Yummy Meatloaf!

by Saturday, November 28, 2015
In my world, meatloaf is the thing you make with leftover ingredients. It's quick, simple, and hearty. A weeknight meal. Well Kenji at Serious Eats elevates it in his recipe for "All American Meatloaf", done with his usual scientific method of trying to find the perfect balance of ingredients. However, it goes against what made meatloaf a popular American dish, as I described above--namely quick and using humble ingredients.

Instead of following his recipe to the letter (no, I don't keep anchovies, Marmite, and gelatin around the house regularly), I used it as a jumping-off point for my own concoction using what I had available. More specifically I wanted to see if using fish sauce in my mix, as suggested in my favorite Ultimate Umami Burger recipe over at White on Rice Couple, would boost the umami in my meatloaf. I subbed all the Serious Eats umami suggestions (anchovies, Marmite, and soy sauce) with 3 teaspoons of fish sauce. I skipped mushrooms, used old sourdough bread for my breadcrumbs, cream instead of buttermilk, and as is our tradition we used hot Italian sausage for our pork component because it just tastes so damn good.

What we were left with bears little resemblance to Kenji's recipe, to be fair. However, using his methods and ingredients as a jumping-off point, I feel I stayed true to the real American meatloaf tradition of using what you have on hand and getting a delicious result. And we achieved that, by gum! We both agreed it was the best meatloaf we had ever made/had at home. So, success!

Da Meatloaf:
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp cream
  • 2 slices white bread (sourdough), crusts removed and torn into rough pieces
  • 3 teaspoons fish sauce (could use Worcestershire sauce, soy, whatever you have)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 small onion, roughly choppe
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 oz cheddar + 1 oz parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Da Glaze:
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 mustard (we use yellow or dijon)
Da Steps:
  1. Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Add fish sauce and garlic to the processor bowl and pulse until reduced to a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and pulse until finely chopped but not pureed.
  3. Heat the butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add the chopped vegetable mixture and cook, stirring and tossing frequently, until it is softened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes; the mixture should start to darken a bit. 
  4. Stir in the cream and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms and bread, stir thoroughly to combine, and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the ground meat to the bowl, along with the eggs, cheese, parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. With clean hands, mix gently until everything is thoroughly combined and homogeneous; it will be fairly loose.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan, being sure that no air bubbles get trapped underneath. (You may have some extra mix, depending on the capacity of your pan; this can be cooked in a ramekin or free-form next to the loaf.) Tear off a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil large enough to line a rimmed baking sheet and cover the meatloaf. Refrigerate the meatloaf while the oven preheats. (The meatloaf can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
  7. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. When the oven is hot, remove the meatloaf from the refrigerator and, without removing the foil cover, carefully invert it onto the rimmed baking sheet. Loosen the foil and spread it out, leaving the pan on top of the meatloaf. Fold up the edges of the foil to trap the liquid that escapes from the meatloaf while baking. Bake until just beginning to set, about 30 minutes.
  8. Use a butter knife tip or spatula to lift an edge of the inverted loaf pan, jiggling it until it slides off the meatloaf easily, and use oven mitts or a folded kitchen towel to remove the pan, leaving the meatloaf on the center of the foil. Return to the oven and bake until the center of the meatloaf registers 140°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 40 minutes longer. There will be quite a bit of exuded juices; this is OK. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 500°F.
  9. Meanwhile, Make the Glaze: Combine the ketchup, mustard, and pepper in a small ramekin or bowl.
  10. Use a brush to apply some glaze to the meatloaf in a thin, even layer, then return it to the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Glaze again and bake for 3 minutes longer. Glaze one more time and bake until the glaze is beginning to bubble and is a deep burnished brown, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
    NOTE: This step with the very hot oven will generate a good amount of smoke as the juices on the pan are cooked at high temps. You have been warned.

    Serve this miraculously delicious meatloaf and smile with self-satisfaction. We went back for seconds...and a little bit of thirds. It's a loose loaf without a) the gelatin to create more binding action and b) our own home-ground meat with a finer grind than the grocery store tends to offer. So it won't be great for sandwiches if that's your thing. You'll want to remedy that in your version if so. But for us, we tend to eat it heated on a plate with a side of potato chips for lunch, or just pick it apart cold as occasional snacks from the open fridge, so this works just fine for us!


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