Most meat loaf are “comfort food” and really don’t amount to much but a lump of protein that plays well with mashed potatoes, reeking of caramelized ketchup or canned brown gravy. This meat loaf can be sliced thin into pita with yogurt sauce, sliced thick, cubed, and simmered into red sauce for pasta, cubed and simmered into something like wedding soup or slow cooked until it crumbles with smoked chili to serve over rice… you name it. This is the meat loaf that does not know what it will do until the observer opens the left overs carton and resolves the quantum uncertainties You can cook this on Sunday afternoon and eat off it all week without ever having the same dish twice. I recommend cutting the cooked loaf into large portions and freezing them until you’re ready to consume just to ensure you get long life without any microbial mischief.
First, make sure the cat is or is not dead, and put it out of the room. Then…
Puree a white onion and a red onion, put into a screen and let the water drain out for at least 15 minutes (30 would be better).
Put the puree into a large mixing bowl… no, not that one, a really big one. No, seriously. A big one. *sigh* fine, it’s your counter top.
Put the puree into a mixing bowl and add proportional amounts of salt, pepper, garlic powder, sumac, smoked paprika, hot paprika, red pepper flake, dried oregano, dried thyme and ground fennel seed. Chiffonade a few handfuls of basil leaves, and add.
Work into this a pound each of ground lamb, beef and pork sausage (I like Italian sausage for this, the mild kind has a lot of fennel and will work well, but “breakfast” sausage will also work) and combine thoroughly — probably with your hands unless you have a stand mixer with some kind of very gentle paddle device.
Slowly work in plain bread crumbs until any remaining moisture from the onion has been sufficiently absorbed to allow the entire mass to form a free standing loaf on a hotel pan.
- DO NOT ADD EGG
- DO NOT PACK INTO A LOAF PAN
- DO NOT MAKE ANY KIND OF GLAZE
Just don’t. You’re going to get something better than dry corners with this, and more of it, properly mixed and balanced meat loaf doesn’t need egg (which, according to Alton Brown, represents a health hazard, anyway), and we’re going to make gravy, so you don’t need a glaze.
Form an oblong loaf on the hotel pan, and surround it with course chopped carrots, small potatoes (or course chopped big ones) and either chopped fennel bulb or sweet onion. Place under the broiler, low setting, and watch carefully. You don’t want the top of the loaf to burn, but you do want the entire loaf to brown and char as much as you can manage without burning any of it. How you shape your loaf will play a factor here. Too much dome will give you a burnt top and under-browned sides. Too flat and while you’ll get a nice even char, there won’t be enough tender interior.
Once you have your desired char, set the oven to 250 and cook until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. It will easily coast, once out of the oven, covered in foil, well above the safety threshold for meat. Given you’re cooking a well over three pound loaf, this will take a while at such low heat. If you have one of those probe thermometers with an alarm based on temperature instead of time, I highly recommend that approach. Otherwise, begin taking soundings for doneness after 45 minutes.
Reserve all the vegetables and all the pan drippings. The drippings can be used to make gravy, or can be added to a red sauce, or simmered to make broth for soups… almost anything you want to be heartrendingly delicious.
I recommend giving the vegetables (that have been roasting in the fat all that time) as rewards to children for A’s on quizzes and tests.
That outer char on the loaf will give you that flavor people love from dry corners without
- having such a limited amount of dry corners to go around
- ruining the texture of the meat by drying it out that much
You can probably modify this recipe only just slightly, especially if you can get (or make) finely ground meat, compress the loaf under pressure around a skewer and make a loaf from which thin slices can be carved for gyro sandwiches. The original recipe above will work, but will crumble up when sliced too thinly. A finer grind and a compressed loaf will hold shape better when carved.