Meatloaf, in the works.

26 Apr

The last two episodes of Mad Men season 4: the best reason to make meatloaf. What, with the dish’s harkening back to the days of powdered milk and tuna casserole, and yet an idea for stretching the dollar with a twist on a standard meatball. My mom made meartloaf, albeit not in heels or a frilly apron. No, she was in her navy blue pumps and blazer, her work clothes, imposing upon her girls that meatloaf lives on in the homes of the working mother.

My mother is the mother that Jamie Oliver wished all other mothers would emulate. She might have said then that food was a necessity, meant to be fuel for the body and mind, but her dishes spoke of much more than that.

Yes, we had to eat our vegetables, “or no snack.” Mushrooms and onions were minced to avoid detection. But, we also ate dishes that were handed down from our grandma, even from the olde country (Hungary) like Chicken Paprikash and vinegar-y bean soup. Meals were well-thoughout: well rounded, healthy, and quick enough to prepare. This, as i said, was usually done right in from the car–groceries were in hand (which we, the kids, knew to help with) and then into cupboards with some items left out, and those items were whipped up into a meal for 5 before any navy pump made it off mom’s feet.

Meat loaf was one of these meals. i have no idea what that recipe entailed, but this one brings on the nostalgia for both the table setting of the 60’s housewife–which is a collective memory that for which only exists in my imagination (and which Mad Men never fails to correct for us–it was all about the guise of happy domesticity, according to them), and then there is the real one, the one of the 90’s working Mom and her children, which the making of meatloaf brings to the fore.

So you see, even as I discovered through my journey as a home chef that meatloaf is not much more than the makings of a batch of meatballs in a loaf pan, it of course can never be just that. In this form, in its simplicity, it became and remains

Meatloaf, adapted from

  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs (from 2 slices fresh firm white sandwich bread)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • ½ cup carrot, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red or green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, cook onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add minced garlic and continue to cook 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, and cayenne.  Add to bread-crumb mixture. Add beef, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.
Pack mixture into a loaf pan.
Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.