My mother-in-law and I had a lot of food favorites in common. This is one of her recipes. I like to make her recipes occasionally when I feel like giving the kids a happy memory of her. I can say, “Oh, kids, this is Cinny’s recipe…it is one of my favorite things that she made.” They get all puffed up with pride at the notion. As I often say, I’m never alone in the kitchen. Food memories are the best ones. They are usually warm and uncomplicated. Losing grandparents is complicated for kids. Getting excited about her meatloaf recipe is decidedly uncomplicated, and completely positive.
I have to admit I took a few liberties with the recipe. She would have envisioned this size of a batch to be for a football team. She ate like a bird. I eat like, well, a very large bird. So she would have made two loaves in loaf pans and frozen one of them. I make one giant free-form loaf. Why free form? Well, the crusty top of the meatloaf is my favorite part. So, this way it is top all over. She approved of the free-form version and I made it often when she would come for dinner. I would make this or pot roast, our other favorite dinner-in-common. I bake the meatloaf with nothing slathered on top, but I love chili sauce on the side.
One of the secrets to her stellar meat loaf was the meat. Seems obvious enough, right? But instead of using only beef, she used beef, veal and pork. It is simply wonderful. The rest of the ingredients are extremely basic. I don’t doll up my meatloaf too much. I like it…basic. However, this works fine with all beef, if your butcher doesn’t have ground pork or veal. I always get the “meatloaf mix” at Kuby’s, where they sell all three meats.
I hope you try this. And if you do, remember, this one is from Cynthia.
¾ pound ground beef
¾ pound ground pork
¾ pound ground veal
1 cup chopped onions
¾ cup plain bread crumbs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
8 ounces tomato sauce
4 ounces milk
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, using a fork, break up and combine the three kinds of meat. Try to combine them without mashing them.
3. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. In a measuring glass, combine the tomato sauce and the milk. You may not need all of the tomato sauce mixture.
4. Add the onions and bread crumb mixture to the meats and, using the fork, toss them and mix them into the meats. Again, try not to mash the meat. Add the eggs to the meat mixture and mix it to distribute it evenly throughout the meat. Finally, add the tomato sauce mixture and mix it into the meat. Add sauce until the meat mixture is wet, but not soupy. Use your hands to fully mix all of the ingredients together and make it into a ball shape in the bowl.
5. Place the meat mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet that has been double lined with foil. Form it into an elongated loaf that is about 5” across. The more even the shape, the more evenly it will bake. Bake the loaf for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Set the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 2 minutes if the meatloaf isn’t nicely bronzed yet. But set the timer and check often. Do not burn! Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with mashed potatoes. You must serve this with mashed potatoes. You must. I can’t think of a meal I would rather have when I need comfort food. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes are always just the right thing. By the way, have I ever told you the secret to my mashed potatoes? Along with the butter (always added to the hot potatoes first), milk, salt and pepper, I always add a handful of shredded parmesan cheese. It adds a really nice nutty flavor but nobody ever guesses that there is anything of the sort in the mix. Try it.
Note: If you find yourself lacking chili sauce or ketchup, take some tomato sauce and simmer it with a few tablespoons of brown sugar, a little vinegar, some cayenne and cracked red pepper. It makes a completely serviceable chili sauce.
And, speaking of my mother-in-law: After Cynthia died, Valerie (her daughter) and I were cleaning out her kitchen and I found the most wonderful little spatula. It was wooden, and slender and elegant. It just fit right in my hand. I immediately thought of my friend Nancy Lou Webster and wondered if she might be able to recreate the piece. I suggested it and she sent me five of the most gorgeous pieces of treenware that I have ever seen. That isn’t true. I cannot pick a favorite. But, I’m keeping two of them and I’m selling three of them in my ETSY shop. Nancy Lou named them “Sissy Sticks” and they are for stirring stuff. I shall saute a million onions with mine. But, you heard me, Nancy Lou is joining my ETSY shop. If you buy them, I’ll keep adding pieces…assuming she is having fun. I’m so honored to have her on board, and I can’t wait to share her work with you. Visit the Nancy Lou Treenware section of my Etsy shop to see them.
SOLD OUT! Thanks, friends. I met with Nancy Lou in Elgin today and I’m bringing back spoons. So check back soon. [UPDATE: 4 of NL's handmade spoons are in the PIE Etsy shop right now! as of 4/11/13]
Here is a sneak peak. She is so cool.