I consider myself a fairly unflappable guy. Nothing much in the food world really scares me. I’ll eat unnamed mystery meat in a viscous sauce. I’ll hold my plate up for another serving of fish with a questionable lineage (or expiration date). I’ll proudly say “more please” to odd, black-eyed, rice shaped little “fish” (if that was truly what they were…)
But, the one thing that truly sends me screaming into the night?
Bad meatloaf… those cat-shaped dead lumps of tasteless, meat covered in ketchup like road kill. The ones pressed into brownie pans, chucked full of dehydrated peppers and onions, extended with oatmeal and swimming in enough grease to lube a 57 Chevy. Those horrid, indigestion inducing American pates, roasted at 375 until all vestiges of that once noble cow are erased from sight… those are the stuff of nightmares.
It wasn’t always the case.
- The French Pate, a distant cousin, is tasteful, aromatic, and yes, fussy and elegant with its varied meats, savory spices and cognac.
- Those Greek gyro meat thingies spinning endlessly at your favorite Mediterranean restaurant.
- And those British pub standards – Scotch Eggs and Shepard’s Pie.
… all forms of our national bane – meatloaf.
Although the true beginnings of meatloaf is questionable. The Roman’s lay claim to the invention by creating pressed loafs of cooked meat and spices in order to transport high protein meals to the troops in battle. Germany as well stakes a claim with Hackbraten – basically a skinless beef and pork sausage stuffed with boiled eggs. But true American meatloaf is the product of the Industrial Revolution. The late 1800’s made way to great advances in mass food production. And with mass production came increased waste. The industrial machine paved the way for all that scrap meat to be processed at the butcher shops and sold pre-ground. Unfortunately, the home cooks of those days were dubious of processed ground meat and refused to buy it – preferring instead to grind their own meat as before.
The companies that produced the meat grinders were ever resourceful and they strived to change that mindset by providing recipe books for ground meat. The “Meat Porcupine” (a meatloaf stuffed and studded with white rice) was introduced. The rest, as they say, is history.
Although most meatloaves today are primarily beef, the original processed ground meat was veal – being cheaper and faster to produce that fully aged beef – go figure.
“I can see paradise by the oven lights…” (I’ll give you a minute…)
We’ll start with one of the earlier recipes. This one is actually from Fannie Farmer and The Boston Cooking School Cookbook(published 1918)
Cannelon of Beef
Serves 6 to 8
2 lbs. lean beef, cut from round
1/2 teaspoon onion juice
Grated rind 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Few gratings nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Chop meat finely, and add remaining ingredients in order given.
- Shape in a roll six inches long, place on rack in dripping-pan, and arrange over top slices fat salt-pork, and bake thirty minutes.
- Baste every five minutes with one-fourth cup butter melted in one cup boiling water.
- Serve with Brown Mushroom Sauce
Serves 6 to 8
5 Strips Bacon – Finely Chopped
4 Cloves Garlic – minced
2 Medium Onions – Finely Chopped
1 Large Carrot – Finely Chopped
1 Pound Ground Beef – Sirloin is a good choice, and you want it about 80/20
1 Pound Ground Pork
1/2 Cup Milk (substitute buttermilk or soy milk for lactose intolerant diets)
1 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Guldens (or other brown mustard)
1/4 Cup BBQ Sauce (Something on the sweeter side… like a Kansas City Style)
1 Tablespoon Grated Horseradish
1/2 Cup Curly Parsley – Minced
2 Tablespoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme – Finely Chopped
1 Cup Chicken Stock – Plus 1 Cup Chicken Stock
2 Bay Leaves
1 Cup Sliced Mushrooms
1/2 Teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of Cold Water
1 14″ Pyrex Baking Dish
1 Large Mixing Bowl
1 Large Skillet
1 Medium Sauce Pan
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Place the bacon in a skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon for about 5 minutes, or until it has begun to crisp Add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes – or until slightly soft
- Remove the mushrooms from the oil and set aside
- Add the garlic, onion, and carrot and continue to cook for about 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool
- Place the ground sirloin and pork into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the eggs and milk
- Using your hands, work the eggs and milk into the meat until all is absorbed
- Add the bread crumbs, the cooled vegetables, mustard, barbecue sauce, and horseradish along with 1/2 the parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme.
- Using your hands, work all of the ingredients into the meat until combined
- Transfer the meatloaf mixture onto a clean surface and shape it into an oval loaf about 2″ shorter than the pan
- Place the meatloaf into the pan
- Pour the chicken stock around the sides of the loaf and add the bay leaves to the stock
- Place the meatloaf in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is browned and the internal temp is 165 (use a meat thermometer).
- Remove the pan from the oven.
- Allow the meatloaf to rest for about 5 minutes before transferring it to a serving platter.
- Pour the liquids from the baking pan into a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil
- Add the remaining cup of stock
- Add the mushrooms and the remainder of the parsley
- Add the cornstarch slurry
- When the sauce begins to thicken, remove from the heat and serve with the meatloaf (remember to discard the bay leaves)
- Cut into 1-inch, or thicker, slices and serve.