And I don’t mean the rock star. Meat loaf was a bone of contention (one of the few) between my mother and me when I was growing up. She loved to make it and I hated eating it. To me, it was just a tasteless, rubbery mess, which is saying a lot because my mom was a fabulous cook. But she could not get me to like meat loaf. After I left home, I could have gone the rest of my life without ever even thinking of meat loaf. Then, I met G. Who LOVES meat loaf. So, armed with my not insubstantial culinary skills, I was determined to somehow create a meatloaf that I could tolerate eating.
The first thing I did was look at the binder for the meat loaf. My mother always used oatmeal. No, no and NO! Oatmeal does not dissolve and mix with the meat. Oatmeal is just–oatmeal, and should only be used for breakfast or for cookies. After several tries, I decided to use crackers, but not just any cracker–club-type crackers work the best. They form extremely fine crumbs, soak up the egg and milk and then can be worked completely into the meat mixture to form good binding material.
Secondly, the veggies. Whatever you use, and go for your preference, THEY MUST BE SAUTEED BEFORE ADDING THEM TO THE MEATLOAF. Raw veggies in a meatloaf is just asking for disaster. There is nothing worse than biting into a crunchy half-raw onion or pepper in a meatloaf. Ugh!
Thirdly, the meat. Ground chuck. Enough said. Yes, it has more fat, but if you follow my directions below, most of the fat will drain out and be kept away from the meat, but you need some fat for flavor. Otherwise, put some ketchup on a shoebox and have a feast!
Finally, the “glaze” or basting. Meeps just used to use ketchup, period. Which is another reason I didn’t like meat loaf–I don’t really like ketchup on meat. It’s fine on French fries, but that’s about it. Still, meat loaf needs something to top it off, so I played around with my condiments, and finally found a mixture that works.
The recipe and technique follow and just FIY, after I did all this work on my own, one day I watched America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and they made a meatloaf—JUST they way I did, only they also added some ground pork. So, there!
Grumpy Granny’s Better Meat Loaf
3lb ground chuck
1/2 to 1 large onion (depending on how much you like onion), diced
approx 1 red, yellow or orange bell peper, diced small (NOT green pepper)
1 large carrot, grated
approx 2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 “sheets” of club-type crackers (12 small individual crackers)
1 C milk
Lemon pepper and salt to taste
1 tsp dried basil
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9 x 13″ pan and a baking rack that will fit inside the pan with cooking spray. Cover the baking rack with foil and spray the foil. Set the covered rack inside the baking pan and with a sharp knife, poke a few holes in the foil all over. Set aside.
Put the crackers in a zip-bag and crush to fine crumbs. Break the eggs in a large bowl and add the milk. Beat together. Add the crackers and stir until well mixed. Add seasonings to taste.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion, garlic and diced peppers and sautee till soft. Sprinkle with a little salt to bring out the juices. Turn down the heat and add the grated carrot. Mix well and let cook. Add a little water if the mixture starts to look dry. When the onion is transparent, and the carrots have begun to release their color, remove pan from heat and set aside to cool a bit.
Put the ground chuck in the bowl with the egg/milk/cracker mixture. By then, the crackers should have absorbed most of the liquid and be “mushy”. Work this mixture into the meat with both hands. Get in there and WORK it!! This is a job for fingers, not spatulas. As you work the mixture, fold it with your hands almost as you would a bread dough and think of incorporating some air into the mixture.
Once all the cracker/egg/milk mixture is mixed with the meat, do the same thing with the sauteed veggies. Make sure the veggies are incorporated throughout the meat for balanced taste. Form the loaf and place it on the foil-covered rack in the baking pan. Place in the oven and set the timer for 20 mins.
In the meantime, make the “glaze”:
2 to 3 Tbl of ketchup
2 Tbl KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (original)
approx 1-2 tsp Soy sauce
approx 1 Tbl maple syrup
mix the above all together with enough water to thin it to a good, spreadable consistency. At 20 mins, baste the meat loaf with this, and then baste every 20 mins or so for about 1-1/2 hours (depending on if you like your meatloaf a little pink in the middle). If the glaze looks like it’s going to burn while cooking, cover the meatloaf with another sheet of foil.
Right before serving, baste a final time, then turn on the broiler and heat the top of the meatloaf until the glaze bubbles. Take out the meat loaf, let rest for 5 mins, transfer to serving platter, slice and serve with your preferred side dish. I promise you will get rave reviews on this, and if there’s any left, meat loaf sandwiches the next day are great for lunch!