandwiches.
adapted from Alton Brown
1 1/2 cups italian style bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small onion, peeled and chunkes
1 carrot, peeled and chunked
3 cloves garlic
1 medium bell pepper - any color works
2 lbs ground beef
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespooon ground mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
1 tablespoon honey
Other than getting my hands dirty, this meatloaf is a cinch to make. I whiz up all the ingredients except the meat in the food processor to make a paste and then mix that into the meat. Shape, glaze and bake. Done. This day I was doubling the recipe to freeze one loaf uncooked for another day.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
First, chop the garlic. For those overthinkers like me I'm going to blow your world wide open. Turn the food processor on while it's still empty, then toss the garlic cloves in through the feeding tube. The garlic will hit the running blade and chopped, will hit the sides of the bowl. If this is not news to you then humor me.
Add the peppers, onions and carrots to the processor. Yes, my peppers are frozen. When I find a good deal on bell peppers I freeze a good bit in slices and then use them in recipes requiring the peppers to be cooked.
Pulse the vegetables until the mix is well minced.
Now add the bread crumbs, black pepper, chili powder, thyme, salt, eggs, ketchup and ground mustard. Phew! That's a lot. Process until well mixed.
See that paste? That's the magic. Binder (egg and bread crumbs), flavor (vegetables and herbs) and moisture (ketchup and vegetables). Plus you're adding about a quarter of the meatloaf's weight in yummy veggies alone, stretching the meat and giving any picky eaters their vegetables.
With such a large batch I don't bother with a bowl. I throw a large piece of heavy duty foil on my counter and spread the paste on the foil. Mmmmmmm.
Break up the meat and mix it well with the paste. Really smush the meat and work the paste in well with your hands. I'm gentle when I shape meat into hamburgers but not meatloaf. You want the meat to breakdown and mix into the vegetable paste. Oh, and no way can I mix and take pictures at the same time. It already freaks me out to have the camera in the kitchen, being the clutz that I am. No need to tempt fate.
After mixing up the meatloaf mix, dump the mixture onto a foil lined sheet pan. As I mentioned earlier, I was making two. Smooth the meat with your hands into a rough rectangle about an inch high and two to three inches wide. Try to make it as uniform as possible for even cooking but it doesn't have to be perfect. Chuck the spare loaf in the freezer and then wrap up after freezing. The other loaf gets the probe.
Meet, my thermometer. An electronic gadget hooked up to a long cable and then the probe. I set it for 160 degrees. Yes I know the meatloaf will continue cooking once it comes out of the oven but we actually prefer the meatloaf done very well and the vegetables in the mix will keep it moist even at this level of doneness.
After you set the thermometer, insert the probe sideways into the middle of the meatloaf. Take care not to point the probe up or down. You want the tip of the probe in the center of the loaf for an accurate temperature reading. Parents of squirmy children, you'll be pros at this. Place the meatloaf in the preheated oven and bake for ten minutes.
While the meatloaf is in the oven, make the glaze by combining ketchup, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and honey.
Looks pretty unassuming huh? Well, it packs a good bit of flavor but no one will be the wiser by just looking at the meatloaf.
Once the ten minutes are up, pull out the meatloaf and pour on the glaze. Smooth it out with a spoon and no it doesn't matter if a little falls off the side.
Place the meatloaf back in the oven and wait for the thermometer to beep. No thermometer? Well, at this thickness it should take about 40-50 minutes total to cook the meatloaf to 160 degrees. Of course, ovens vary, yada, yada, yada you know the drill.
When the timer beeps, swat at your family members with the spatula to keep them from appropriating chunks of your meatloaf. Let the meatloaf rest for about 10 minutes before cutting. Oh and whatever you do, please remove the probe before serving (or so says the paranoid pseudo-lawyer voice in my head).
A little mini sampling of the meal. My favorite piece is the end piece and woe is anyone else who makes off with both ends! Woe! Deep breath. Meatloaf, roasted potatoes with onions (done in the same oven) and heavily buttered/salted steamed broccoli. Kid 1 likes the part of the meatloaf without the glaze, kid 2 likes only the part that has the glaze. However, they both swear the other has some worse-than-swine-flu cooties and will not share. They both did eat their weight in broccoli and that makes up for the no-germ-sharing policy in my world.