Of all the requests for recipes that I received over the summer,the strangest one had to be meatloaf. Apparently while I was thinking of grilling steaks and burgers and kebabs some of you were thinking about meatloaf. Meatloaf is a favorite of mine but I’m not usually thinking about it at the height of summer.
Much about food blogging has to do with the weather. The weather dictates what you cook and then post. Food blogging is in real-time. Unlike magazine’s, that work on deadlines and could be shooting the Christmas issue in the middle of July, I am at most times cooking and then blogging about it within the next few days. If you are writing an online journal about your daily cooking it tends to go along the rhythm of what foods are in season or how hot or cold it is outside. You won’t find me cooking a turkey in summer and blogging about it later in November.
So as I kept getting asked about meatloaf or other cold weather foods, I didn’t want my readers to think I was ignoring their requests so I begged them to hang in there and enjoy cooking outdoors in the warm weather and to take advantage of the many fruits and vegetables still available at markets. Cooler weather would be here soon enough.
Once the warm September days started giving way to cool mornings and even cooler nights I knew it was truly the end of summer and time for warmer fare-even meatloaf.
There is something about meatloaf that makes it comforting, smothered with gravy and served atop a mound of creamy mashed potatoes.
As good as meatloaf is people tend to shy away from making it at home. The biggest fear is that they will lovingly season and shape ground meat and carefully roast it and then have it turn into a flavorless and dry loaf. I understand that,I’ve had my own experience with dry loaves. That is until I found the secret to a good meatloaf. The secret to a good meatloaf is that you need a nicely seasoned paste that adds moisture and tons of flavor.
Before I found the perfect meatloaf recipe I had been improvising and just seasoning ground meat with whatever happened to be in the pantry. I didn’t put much effort into it because I had never been a make meatloaf at home kind of person. It was hubby who liked meatloaf and was always after me to make it. After experiencing that first dry meatloaf and attempting to,unsuccessfully,cover it up with lots of gravy I knew I had to do better.
And better I did. Let me give you some advice; follow this recipe exactly as you see it below and do not eliminate mixing the ingredients using a fork. This step is crucial to not overworking the ground meat. Overworking the ground meat will give you a dense and dry loaf. Most recipes require that you use white bread soaked with milk,an extra step that I was never fond of. With this recipe you use regular dry,plain breadcrumbs. Amazingly, they do not steal any moisture away from the finished loaf. Over the years I have added ingredients to the paste to make it mine, but it is perfect exactly as it is.
Recipe: Ina Garten’s meatloaf
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup canned chicken stock or broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean)
- 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (recommended: Progresso)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup ketchup (recommended: Heinz)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meat loaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven, under the meat loaf, will keep the top from cracking.) Serve hot.