Meatloaf: An Appreciation

I feel like meatloaf has received an overwhelmingly unjust bad rep.  It is presented as the stereotypical questionable cafeteria food from grade school.  Admittedly its name is somewhat unfortunate (edible loaves should be reserved for bread alone, anything else just sounds kind of wrong).  And in truth it is a hard dish to make look beautiful.

But here is the deal, a meatloaf done right can be a wondrous dish, and in fact ranks high on my list of favorite comfort foods.

This past weekend I decided to make a meatloaf with some ground beef I had had in the freezer.  It had been some long while since I’d last consumed a meatloaf and so I was feeling like I was overdue for having some.  Growing up meatloaf was a regular staple and favorite of my family.  The wonderful thing about it is that the primary preparation is pretty simple and straight forward.  The most time-consuming part of the whole process is the baking, which can take upwards of an hour, but honestly, if you budget your time well, you can whip a meatloaf together in about 15 minutes, throw it in the oven, and get about to doing something else.

In hindsight I realize that the meatloaf that my mom and dad made while I was growing up were relatively simple versions of this common food.  Meatloaf, in my opinions, is one of those good food things that every individual needs to develop his or her own version of.  Sure, everybody uses a generally similar layout and set up, but a few ingredients and spices are adjusted here and there to make a personalized dish.

My main standard is including finely chopped vegetables (specifically carrot, celery, and onion.  Though sometimes peppers.  And once some shredded potato) right in the main loaf.  This is along with ground meat (I’ve used venison as well as beef) and bread crumbs forms the main body of the meat loaf.  For flavoring I use a mix of spices (cumin, oregano, chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper, etc.).  Additional flavoring is provided from a mixture of ketchup (or tomato paste if I don’t have ketchup), Worcestershire sauce, A1, and smoked paprika, which is both mixed in with the meat, as well as basted on top of the loaf while it cooks.

The end result is full of flavor, and very filling.  My favorite thing about meatloaf is using its leftovers to make meatloaf sandwiches, which I showed Eliza how to enjoy last night (on a Foreman Grill, with sharp cheddar, and mustard . . . Yummy!).

So yeah, meatloaf is pretty kick ass stuff.  I challenge all of you out there who feel inclined to be natural meatloaf detractors to find somebody who can make a good home-baked one.  Don’t judge the food on school cafeteria experiences, because, think about it, if we did that with everything that we ate in our grade school years, we probably would like anything at all.

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~ by Nathaniel on March 29, 2011.

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