The year my wife was pregnant with our first child was not what I was led to believe.
There were no strange food requests: no pickles and ice cream, no frozen lemons, no late night runs for burnt marshmallow ice cream from Greg’s. Nothing, save for one lone exception.
One awfully hot and humid day, my wife very strongly encouraged me to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy.
There was no way I could say no.
My childhood memories of meatloaf are not pretty. My mother used to cook it in an electric frying pan. Glistening, greasy, undrained ground beef topped with some sort of tomato condiment (ketchup and stewed tomatoes?) and then, gah, a layer of processed cheese slices, which slowly congealed on top.
I hated it.
I carefully assembled the ingredients, baked it with love, and before I could get it to the table, my wife had a stunning change of heart. Green faced and holding her very pregnant belly, she suggested I get the meatloaf as far away from her as quickly as possible.
I think I ate it as sandwiches for the rest of the week. It was tasty.
In the eleven years since, I’ve much improved my meatloaf game and my wife still requests the occasional mid-week meal of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy. She’s yet to turn green before it reaches the table.
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1.5 lbs ground meat
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3+ slices of bacon, cut in half
salt and pepper
Leafy greens (optional)
1. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the milk and breadcrumbs. Give it a quick stir and then let stand for about 5 minutes
3. Add all the other ingredients (EXCEPT THE BACON) and mix well.
4. Heat a small frying pan or skillet, scoop up a tablespoon of the meat mixture, make a mini-hambuger patty and fry it for a few minutes a side until cooked through. Have a taste—this is a safe way to check your seasonings. Does it need more garlic? Salt? Pepper? etc.
5. If you’re adding greens, scoop half the mix into a loaf tin and smooth out with the back of a spoon. Tuck in a layer of greens—kale or chard leaves can go in raw, spinach should be cooked and the the water squeezed out of it. If you’re not adding greens, put all the entire mixture in the loaf tin.
6. Invert the loaf tin on a broiling rack, the meatloaf should come out of the loaf tin fairly easily. Lay the bacon strips on top horizontally so that when the meatloaf is sliced into servings, each slice will have a piece of bacon on top.
7. Bake at 375°F for about an hour or until a thermometer inserted in the middle reads 160°F.
This recipe is easy to modify. We usually use ground beef, but you could use ground pork, ground veal, ground chicken or any combination. In the photo you might notice we used guanciale instead of bacon and mixed in a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs. Other times we’ve topped with prosciutto and cooked it in the smoker. You can also omit the mustard and add other spices such as cumin and chili and top with a chipolte barbecue glaze. The base doesn’t change, but you can modify the flavours however you like.
We ate ours with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed broccoli. At least one of my kids, in an homage to A Christmas Story, said “Meatloaf, beetloaf, I hate meatloaf…” and then had seconds (possibly thirds; there are rarely leftovers when we make this).